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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

STOPTIME, a post-apocalyptic tale, now published, set in an alternate Kansas City

StopTime had a really tortuous creation path. I don't keep logs on my writing. I think the idea of the novel was planted in my head when I read an item in The New Yorker that I used to open the novel:

We are not poor as a people, yet somehow we have become bankrupt as a society. We are—to use an old-fashioned word—ruined. And yet how this ruin is possible—how it has come about—no one can explain.....we have come to accept that...violence, impoverishment, squalor, and cruelty will rule, and that the most we can do is to keep them at bay...
Notes and Comment
The New Yorker
Aug. 5, 1991

It really felt in 1991 that things were falling apart. I envisioned a post-apocalyptic story, which are now rampant, but mine would have an odd twist. Inside a protected enclave―and of course I chose the Kansas City Plaza area―would be a student artist, a realist painter, who suddenly encountered a stop time experience. Everything around him had stopped in time. The only other example of using that device in fiction at that time that I knew of was John D. MacDonald's The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything.

If you have a stop time event, there must be some plausible reason and I chose a Wiccan healer outside the walls of the enclave that is called Scumtown. She casts a spell using one of the longest palindromes in Latin, a special candle, and a particular painting. It turns out the student artist in the enclave painted the canvas and thus is unaffected by the spell.

In fiction, when you create a world instead of describing the world we are in things get tricky. You want the new reality to be believable. That took time to figure out. The number of characters also grew and that gets complicated, too. Then I had to throw in a steam engine train expedition out of the KC Enclave into the wilds of Kansas where it goes through Herrington and encounters a different kind of Roman Catholic community and finally reaches Hutchinson where in the salt mine storage spaces it finds unbelievable treasure.

Creating the society of the KC Enclave, the warring factions outside, the odd events that can occur during and after a stop time event, well, it took a long time. I finally finished it (although the ending seems to beg for a sequel) last summer. And just let it sit. I had, have, many doubts about it. We'll see what the response is. If there is a response to StopTime.

Meanwhile I'm deep into another work that looks promising. A sort of comedy I've tentatively titled Dark Side of the Museum, set in an unnamed art museum somewhere west of New York City.