For my own reference, mostly: I thought I'd just list the Mars stuff that I'm working on. And just for fun, the Mars stuff that I'm not working on, because finished.
So, from most-troublesome to least:Mars Beneath
, aka Kipling on Mars - the novel, half completed and dreadfully broken, so stuck I have no idea how to fetch it home. It kind of turns out not to be about Kipling after all, which is some of the trouble, but I do still like having Kipling there, if only so that the narrator can discover for himself that it's really not Kipling's tale after all, despite all expectation. I kind of like that, actually, to set the reader up as the characters too are set up to think it's all about RLK, only to find that it really isn't. Mars is no country for old men. But narration is a problem too; I may have to rewrite it from multiple points of view. [I never do this massive rethinking mid-novel, never ever: which is one reason why this one has run so hard aground.]Broken Symmetries
, aka Lord Peter Wimsey on Mars - the novel I started in a rush of inspiration, sent chapter one to my agents in a spirit of enquiry, received wildly positive feedback and promptly abandoned to work on Kipling instead. No, sometimes I don't understand myself either.Human Engines
- the YA novel also begun and set aside, though there too I love the premise. There is a whole sub-genre of fiction that deals with the long-lost heir returning, in which of course it transpires that they either are or they aren't (my favourites in this field being Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar
and Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree
, not necessarily respectively). This is my own entry to that field, with the third alternative.
"Champ de Mars" - a short story, that treats not with how the Irish of Mars saved their people during the potato famine (though they did) but rather with an unexpected sequel, decades down the line: a treatise on the nature of secrets. And a great frustration to me, because it needs fixing and I don't know how. I'm not even sure what's wrong with it.
"Fair Stood The Wind For Frost" - actually there's nothing wrong with this, it's just a setting (of course they would have frost fairs on Mars, every other Christmas, when the great canals themselves freeze over) in search of a story. That'll come. I'm only impatient with this one, because frost fair!
"Name and Nature" - A E Housman on Mars. Nothing happening with this one yet. I know what he's there for - whom else would you summon but the greatest classics scholar of his time, when you're trying to interpret the incomprehensible? - and I know he'll have a jolly time with his splendid young men, but none of that is a story.
"On the Accretion of Mattering" - urgh, argh. This must have been a story idea once. Now it's just a title and an opening paragraph, and I have no idea. Maybe it'll come back to me? I should have taken notes...
"The Man Who Lost The War" - again, I have no memory of this at all. Which is rather more than frustrating, because this is five pages of solid fiction. At a guess, from context, it's the backstory of the protagonist in Broken Symmetries
- but this should not be a matter for guesswork, surely. Surely I ought to remember a thousand words of fiction? At least the writing of it, if not the destination? The British have always done well in defeat; the British on Mars would do no less.
- damn it, I want to write this story...
”...They call me the Wabi-Sahib, d’ye see? For I am most ingloriously imperfect.” - not a title at all, as you can tell, for this story doesn't have one yet: it's just an opening, three lines of dialogue. But at least I know what it is, who it is and roughly where it's going - for this is Raffles and Bunny on Mars, because of course they would have gone there after Spion Kop. And of course, once there, they would run into egregious characters like this. The only real question is, can I write a story Hornung-style and have people know what I'm doing and who I'm talking about, if I never mention "Raffles" or "Bunny"? Because they'd have to be strict in their pseudonymity, even with each other in the privacy of their bedroom. (And yes, we are eternally grateful to Graham Greene for outing them in The Return of A J Raffles
, and thus making the slash canonical.) Actually I suppose there is one other question: does anyone read Raffles any more? He was rather well televised with Anthony Valentine being eponymous, but, y'know. Even that was nigh on forty years ago.
"36 Views of Cassini" - not a story yet, just a framework that can hold a story, but that's okay. It's still new.
"Of Mussulmans and Muscovites and Mars" - this is even newer, being the piece I started this morning and have been picking at all day. "Wherever Britain leads, the Raj is sure to follow.
It was too freshly coined to call a saying, perhaps too obvious to count as insight, a mere truism. Nevertheless: every truism starts out as mere truth. Wherever the sun has dragged his weary load of light, the British have followed; and as the sun the light, wherever the British cut a path, they haul the Empire behind them as a boat hauls the water of its wake. And where they say the Empire, they mostly mean the Raj." Etc - 300 words of preamble, so far. Now I only need a story (is this beginning to sound familiar?).
"The Girl Who Mapped Mars" - T E Lawrence on Mars. Except that it's much more about Claire Cazenove - Any map is an act of autobiography. It speaks to the cartographer’s ideas of fixity and possession, of what is mutable and what remains. Every mark of ink on paper delineates a journey more profound than mere instruments can measure.
- and I have written, ooh, 20K words of this. And every time I'm not working on it I think it's broken, I don't know what it's about, I don't think it makes any kind of sense at all - and then I open it up and work on it some more. So really all I need to do is finish this. Also, it has a sandcat. Camels too, but mostly a sandcat."The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini"
- done and dusted. Published in Subterranean, picked by Gardner Dozois for the Year's Best SF."The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal"
- also done, also dusted. Selected by Seanan McGuire for her guest-edited edition of Lightspeed Magazine, and still accruing rather charming notice.The Crater School on Mars
- or a Martian edition of the Chalet School, for those of you to whom that might mean something. English girls' boarding-school stories, on Mars. Trotting along nicely, with a Patreon project to support it; do indulge yourself. Indulge me. This is fun
, after all that stern literary solemnity. And there will, I promise, be a sandcat. Sandcats are great.