After moving to New Hampshire in the early 80’s, I started writing what I thought was a short story. Before long, I started making excuses for the fact that it just kept growing. Fortunately, denial only lasted until I had about 30 pages of manuscript, at which point I admitted to myself that it wasn’t so much a short story as it was Chapter One of some novel I hadn’t figured out yet.
On the other hand, I had succumbed to a full-blown addiction to finishing the thing. This being before the Internet, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the library in the research phase between bouts of actual writing. And when I was in that part of the cycle, it took over every spare moment I had. Add that to the dual-role tech contract I was on, and I developed a full-bore case of burnout. I took an extended break before looking for work again, during which time I completed the initial version of “The Shoals of Time”.
At the core of that novel is a conflict between a government peacekeeping agency and a lone voice of dissent against government control of Earth’s first outsystem colony. The peacekeeping agency had the technology to accurately see conflicts before they arose, and it took pre-emptive action to head off those conflicts. It had been successful in this for 130 years, during which time that colony was kept psychologically subservient to control by the Earth-based government. Unfortunately, what the colony desperately needed was a revolution, because Earth’s meddling was destroying the native ecosystems. You can purchase the eBook version for Nook or Kindle at their respective stores.
I tried writing some short stories after that, but everything I tried seemed like it was going to balloon into something far too long, so I backed off for a while. When I went back for a return fight with my keyboard, I approached the problem as I had a single chapter of the novel. That helped me focus on a smaller chunk of an idea, and eventually I started turning out stories that weren’t immediately aimed at the bit bucket. The first bunch were related to the novel. One of these, “Seed”, induced me to write my second novel, “Deadly Attractor”, which is a prequel to the first one. You can purchase the eBook version for Nook or Kindle at their respective stores.
This book takes place prior to my first novel, and centers around a medical collusion case in a future Los Angeles court. The jury, in this vision of the future, is not only empowered to render a verdict, they can also stop the action and directly interrogate witnesses if the lawyers are not providing the information they need. They can also hire a psychic to tell them whether the witness is lying.
These short stories are about characters from “The Shoals of Time” and “Deadly Attractor”…
- “Levels of the Game” – Some cries for help come from unexpected sources.
- “Peacekeeper” – How much are the choices you make dictated by the tools at your disposal?
- “The Seed” – Lives turn on such small things.
After writing a number of unrelated short stories, I wrote a third novel called “Burnout Fever,” which is also available at the Nook and Kindle stores. Here, people start coming down with what looks like job burnout, but they don’t recover. One of the protagonists is the leader of a grassroots group called Constitutional Evolution, which is working out the details of how to fix the problems that have been exposed in the US Constitution. (Here’s an excerpt.) I started this book in early 2002, soon after the event which has led to the need for a real effort to do what I had proposed.
These short stories are about members of Constitutional Evolution, an organization I that figured in “Burnout Fever”…
- “Motivation” – When I figured out how to write this story, I realized that it had to be told with some characters from my third novel, “Burnout Fever”.
- “Peace Initiative” – What do you see when you read the bumper sticker, “Visualize World Peace”?
- “Ping-fa“ – Before you can do something, you have to think it.
- “Symbolism and Intent” – Everyone is a learner, a doer, and a teacher. Pay attention.
- “Hidden Baggage” – What do you bring with you into a situation?
- “Double Agent” – What do you do when ‘right action’ conflicts with your job?
- “Wobbly Premise – Your next great idea just might by hiding in the heart of darkness.
- “Unheard Voices” – Who are you speaking for? Or to?
- “Limited Hangup” – What would you do with an illicit video?
- “Vocal Threat” – How closely do you scrutinize the purpose of the job you’ve been tasked with?
In 2007, I wrote a lengthy short story called “Hot Seat” about how the technology that caused all of the trouble in both “The Shoals of Time” and “Deadly Attractor” might have first been stumbled upon. Like other premature inventions, it was far from clear what it might be useful for, but one thing was certain: it was dangerous. You can read it here, or get a copy for your Nook here.
I have sketched out and started a few other novels in the same universe. Interest in my earlier ones will induce me to continue working on them.
—— P. Orin Zack