Life has a way of throwing things in your way, doesn’t it. It’s been taking me a lot longer to write the fifth John Crane novel, The Vengeful, than I would like. There’s been a lot going on in my everyday life, and combine that with the usual plot complications – a whole plotline had to be pulled out and redesigned because it just wasn’t working – and general authorial frustrations, and The Vengeful hasn’t been coming along as rapidly as I want it to.
While the new web site was in development, I didn’t post that, but the frustration was there, so I had the idea for this post on deck and waiting until I had a place to post it. And then there was this photo, of the Isolator. one of a number of weird inventions by Hugo Gernsback, one of the pioneering figures of what we know as science fiction. The Isolater was a kind of primitive sensory deprivation tank aimed at increasing productivity by isolating you from the distractions of day to day life. There’s Gernsback under his heavy hood, looking through his very narrow field of vision at his work, with oxygen getting pumped in, presumably because it would be kind of hard to breathe in there.
If you can’t make out the caption, it reads, “The author at work in his private study aided by the Isolator. Outside noises being eliminated, the worker can concentrate with ease upon the subject at hand.” This thing looks like it would actually drive the user mad after an hour or so, but that was the joke when I came up with the idea – that I needed something this ridiculous to shut out all the distractions of everyday life and get some writing done.
But by the time the site was ready, things in the outside world had changed. Dramatically. The picture has entirely different connotations in a world ravaged by Covid-19, doesn’t it? I hope we don’t get to the point where we all have to do our work in a heavy hood with its own oxygen supply. But as the Mike Tyson quote reminds us, nothing ever goes quite like we planned, from writing a book to just making our way through the world.
I’m still working on The Vengeful. In the meantime, all of you stay safe. I want you to be healthy and ready to read it when it’s done.