Snippet post: The Advent Chronicles

I’m still wrestling with refining the plot of Advent Chronicles down into chunks that can actually be written (using a loose variation on the Snowflake Method), and still repeatedly badgering my dear friends/walking reference libraries Shoi and G. for more information, and still compulsively buying books about crime in 1920s New York and then somewhat undermining my stringent research attempts by not reading them.

I’m very nervous about the prospect of writing serial fiction, because I’ve never really done it before; or at least, certainly not to a set schedule, or with an overarching plot rather than a series of afterthoughts tacked on with increasing clumsiness. I’ve already harangued Lee Barnett (Week Ending for the BBC) and Kieron Gillen (Phonogram, Journey Into Mystery) about how best to divide up the plot and maintain a level of appropriate tension and release, and just about restrained myself from filling up the ask box on Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr with whiny entreaties for some kind of explanation as to how the hell one writes serially.

Possibly as an antidote to this, and because it’s the one part of the story that doesn’t require as much research, I’ve written the introduction. I may well rewrite it – in fact, I will almost certainly rewrite it – but in the interests of Showing My Workings like we’re all still in school, here’s the opening to The Advent Chronicles:

The aliens came to America at the change of the century. It was a hot night in late May, and as a portent of doom they were early and kinda not what anyone was expecting.

No one knew what they wanted, but it turned out they wanted what every other schmoe washing up on the land of liberty wanted: the chance to make something for themselves. Well, we couldn’t deny ’em that. Back then we didn’t have the quotas in place.

And at first they didn’t cause no trouble, so we let ’em go. Just making a living, like all of us. It wasn’t ’til 1910 that it started leaking out of the ghettos and the ditches and the railway bridges – y’know, all the places where people people who ain’t got no one like to hang out – that there were something to be afraid of.

Now we know the word “ovipositor”, even the working girls know it, though they can’t spell it. Dr Hamidullah Lal of the NYPD tells me he’s seen it writ down any way you care to think. He’s a goddamn expert in deciphering the “talisman of violation” from the shaky handwriting of some impoverished sonofabitch’s worried buddy.

My neighbour Raymond, he lost his son that way. Not to the egg, but to the river. Too afraid to think straight, Raymond Junior didn’t go to his pa or Dr Hamidullah Lal. He went to the river and he jumped. Sergeant Gilgun’s men pulled him out bloated and discoloured. Raymond Senior thanks God Almighty he’s been blind these thirty years.

There’s all sortsa shadows that spell the end for girls in this city, but I guess when Fleur du Mal came to us up in the office and said something terrible had happened to Tiny Baby Anastasia, our minds went right to that word: ovipositor. The worst thing that can happen.

We weren’t expecting her to be dead.

It’s out of keeping with my usual, much more florid writing style, and it’s in first person, which I hardly ever write. With any luck Advent Chronicles will continue to be a challenge enough to keep me interested, but not so much of a challenge that I get completely put off! It’s a fine line to walk.


3 thoughts on “Snippet post: The Advent Chronicles

  1. So, it sounds actually American. I know you worry about tone of voice a lot, but it doesn’t come across as Brit, so there’s that. I am very disturbed by the word “ovipositor” in that it chills me. Both of these are GOOD THINGS. Also, intriguing. 😀

    1. Yesssss, I’m glad I haven’t managed to bugger the character voice right at the start. 🙂 And I’m glad, the word is meant to be inherently menacing.

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