Second Draft Introduction

Andala is that second world we find out there.

It happened in 2169. Generations into our exploration of the stars. Life eluded us, no matter where we looked. Instead, we had to bring our own, by garden ship and global genesis.

Until that moment.

The remotest four of us there had ever been. They were the ones who found it. More than we could remember to dream. Our sister. The first life in all our searches, and so similar to ours that we didn’t even realise.

Until we saw what they could do.

That’s the back story. The book I’m writing starts a while down the line, 2301 in fact, once we’ve had a while to get to know each other. It kicks off on the day when our two worlds will meet again, as our meaning, and our threat to one another, is redefined.

Until that point, Andala was a great mystery, safely far away. But history has chapters, and our shared age of innocence ends there and then. I call that story Alpha. Or The Book of Princes. And it shall soon enough begin.

Made of Practice

Use it or lose it. The golden rule of exercise. I’ve seen its effects myself, in the years I’ve been doing my necessary sojourns on a bike. Strength and stamina don’t just build themselves. Yet, in a sense, they truly do. So long as you put in the effort.

I believe the same is true for everything.

The line of writing I have chosen for my work is fiction. But how much of that do you see here? I write the occasional thing, of course, like Marie Chen’s account of Proteus. In fact I’ve quite surprised myself by how far that has gone; given its intention. But for the most part, my writing here reads like a journal of my own experience, rather than the draft of my creation. Instead of writing Andala, I’m writing about Andala. It’s writing about writing! It’s meta work in lieu of the work itself.

I won’t surprise you one bit with the fact that my private notes read just the same way, and did long before the public Project Andala ever started.

There’s some necessity to all that. But I could go on like this for an individual’s measure of eternity. And I’d still be just beginning! That’s no way to write. Not exclusively. I really ought to turn this tale around.

You build your habits. And your habits then build you.

The writing I haven’t done is exactly the stuff I mean the most to do. The fiction! The drafting proper. The book. Why’s it such a fight? Well, my mental muscles aren’t primed for it. I could do far worse than exercise.

And so the thought occurred to me, while riding past Hound Point, that there’s only one way to change this. I’ve got to build the habit. I’ve got to write not only the very thing you see here, but fiction proper, on a routine basis. I’ve got to earn my chops.

But how to do that without stirring up a keen resistance?

Here’s the new bit. I realised that I needed to write non-critical fiction. Little things that aren’t make or break for the entire story. The kind of writing where I don’t get tangled up in a myriad of dependencies the minute I begin. Just what kind of fiction is that, though, given the world I’m building and my evidently maniacal desire for every last piece to fit?

There is just one way I can picture: to escape the canon completely.

One way to do that would be to jump ship to another project entirely. Not something I’d like to do, or think I could for long. Besides, the problem would remain, just in different clothing. No, I’m not looking for another macrocosm; but the opposite.

How about little fictions inside the Andala “universe” that I’ve already started? How about short stories contained within themselves, which needn’t define nor undermine the rules of the game? How about the legends presumed already extant on Andala, like Ayana’s myth? Or even just the backgrounds and day to day lives of the characters I’m making, without the need for vital moments in our future history? Ah, more tales within the tale. But short and sweet.

I doubt it’ll do me any harm. Or you, as I can always put the kibosh on publishing them. We’ll see. I just know I need to shake up my practice.

The Art of World Building

What I like to think sets my work aside from other superpower fantasies is its world. Andala is, very simply, an entire civilisation where everyone has their share of these abilities. Aner is not the special gift of a chosen few. It belongs to everyone.

Think about that for a second. Everyone can do it. All of them. Not just the mighty élite, but the lowest of the humdrum everyday ornery. And then we arrive.

My peculiar interest is in just this kind of culture shock. From its destructive effect on the traditional tribal lives of the Bushmen, to its broader impact on the very foundation of our global history: this stuff is right up my alley. What little I know of super heroes tells me what I’m doing is quite distinct from the norm. Where episodic adventures require a rhythm and a routine reset to the way things were before, I can explore a whole different horizon.

There’s something that really appeals to me in the idea that aner – that unsettling, uncanny, and essentially un-human power – is so perfectly natural on Andala. Marie’s described the first time that we saw it. Aner is startling, terrifying and baffling stuff; a veritable deus ex machina of course. And my hesitance to work on it is as just much a metaphor beyond the book. But there it lies. The focus and the magic.

The world, then, is where I see my best work. It’s a playground for my own games of consequence. There is one continuity in this story. One timeline! (And a relativistic one at that; as long as I can keep the details straight.) Everything the characters do is done for good. Change is eternal, as it is in reality. Anything less doesn’t feel the least bit right. Dodgy prequels and the like have torn the patience out of me!

But what’s a culture like when everyone is Superman? I’ve spent a good while wondering about this very question. Andala is my attempt at answering it. The only way you can: one piece at a time.

From out of those a world is made. No more, no less.

Forward March

Amongst the infinite dichotomies by which you can split man, lies the one about perseverance. There are those who stride ever onward, guided by goodness knows what, drawn in every step by a passion they themselves might not be able to describe, ever seeking the way of the future; and then there’s the rest of us.

I took up Jared Diamond’s epic answer to Yali’s Question as an exercise in broadening my own perspective. Oh, it worked all right. His book is rich with consequences for my own project. So much so, that I’ve found myself thrown back in introspection. I can take a while to digest what I read, but this is something else, and by no means any one else’s fault.

I’ve not given up on Andala. I’m not sure, after all the times it seems I’ve tried, that such a thing is possible as long as I am still around. But I do find myself in the midst of something of a breather. One of these things where it’s not my own initiative, but the realm of the unconscious muse.

Truth be told, I suppose it is the way I’m telling Proteus that’s at the heart of my doubt. That backstory has been out of control for as long as I can remember. I meant for it to be a fragmentary report of distant discovery, but it’s already about as long as I mean Alpha itself to be, and showing no sign of a conclusion. When I’m writing it, though, I do like Marie’s story. Coupled with my apparent inability to pull the reins and steer where she’s going, you get where I’ve been headed. The choice between it and the central story that I came here to tell is one I seem unable to take. Or in the right direction, at any rate.

All of which is to say that Guns, Germs and Steel isn’t at fault for my time off the keyboard. And, in fact, that I am well pleased for the most part by how suited my little fiction of a world matches the analysis Diamond wrote there. I haven’t thought at all of ancient man’s spread around our own planet, before the rise of farming and subsequently everything else, being drawn to Sumer for my inspiration more often than not. But now that he’s explained it, I see the implications of prehistory around us everywhere. For whatever reason, they’re more or less as snug on Andala. The details of which I’ve some reading yet until I can describe.

If you’re like me: you think in writing. Seems to be the only way. Just as music is to dream, and reading is to see.

Yali’s Question

I’ve belatedly gotten around to picking up Jared Diamond’s intriguing book Guns, Germs and Steel. It’s history on quite a breathtaking scale. Take Wikipedia’s word for it. As the author says himself, in the preface:

With mildly critical tongue in cheek, the reviewer wrote that I seem to view world history as an onion, of which the modern world constitutes only the surface, and whose layers are to be peeled back in the search for historical understanding. Yes, world history is indeed such an onion! But that peeling back of the onion’s layers is fascinating, challenging and of overwhelming importance to us today, as we seek to grasp our past’s lessons for our future.

He frames his grand vision in a nutshell. It is to answer a question posed to him by an inquisitive Papua New Guinean once upon an afternoon at the beach.

“Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”.

The man’s name was Yali. And I got quite diverted in my reading by following up on him. Again, the Wikipedia has an excellent article about the chap. He was no mere politician, nor even just a philosopher. He was a bit of a gangster and even a cult leader in his day. As he put it in how he posed his question: around the magic word of “cargo”.

I’ve a thing for culture shock, as worlds must one day collide. Right at the heart of my story is our centuries advanced Earth meeting its uncanny sister Andala in the unexpected depths of space. We’re rivals, whether we like it or not; or even choose to see it that way. Mina knows. I’ve set about creating some far flung reenactment of what happened when the two worlds of our own planet met in the shape of Columbus just half a millennium ago. Only, we aren’t the same kind of people as our ancestors who sailed then, conquistadors in waiting; and the people of Andala have a little something of their own beyond the reach of our technology. Yet the metaphor is, ultimately, much the same.

In other words, I’ve picked some pretty damn pertinent reading. I’m playing with the constraints, but I’m still very much working within the forces of global history. Whether it be Andala’s or ours.

Then them both.