Monday, January 11, 2016
The Hermit of Iapetus
He talks with Richard Nixon, wandering the beach with a spaniel and getting his wing-tips wet. He hides from a gang of renegade squirrels that ride miniature cows whose poop gets everywhere. Probably, after a lot of thought and squirming, he will not remember his name. And those are the least of his problems.
He lives on Iapetus, third-largest satellite of the planet Saturn. He doesn’t remember how he got there. He doesn’t remember why he left a family on Earth. He’s pestered by Greenpeace for leaving footrpints and trash on an otherwise virgin world. And the International Astronomical Union isn’t all that pleased with the names he’s suggesting for the moon’s prominent features – least of all Hoagland’s Ridge, a mountain chain named for a crackpot who believes the moon is a dust-covered alien space station.
When the hallucinations fade, the Hermit of Iapetus wanders the surface of his little world, trying to remember why he might have come in the first place and imagining what his little boy might think of a father who left him for reasons no one can fathom – or remember – to wander the surface of a moon where cyanide rains out of the sky.
Just when he thinks he might have an answer to the meaning of life – or recalling his name – Richard Nixon or the squirrels, or both, snatch him back to fantasy and keep him guessing to his sanity, his motivations, and whether or not he’s really on Iapetus or in a room in a quiet wing of a hospital somewhere on Earth where his son comes to visit him regularly, only to find him wandering the dusty plains of a moon millions of miles away.
Then there are the times he talks to his wife, who is either a pleasant, confused woman who brings him clean underwear at the hospital or the ghost inhabiting an abandoned spacesuit where he stores the little bits of flotsam that remind him of home and might eventually get him back there, or at least help him remember who he is.
And then his son, grown from a toddler into a teenager, shows up on Iapetus. Memories of life on Earth both fade and flood back as the Hermit grapples with a past that has caught up with his present and a present that can no longer hide from the past. Only Richard Nixon knows how his story ends.
Wow. As much as I struggled with the synopsis to Doleful Creatures, this one was a lot harder to finish. And it’s not even half as long. What does that mean for the story the Hermit of Iapetus tells? I know it’s a less than traditional narrative, but this might also show that my story is as incoherent as the synopsis. This book is going to be a lot harder to revise and edit as well – which is the initial goal of writing this synopsis. Maybe it’ll tell me where the story is right now and give me hints as to where it wants to go in the future.
Another editing sticking-point: I have various little files, bits and bobs on my blog, etc., that may or may not fit into this incoherent story. Part of the revising process is going to involve not only making a visual representation of the story arc, but also collecting all these little orbiting satellites and figuring out where they do (or don’t) fit into the story. Lucky me. And I thought revising The Hermit of Iapetus was going to be easy.
Another scary thought: Ideas for a companion novel to Doleful Creatures keep sneaking in. I’m going to have to start collecting them as well. I’m reluctant to do so, however, as that story could easily take over the time I’m slotting out for the Hermit. We’ll see what happens.