Books come from all sorts of different places—from a news story, a random idea, a bit of triggering language, or from other books, for instance. But very few books start out like Immobility, which saw the light of day first as an imaginary book, and only later became real.
It happened something like this. I’d been playing around with the idea of a post-apocalyptic detective novel and had a page or so of notes for it. I ended up writing a story called “The Adjudicator” that created the kind of world such a novel might take place in. Then I got busy with other projects and put the notes aside.
I might not have ever come back to it except that I had an email from Charlie Orr asking me to imagine a fake book for his blog, The Hypothetical Library. It made me think of Stanislas Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum, a series of book reviews of non-existent books, and was unlike any other project I’d done. The idea was that I’d give him jacket copy for a book that I’d like to write and that would “sound” like me, but that I’d probably never get around to actually writing. I decided to pick up that page of notes for the post-apocalyptic detective novel again and see what I could do with them.
The notes weren’t much. All I had was a title, Immobility, a few fragments of ideas, a few scraps of language, and the notion that the main character would be paralyzed from the waist down and carried around by other characters that were in the process of dying. It look me a lot longer than I thought it would to write the flap copy, partly because I found myself having to create a different foundation for the ideas. It went from being a detective story to being more of a hapless noir, with the main character confused about who he is or what has actually happened to him. He quickly became someone who didn’t understand the world he was now part of, a world in which humans were either transforming or dying out. Eventually, though, I finished the flap copy and sent it to Charlie. He put together a cover for it, wrote up some commentary himself, and we got Jeff VanderMeer to give a fake blurb for the fake book.
But writing up the fake flap copy had gotten my mind working. I started tapping notes about Immobility on my phone when I was in university meetings. Those notes led to more notes, and slowly the idea became more and more articulated. But I saw it mainly as a way of distracting myself during boring meetings. It still probably wouldn’t have led to anything if Eric Raab at Tor hadn’t seen the fake book and sent me a note encouraging me to actually write it.
So, I started. When I began I wasn’t sure that I had enough to go on, but I was surprised by how quickly everything came together. Apparently I’d been writing the book in my head for months, almost without realizing it. And before I knew it, Immobility went from being a conceptual project to being an actual book.
From the Tor/Forge April newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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