The Y People, Chapter 5: Spies is Never Good

"What do you mean?" asked Jane.

I was going to have to get used to the fact that she looked straight at me and noticed that I was there. It was spooky.

"I've been thinking about this. We're not superheroes."

"What?" said Kevin, puzzled.

"I thought at first we might have a bit of an X-Men thing going on, but think about it. Look around at us. We none of us are set up to hit people really hard. What kind of a superhero team doesn't have someone who can hit people really hard?"

"The kind that doesn't believe that hitting people really hard is going to solve anything?" said Marie, with a touch of snark.

"True, but still. Let's look at what we can do. Kevin knows where things and people are. You can get us to anywhere with a door. Jane can, I assume, make gadgets and things?" I raised an eyebrow at her, and she nodded. "I don't get noticed. What's this suggesting to you?"

Kevin and Jane got it almost at the same moment. "Spies," they said.

"That's right. We're spies. And spies is never good. We're talking ruthless government agencies here. We've all had enough to do with government agencies - and non-government agencies - to know that even with a charitable purpose, agencies are bad news." I got some grimaces of agreement. "And spy agencies don't have a charitable purpose. Their purpose is to win at all costs, and they can break the rules and manipulate and lie and cheat to do it. They're secret, so they can get away with things that society at large wouldn't be comfortable with, because nobody knows. Their only oversight, if they have any, is from politicians and the military, who can be a bit pragmatic about means and ends."

Marie was obviously struggling to keep concentrating on what I was saying. It was like I was a boring teacher droning on about exports, probably. I gave Kevin a sign we had that said, "Talk for me, people will listen to you."

"So if we're intended to be spies, who are our controllers?" he asked, picking up smoothly.

"Got to be a government, surely?" said Jane.

"Which government?" asked Marie. "I'm Canadian, you're... British?" Jane nodded. "These two are from New Zealand."

"That's all Commonwealth. Maybe it's the British Government," said Kevin.

"The British Government couldn't do this," said Jane with certainty.

"She's right," I said. "No government on earth could do this. Science and technology, they're all of a piece - if it was possible to do this stuff we do with current human technology, even with ultra-advanced, secret military hush-hush technology, the ordinary technology we see every day would have some hint of it at least. And they'd be giving it to the SAS or MI5, not to a bunch of teenagers. Doesn't mean that some government isn't trying to use or manipulate us, but they didn't give us these powers."

"Who did give us the powers, then?" asked Kevin.

"Beats me. Aliens? People from the future? Extradimensional beings? Cosmic accident? For all we know we were all bitten by radioactive spiders when we were too young to remember. And we know how well that generally works out."

"What if it's God?" asked Marie.

"What?"

"Well, if someone always knows what you need... isn't that omniscience?"

"Depends if it's what you need or just what they want you to have. Besides, I was brought up mostly by nuns. It tends to inoculate you against belief in God."

"No it doesn't. I was brought up by nuns too, you know."

Apparently she could see me fine when she was angry with me - she was glaring right at me.

"Jane, you're a scientist," I said, "back me up here."

"What gave you that idea?" she said.

"Well, you work with technology..."

"Yes, which makes me an engineer. A mad scientist, at best. I'm interested in what works. Theory either helps me get something to work or it gets in the way - mostly, it gets in the way."

I know when I need to retreat. "Well, anyway," I said, "point is, we know we're probably set up to be spies. We don't know for who, against who, or why. Or how. We have these powers from somewhere, some power, which while it could be benevolent is more likely to be... not benevolent, and in any case is big and scary and powerful and almost certainly listening to me right at this moment, even if Marie isn't because of my stupid power."

Marie didn't respond, proving my point.

"So how do we start finding out what's going on?" asked Kevin.

"I don't know," I said. "I suppose we just have to play along and keep our eyes open - and try not to get manipulated into doing something that we can't back away from."

"We've got one clue," said Jane.

"What?"

"Mr Brown."

"You're right," I said. "That's the place to start. Who is he? Why is he after us? Where was he going to take us, and what was going to happen there? Are there any more like us there already?"

"But we already know it's just us," said Jane, indicating her laptop.

"Even if that information isn't being controlled - and I wouldn't bet a sandwich - we only asked it, Who is Mr Brown after? There could be others that he already has."

"Well," said Kevin, "we'd better rescue them, then."

"Dude," I said, "we're not the X-Men."

"I'm not any kind of man," noted Jane. "Technically, nor are you."

I ignored this slight, and so did Kevin, who said, "The X-Men were Gen X. We're Generation Y. We're the Y..." a sideways glance at Jane... "people. I know I for one am asking 'Why?' a lot. And if we're going to answer that question, we need to do this, we need to find out who we are, and we need to do something decent and human because that's what will keep us from doing the, the opposite."

I thought about it. He had a point.

"OK," I said. "Where do we start?"

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The Y People, Chapter 4: To Whom It May Concern

After dinner, the cupboard contained a sink, some washing-up liquid, a scrubber and a cloth. Apparently we didn't need a dishwasher.

The water and power were both off in the abandoned building, of course (though not wherever the cupboard led to). So when it started to get dark, not long after the washing up, even though it was the middle of the day for us Marie wanted to go to sleep. We were apparently in approximately her timezone. We might even be in Toronto, for all we knew.

She got her own air mattress and sleeping bag, and some pillows and blankets for all of us, out of the magic cupboard. She then opened (and propped open) a door to a toilet somewhere that got more illumination from streetlights than the old industrial building did, and which flushed. She took off her shoes and climbed into her sleeping bag.

Kevin and I sat up in our bags and talked quietly for a while until she pointedly told us to shut up or she'd open a door to a meat packing plant and push us through. We knew she couldn't, but we got the message. I did finally manage to sleep a little before dawn, but I spent most of the night on the hamster-wheel of thoughts about our situation.

After breakfast, the cupboard contained a computer, which produced a spontaneous cheer from us all. Since Marie was the person who'd provided it, in a sense, she booted it up. We apparently needed a Mac running Firefox, which started automatically. It seemed that mysterious benefactors were into open source, but weren't ideological about it.

Marie opened her Gmail, and things became spooky. The first email was addressed "to whom it may concern".

"If you are reading this," it said, "it's because you are like me. I'm hoping you are able to help me (and no, this is not a Nigerian scam, no bank accounts involved). I can do unusual things, and now there is a very odd man called Mr Brown who wants to take me away from my school. Fortunately that requires a lot of paperwork, but he will be here for me this afternoon. If you have any way to extract me so that I can join you, please use it, otherwise I will have to take steps of my own."

It was signed "Jane".

While Kevin and I were still staring at each other in surprise, Marie hurried to the nearest closed door and heaved it open. On the other side was a tall, skinny blonde girl with thick glasses and a laptop computer. She closed the laptop, grabbed it, and was through the door in an instant, no questions asked. Marie slammed it behind her.

"You took your time," she said, in an English accent. "He was nearly there."

"You're welcome," said Marie, somewhat snidely. "We've just woken up. I don't think we're in the same time zone as you."

"Oh, sorry, thanks for the rescue," the girl said, belatedly. "You got my email, then?"

"Yes."

"How did you do that?" I asked. She glanced at me perfectly normally, without startlement, and said, "It's my talent. Machines. What's yours?"

"You can't tell?"

"No, you look perfectly normal to me."

"People usually can't see me. Or notice me."

"Ah, that will be the glasses. I think they show me what's really there."

"You're not sure?"

"No, but that seems to be what they do. Any piece of equipment I own seems to just do whatever it does, only really well."

"So... your laptop sends emails to people you don't know?"

"Yes, and you should see what I get when I search on it."

"What?"

"I'm not certain, but I think I get anything that's written down anywhere about what I want to know. Not just what's on the web. Anything."

"Now that sounds useful," said Kevin. "I'm Kevin, by the way, and I assume you're Jane?"

She blushed. "Yes."

"This is my mate John, and over there is Marie. We just got away from this Mr Brown guy ourselves."

"Then he is rounding up Talents." She put her laptop down on a nearby table, too rickety and damaged to have been taken away when the place was abandoned, and opened it up. Without her touching any keys, it opened what looked like a browser window with no menus or icons, and with a single field on the open page, like Google but without the logo or buttons.

She typed in, "Who is Mr Brown looking for?"

There was no World Wide Wait on this computer. As soon as she finished typing, the page displayed instantly, all at once. All four of our pictures, our full names, and brief descriptions of what we could do.

It was alphabetical by last name.

Gray, John, not noticed, remarked or remembered.
Link, Kevin, locator of people and things.
Smith, Jane, enhancer of technology.
Porter, Marie, opener of doors to what is needed.

That was all.

"It's just us, then," said Kevin. I didn't say anything; I was brooding over the accuracy of "not noticed, remarked or remembered."

"Your name is Porter?" said Jane to Marie. "And you open doors? That sounds a bit coincidental."

"How about 'Smith,' then?" she retorted.

"I think someone's been having a big joke," said Kevin. "Just wish I knew who."

The page in front of Jane went back, apparently by itself, to the search box, and she typed, "Who is behind all this?"

The page went completely, featurelessly blank.

"I don't think they're ready to tell us," said Kevin.

"Or to put it another way," I said, "we don't have 'need to know' status."

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The Y People, Chapter 3: Upsides and Downsides

The place was definitely a former industrial building of some kind, and just as definitely long abandoned. We had emerged upstairs, in the office part that extended a little over half of the length (we eventually worked out). Beneath it was a factory or workshop of some kind, and at the other end, taking up the full height, a space that had probably been a warehouse.

We found the office tearoom, a dingy room with worn and stained walls, but several tall cupboards, and Marie proceeded to open them. Much to our delight, the first one now led to our own wardrobe, the same one we had come through in such a Narnian manner. Though Marie didn't look much like Mr Tumnus, and it wasn't that cold.

We dressed in winter clothes first of all, though, and then started going through our camping stuff. We had been gradually building it up, buying gear from the discount outdoor shop down the road as we could afford it, planning on taking a camping trip after school finished while we decided what to do next with our lives. We had a little gas stove, two decent sleeping bags and some air mattresses, a tent (not much current use), some camp cooking gear and a couple of packs, with water bottles and a few camp tools.

"Do we really need to take it all out?" I asked, after we had it mostly on the floor. "After all, Marie can always open the door again if we need anything."

"What if she's opened a door and is on the other side of the world, though?" said Kevin.

"You're right," she said, "better to have it where you can reach it yourselves. I can't guarantee to access the same place again, either - it's not something I control, you know."

With that encouragement, we pulled clothes, shoes, books and other essentials out of the cupboard too, and stacked them in the next-door cupboard for future use. The book I had been reading, unfortunately, was on my bed. I'd been halfway through it, too.

When we'd finished, she closed the doors and opened them again. They now revealed a fridge, a selection of food (mostly in cans and packets), and a microwave and electric kettle.

"Whose is this stuff? Is it OK for us to take it?" asked Kevin.

Marie did the one-shoulder shrug which I was starting to recognise as one of her favourite gestures. "My experience is that whatever's behind the door is something I need. Not want, need. We need food. Whatever it is that decides what I need agrees on that."

"You don't think it's something you're doing?" I asked.

She controlled the start this time, but I could see she'd forgotten I was there again. "Well, it seems to only happen to me, but I don't choose where the doors go to."

"And it seems that you need us for something?" asked Kevin.

"Or maybe you needed me. That Mr Brown was about to get you, after all."

"Yeah, about that - what did he do exactly that spooked you?"

"It wasn't what he did exactly - he was just wrong. I've been in a lot of foster homes over the years, and there's a kind of feeling that I get sometimes about someone, I know I'm probably going to have to vanish through some doors quickly at times, you know? Or do you?"

We nodded. We knew foster homes and creepy people. It was easier for me than for Kevin, but he always knew where they were and had got good at avoiding them.

"It was like that, only a lot worse. He didn't seem totally - he was like someone who'd only heard about what humans were like, what they looked like and how their faces worked. Not quite - right."

"You think he was some kind of alien?" I asked.

"Or a robot, maybe?" said Kevin.

The little shrug. "Maybe. I didn't want to go where he was taking me, I know that much."

We started opening packets and getting ready for cooking, and while we did, I said, "Foster homes, huh? You too?"

"Yeah. I'm an orphan. Car crash, they told me, but I don't remember."

"Same with us. All of that. It seems like a bit of a coincidence."

"I dunno. A lot of people die in car crashes, don't they?"

"Yeah, which is why it makes a good cover story. Eaten by weasels, not so much."

She didn't quite laugh, but her lips quirked in a smile - more response than I usually got out of someone. "You two brothers?"

"Do we look like brothers?"

She coloured up a little. "Um, don't take this the wrong way..." She paused in the way I had learned meant "I've forgotten your name again." "John," I said.

"...John, but I find it hard to remember what you look like. Even when I'm looking straight at you."

"Oh, that," I said. "Yeah, that happens. Seems I interfere with that part of people's brains as well. Sorry - it's not something I can switch off."

"Me neither. I never know when I walk through a door if it's going to be one of those doors."

"It doesn't happen every time, then?" asked Kevin. "Should we chop these?" - meaning the carrots he had just got out.

"Yes, if we can find a knife. No, I don't travel every time I open a door, or maybe sometimes what I need is to be where the door normally leads to. But it happens... unexpectedly, sometimes."

"Mine's always on," he said. "Like, now I've talked to you for a few minutes, I could point straight to you wherever you were, out of sight, even miles away, probably. Useful in some ways, but it gets... noisy, in my head. It's good to be this far away from home, just to get the quiet."

"I wish I always knew where I was," she said wistfully.

We finished making the dinner in near silence.

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The Y People, Chapter 2: Faint Signals

For a moment, I stood there with my mouth hanging open, then I leapt for Kevin at the same time as Marie. We bumped heads and bounced off each other. She looked straight at me - I suppose hitting your forehead on someone makes you notice them - and said, "You check that he's OK, I'm going to open a door."

I knelt down beside him and checked his breathing, which he still had some of. That was about all the first aid I remembered in the heat of the moment. Meanwhile, with the hand that wasn't clutching her bruise, Marie flung open the nearest door, the one we'd just come through. As I probably should have expected, it now led to a small sick bay with a cot (complete with blankets and pillow) and a large first aid kit on a shelf.

Kevin is bigger than either of us, and it took a determined effort from us both to haul him into the room and up onto the cot. I noticed a first aid manual in the kit and was just paging through the index looking for "fainting" when he stirred and moaned.

"Kevin," I said, "what happened, mate?"

He squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them wide. "Ow," he said. "Headache."

I fished some pain pills out of the kit and looked around to see that Marie had run a glass of water for him to take them with. He sipped and swallowed. His colour was rapidly improving.

"Not like you to pass out," I said.

"Nah," he said. "I think it's the distance. How far did you bring us, anyway?" he asked Marie. She shrugged with one shoulder, turning her hands up in the "who knows?" gesture.

"I don't pick the destinations," she said. "I don't even know where you guys are from. I'm guessing not Toronto." So she was Canadian.

"Auckland," he said. "New Zealand," I clarified.

"That's... a long way," she said. I noticed she was wearing a winter uniform, not a summer one. "I didn't know I could do that."

"Yeah, and we're a long way from there again," said Kevin. "I think that's why I passed out. My talent, knowing where things are? I think I... sort of reach out to them in my mind. When I'm away from school in the holidays, I can tell where people are and where the school is, but it's fainter, like a radio station that's based a long way away. Auckland is that way," he said, and pointed through a wall, not in the direction we'd come from, "but it's fainter than I've ever felt it."

"So, you kind of got disoriented?" I asked.

"Something like that. Your talent seems unaffected," he pointed out - Marie had just started again when I spoke. "She forgot you were here in what, twenty seconds?"

"Great," I said in a that's-not-great voice.

"Sorry," she said.

"Not your fault. I put out some kind of damper wave, I think. There's a part of the brain which people use to tell where things are, and if you damage it, you can still navigate round them but you're not conscious that they're there. I think I shut that part of the brain down in everyone except Kevin, but only for noticing me. They notice everything and everyone else."

"I always thought mine was just magic," she said, and turned back to Kevin. That's the other thing - people's tolerance for listening to me talk seems to stop after two or three sentences, at best.

"How are you feeling now?" she asked.

"Better," he said. "The headache's passing off. At risk of getting another one - can you tell us why you hurried us through the wardrobe like that?"

"That man," she said, "Mr Brown. He came for me as well. I actually went with him, too, but something didn't feel right, he wasn't answering any questions, and I opened a door and escaped."

"How long ago?"

"Yesterday."

"Where did you sleep?"

"I don't know, I opened a door and there was a bed." There was a certain element of "Haven't you got it yet?" in her tone.

"Must be convenient."

"Sometimes. I usually try to let other people open doors instead of me, though, because I don't want to suddenly end up somewhere else or have someone see and freak out."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," he said. We shared a reflective silence, reviewing various incidents in our minds - I was, anyway, and I assume they were too.

"OK," Kevin said after a while, "I think I'm all right now." He put his bare feet down on the floor and winced. "We'll need shoes if we're going to stay here. I think we must be back in the Northern Hemisphere." He stood up, a little cautiously, and took the two steps out the door - where he stumbled, and caught himself against the wall as he passed through.

"Wah," he said. "Mental compass just spun again. I don't think the sick bay is in the same building."

"Probably not," I said, "it looks abandoned here, and the sheets on the cot were fresh."

"That is one strange power you have," he said to Marie, but his tone was more respectful than complaining.

"What happens if we don't close the door?" I asked. "Do the people who own the sick bay now have a door that doesn't lead anywhere?"

Marie did her one-shoulder shrug again. "I always close them when I'm finished." She did so, and we stood in the dusty hall in front of a chipped plywood door that could lead anywhere in the world, as long as Marie was the one opening it. I shivered, not entirely from the cold - we were definitely in winter here.

"Come on," said Kevin, "let's poke around since we're here. Maybe you can open a door and find us some wooly socks."

"And a vacuum," she said, and sneezed. "And some food, and a microwave. It's dinnertime."

"It's ten in the morning," I said.

"Not in Toronto it isn't."

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The Y People, Chapter 1: Entrances and Exits

I was deep in a book, as usual, and didn't really pay attention when the door to our room opened and closed. But I looked up when Kevin, from the top bunk, said, "Looks like you're new here, but they should have told you - no girls in guys' rooms."

The girl was about our age, late teens, but small for it. She was slightly on the ordinary side of pretty, with shoulder-length hair of an indeterminate brown, and her school uniform - which wasn't our school's uniform - hung a little loose where other girls our age would be getting curves. She looked worried.

"Do you have special powers?" she asked him. She had to tilt her head back to look at him up there, and her accent was North American. (I can't tell a USAican from a Canadian unless they say "about".)

"What?", said Kevin.

"Do you have things you can do that are unusual? You do, don't you?"

"He knows where everything and everyone is," I said, and got the usual reaction people have when I speak - she gave a start, and looked at me wide-eyed.

"And people don't notice me," I added. Unnecessarily.

"I'm Marie," she said. "I open doors."

"That doesn't sound like much of a superpower," said Kevin.

"I open doors between where I am and where things are that I need," she said. "And right now I apparently need you guys."

"I'm flattered," said Kevin dryly. "There's a nun coming up the stairs, by the way, so keep your voice down. While you continue explaining," he added, when she didn't reply immediately.

"Nothing more to explain," she said, more quietly. "I opened the door to my room and it was the door to your room. Unfortunately my talent doesn't include knowing why I need the things I find, but it always turns out that I do."

"And I suppose you don't know whether we need to go with you or whether we should stay here?"

"Nope. That a closet? I sometimes find things out if I open closets," she said, and opened our wardrobe door.

Instead of assorted books, clothes, our slowly growing collection of camping gear and other such detritus, the door now led to the back of another cupboard - also full of books, but neatly arranged, multiple copies. They were textbooks, and we could hear the voice of Sister Mary Anselm, the principal.

"I'm sure that Sister Mary Martin will be back with the boys in no time, Mr Brown. So tell me more about this special programme they'll be going to. It isn't for gifted students, is it? Because Kevin is quite bright, but not exceptional, and, um, John..." She trailed off. I'm used to this. She couldn't actually remember anything about me, my academic record or even what I looked like. If asked to list the members of my class, she would inevitably leave me off, and so would Sister Mary Martin, who was our form teacher. If I stayed still and said nothing, Sister Mary Martin would probably not even remember she'd been sent to get two boys.

"No, it's just an opportunity for them to fulfill their full potential," said a man's voice, and Marie jumped and turned white.

She slammed the wardrobe door closed and opened it again. It now led somewhere dusty, ill-lit from high windows.

"You've got to come with me," she told us, not shouting, but forgetting to keep her voice down. "No arguments or questions, just come."

Something about her intensity convinced us. John leapt down off the top bunk, and I dropped my book and swung off the lower one. We were both barefooted, and we didn't pause to grab shoes, or anything else, we just dashed past Marie into what should have been a cluttered wardrobe a little deeper than our forearms, but was now clearly a long corridor in a run-down building we'd never seen before.

She hurried through after us and pulled the door closed. Beyond her, as the gap we'd come through narrowed, I saw the handle turning on our bedroom door - no doubt Sister Mary Martin, who Kevin had sensed on the stairs.

Kevin was looking around. He's tall and lanky and not actually athletic as such, but likes doing physical things, running round and throwing and catching. But he's not so good at it that he's in any school teams or anything, he just does it for fun. He has kind of a heavy face with big jawbones, and straight straw-coloured hair.

"Where are we?" he asked. He was taking it all pretty calmly on the outside, but I knew him well enough to know that he'd be freaking quietly out.

"No idea," said Marie, without apparent concern. "Where we need to be, I imagine."

Judging by the decor, we were in the premises of Bland and Company, Licensed Boring Merchants, and it had shut down some years ago after several decades of heavy daily use. Everything was dull colours (a different set of dull colours from the institutional dull colours our school was painted in, but from the same kind of imagination). The industrial linoleum floor was scuffed and dusty, the plastered walls cracked and dinged here and there, and a few of the high windows, which had that wire grid stuff embedded in the glass, were cracked as well. You couldn't see out them, but it seemed to be a dull day, which was funny because it had been sunny where we'd just left. I wondered how far we'd come.

John got that look he gets when he's trying to locate something or someone, kind of like his eyes go distant so he can see where they are. Then the blood drained out of his face and he collapsed messily to the floor.

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The Y People: about to be serialized here

I haven't written any fiction for a while, not since finishing Gu, almost six months ago. This is largely because I do fiction writing in my spare time and I haven't had much of it lately, what with one thing and another.

Of course if thousands of people started buying my books it would become part of my job, and then I would do it a lot more regularly.

Ahem. Anyway, I've been havering about where to serialize my next project, the YA novel The Y People - a new Blogger blog? On my C-Side Media site (would involve a new database and installing WordPress and yada yada)? I finally just decided to serialize it here. I may shift it (and the other blogged material) to C-Side Media eventually, but for now, my resolution of my procrastination is to put it where I already have an (albeit small) audience.

I have the feeling that, as with Gu, if I just start writing it it will come. At the moment I have only a fuzzy idea of exactly what will happen - I let plot arise from character and sudden mad inspiration, I'm not one of those authors who meticulously plots a whole series in advance, which is only one of the differences between me and J.K. Rowling. But I know what happens in the first scene and some of the later scenes, and I know pretty much who my protagonists are, which is enough for me to get started.

Watch this space.

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The Y People

I now have a tentative working title for my YA novel: The Y People. Y for Young, and also Generation Y, and also because they're wondering "Why?". There's also a reference, naturally, to the X-Men. With a small nod to The Tomorrow People, a British sci-fi series of which I watched a few episodes as a child.

There's a problem with it, though. My concept was to set it starting in an orphanage/school - all the kids are orphans and they assemble from three different orphanages/boarding schools, probably Catholic. I was thinking of making the actual country somewhat vague - never mentioning the name of the city, for example - underlining how world cities are increasingly interchangeable and youth culture is increasingly international.

The problem is (at least, it's a problem for my novel idea; I'm sure it's a good thing overall) that in the west, orphanages basically don't exist any more, let alone ones which are also schools. Which leaves me with several choices:

  1. Set it in a non-Western country, or in the past (which is also, we're reliably informed, another country). This would involve doing research, and research isn't fun for me in the same way that just making things up is.
  2. Just ignore the problem and say that it's an alternate world where there are still orphanages like that. After all, every work of fiction creates an alternate world. But this would make me look ill-informed or lazy (and the latter, while true, isn't generally admired).
  3. Change my concept. If I do, though, I'll probably need to incorporate foster parents of some sort, however distant and uninvolved - even boarding school students go home for the summer. This is probably the solution I'll use.

Until I settle this, I'm reluctant to start, even though I have some character concepts:

  • John is the narrator. His unusual ability is that nobody ever notices him unless he deliberately draws attention to himself. He uses this ability to cut class and read in the library instead, meaning that he has a wide general knowledge and vocabulary but has skipped significant portions of the usual school curriculum. His abiding issue is that he keeps being overlooked and forgotten about.
  • Kevin is John's roommate. His unusual ability is that once he is familiar with a person or object he always knows exactly where he, she or it is relative to his location. This means that he is the only person who is consistently aware that John is in the room. However, in the boarding school context where there are hundreds of familiar people moving round him all the time, he finds the stimulus annoying at times. His issue is that he is more inclined to observe than to act or even interact.
  • Marie is from a different location than John and Kevin. Her talent is that when she opens a door she will always find what she needs on the other side. At the start of the story, this is John and Kevin. She is rather too used to having everything she needs and has poor impulse control (although she only finds things she needs, not necessarily things she wants, and she doesn't always know why she needs them).
  • Jane is a tinkerer. Any device she spends time around, and particularly any device she builds herself, does whatever it does only more so - a cellphone becomes a telepathic projector, a computer is able to search information that isn't on any website. Her issue is that she doesn't understand people very well and thinks they should work better than they do.

Laying it out like that, the initial impetus is definitely coming from Marie, isn't it? She kicks the whole thing off, and everyone else reacts to her. We'll know they're getting their issues sorted out when they initiate positive courses of action themselves without, or despite, Marie.

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Gu is finished (sort of), and future projects

I've just posted the last episode of Gu, so if you were waiting until it was finished to start reading, the first episode is here.

I have several candidates for a next project. I thought about running a poll here, but I may just start them all and let people vote with their feed subscriptions (or continue working on the one I feel like working on at the time). This is one nice thing about not having a publishing contract.

Speaking of which, I keep going back and forth over whether to submit City of Masks to a conventional publisher or not. Sales of the self-published book have been disappointing, considering the number of subscribers I've had over at Podiobooks and the positive comments I've been getting. Not that I'm in it for the money (and not that you get much from a conventional publisher unless you're in the top tier anyway), but wider distribution would possibly be a good thing.

If you have strong opinions one way or the other, please post a comment here. Thanks.

Getting back to future projects, I have three main candidates at the moment. In no particular order:

  1. Up the Line, a science fiction novel in the same setting as Gu (which I'm perhaps inevitably thinking of as the Guniverse). This is the one with the White Star Order chaplain at the bottom of the space elevator and the United Nations inspector up in orbit, and is largely about the people they meet - refugees, migrants, opportunists and other everyday quirky characters. It doesn't focus on engineering in any way at all.
  2. A currently untitled Young Adult novel (meaning that the protagonists are young adults; this seems to be what makes a novel YA). The premise is that these YAs are orphans, they have strange abilities, and they don't know why, or why a sinister man in a brown coat is pursuing them. Since I don't know exactly why yet either, we can all find out together.
  3. An also untitled, and possibly more "commercial", novel in a low-magic fantasy setting. It may be very low magic indeed, almost deniable magic, in fact. Premise: Insecure female thief infiltrates castle in search of loot, gets caught up in plot of sinister fanatic, finds herself forcibly married to the rightful lord of the castle as part of this plot, which involves having her bear the lord a controllable heir so that said lord can be killed off and the fanatic can control the supposed power site in the castle. She's not having this, and he's a decent man (if rather scholarly) who refuses to rape her despite threats of torture, so they escape together into the wilderness, pursued by, um, pursuers of some sort. Personal growth and, eventually, romance ensue, followed by justice against the would-be usurper.

I suppose I'm in the market for title suggestions, as well, aren't I?

It's funny. I can come up with great titles for which the stories just won't come, and vice versa, but seldom both at once. I mean to say, "Gu"?

Posted in future projects, Gu | Leave a comment