Friday, February 14, 2014

That's Novel

Great news! Fear's Accomplice, the book I contributed a short story towards (humbly sharing it with writers much superior to myself) is now on sale through Amazon.  Buy it, read it, enjoy it and make a whole heap of excellent authors very happy.

Oh, and I promise I'll sign your copy of it.

In other writing news, progress is still being made on my debut novel "Version Control" which I hope to have released in the first half of this year.  From my synopsis of the plot I'd estimated that it'd be around 70 to 75 thousand words but from the way it is going that may have been quite an underestimation.  I'm just about to hit 55 thousand words and am just finishing the second of three acts, so I suspect it'll wind up at around 90 thousand.

My original synopsis for it was David Cronenberg writes a horror superhero comic, but it's evolved beyond that now.

I've included an excerpt from it - namely the first chapter - below. I hope you enjoy it and it whets your appetite enough for you to want to buy it when it's finally finished, edited and released!

Version Control
Chapter 1
Then - 1917

Wallace angrily threw the papers onto the desk where they scattered randomly across it and the carpeted concrete floor below. His secretary gasped having never seen him so much as raise his voice in anger and yet despite the surprise continued to stand against the wall in complete silence.

She bit her lip and stared at the floor, desperate not to show any emotion.

She’d been sworn to secrecy as had every occupant of this secret underground bunker, all seconded to this location from their work for King and Country in The Great War. To this end she had taken particular effort to avoid seeing things she shouldn’t but in the array of papers she caught glimpses of calculations and saw symbols, shapes, formulae and arcane patterns scrawled across the randomly arranged sheets. There were words in her own language that she did not know – for that matter there were words in languages she didn’t even recognise.

She felt uncomfortable staring at Wallace, tormented as he was, so instead concentrated on the wall. Much of it was dominated by a large golden mural which depicted Argos from Greek Mythology – Argus Panoptes, often drawn or sculpted as the 100 eyed Giant, the Eternal Watchman of Io. Beneath it in huge letters the legend respice adspice prospice - “examine the past, present and future”. She’d felt so ignorant in her first days here having recognised neither statue nor text, but Wallace had been kind to her and had explained both in great detail.

Wallace had been kind to her in a great many ways – they had spent many long evenings working together, and his long suffering and patient wife would not be happy to hear of the ways in which Wallace had been kind.

None were permitted to speak of what roles they inhabited outside these four underground walls but it was only human nature of all of them to pick up a little; Body language, mannerism and turns of phrase all spoke volumes. The wedding ring that he often forgot to remove was proof enough of Wallaces secrets and on that of that she suspected Wallace to be a mathematician of sorts – that Greek legends and writings in Latin were his interest or hobby, not his actual career outside these four underground walls.

“This is impossible” Wallace muttered, slumping into his chair and removing his thin wire-framed spectacles, bowing his head into his hands.

He looked up with tired, baggy and bloodshot eyes, exhaustion etched upon his face. He went to speak but his expression implied he’d then thought better of it. A few seconds of pause and an uncharacteristic burst of fire in his eyes and he spoke regardless.

“Good God, man. You’re asking us for nothing short of a miracle - to predict the future when we don’t even have the basic tools.”

In a futile and self-defeating act of frustrated defiance Wallace swept his hands across the table sending the few dozen sheets that remained scattering across the floor to join the rest. He dejectedly placed his elbows on the now empty table and sank his face into his hands, emotionally and physically spent.

His voice was muffled, almost too quiet to hear now. “You ask too much, Sir. I’m not a simple black box into which you can put these..”

The briefest of a pause and a break in his voice. Were those tears that Wallace was hiding?

“..these impossible values - and expect a result in return.”

He lifted his head back up, staring across the room. There was defiance in his eyes, a glimmer of nerve.

“This would be the work of a hundred men. And a hundred better men than I, Sir.”

He stared at his feet, nervously awaiting a response. He’d suffered in silence up to this point and had no idea what the reaction would be. There was no reaction from the figure at the far end of the table, from the man who had sat watching from the shadows for the entirety of what they always laughably referred to as “a meeting”.

The figure slowly casually placed his hands on the arms of his chair and lifted himself up slowly and precisely. Wallace could hear a wince of pain from the individual as though the very act of movement were unnatural or painful to him.

A silhouetted fist was made and slowly raised. For the longest of times it remained still, but then came down quickly onto the table hitting it with such force that it could be heard splintering along the underside.

He spoke both calmly quietly, the tone in his voice inconsistent with coming from the same individual who had nearly broken the table. There was a hint of South American to his voice – Argentinian? Wallace could never quite place the accent.

“Too much, you say?”

Both fists were raised now and then came down with such force that the already weakened table could stand it no further. With a long drawn out splintering groan it collapsed in on itself, the remainder of the reams of paper now decorating the ornately carpeted floor.

“Perhaps you would like to go up there to the men and women who are dying to give us time and tell them that, eh? I have it on good authority you have the mind of a hundred men. And I defy you to prove me wrong.”

The room went silent and Wallace could hear the familiar muffled noises of gunfire and explosions in the distance.  He contemplated his options.

“You have all the tools you need, Wallace. You have the rest of eternity to work with. With every event, the more we know. With every event, the more tools we have. Your job is to not just to see the patterns but tell us what shapes these patterns will form. I have more faith in you than you will ever have in yourself.”

Wallace replaced his glasses on his face and stood up. He knelt on the floor and nervously began collecting the papers together knowing that his angry outburst would have caused several hours delay as he’d now be forced to put them all back into some semblance of order before work could begin again. The sequence of the papers was almost as critical as the contents. For a moment or so he dallied with the idea of asking for assistance with this task, but knew that he could do it himself as quickly as explain it to lesser men.

And such a request would undoubtedly be refused, and Wallace couldn’t face that.

“I can only try my best” he said. “And I fear that will not be good enough.”

“All we ask is your best, Wallace. All we ask from any of our teams working around the globe to achieve this common aim. With every iteration, the process improves. The Prime Algorithm is as old as human knowledge and all we can ever hope to do is refine it. And hope to complete it whilst we still can. We are writing The Prime Algorithm for engines, machines and contraptions that do not exist.”

“But they will exist one day.”

The room shook violently as a dull soaring whooomph could be heard overhead. From the corridor came the sound of automatic gunfire followed by unearthly shrieks and screams.

Wallace flinched. Men were dying outside this very room, mere feet away from where he knelt. Crumbs of sandstone and plaster fell from the ceiling, and the complex shook as though it had been slammed by an angry God.

With a voice betraying the slightest hint of emotion - disappointment and sadness - the shadowed man spoke.

“This team has failed. Let us pray the others fare better. We are ended.”

The door to the room burst open - metal and wood wrenched apart in a single motion accompanied by an ugly symphony of cracks and eruptions - and Wallace caught the glimpse of something there in the frame – a human figure. It was too late.

Like most things that had ever occurred in this complex, this moment had been adequately prepared for.

Explosive charges in the floors and ceiling violently exploded into life – flames of an unearthly temperature filled every corridor and room in an instant. Papers, furniture and people alike became ash and all life within the complex was incinerated in the blink of an eye. Wallace held his hands out to protect himself from the blast and the last thought he experienced was the dismay at the sight of his form reduced to blackened bone.

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