Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape: Sleepwalkers, Chapter 11 and onward

So there you have it. That’s the end of Sleepwalkers - for the moment, at least. I’m already getting it ready to e-publish on Smashwords and Amazon; and fair warning: as soon as the story goes up for sale, it comes down from my blog and the EMCSA.

But you didn’t come here to read about the e-book, did you? You want my final thoughts about the novel and its central characters. Let me start by addressing a question that came up in the comments section of this blog: Dreamer is still out there, so can’t someone else build an empire like Hawthorne’s? Well, no. Not very easily. Notice that Wizard anticipates the Chinese Waking Up and becoming world-class programmers. That’s your tip-off that Paul and Shara gave them Waker. They put the formula into wide release because they don’t want anyone else to go through what they did. Yes, it means aiding a former enemy nation, but they wouldn't be themselves if they did otherwise. 

Here’s another question people have asked me: Will there be a sequel to Sleepwalkers? I could always change my mind later, but right now I don’t have any plans for a sequel. However, I am still thinking about a prequel involving Angela and Reynaldo.It would tie up some loose ends regarding Wiesen, too.

Now, what about the main characters of Sleepwalkers? Where do they go from here?

First, almost everyone is going to live a long, happy life. Even Hawthorne and her Cabinet won’t be too unhappy, even if we wish they were. As Shara explained, you can never really exact justice on a sleepwalker. Oh, they’ll feel sorry if you tell them to. They’ll even wallow in misery. But they won’t really be sorry; they’ll just be trying to please. But justice is important to Shara, so she did the best she could without getting into cruel and unusual punishment. Her solution is also imminently practical because the new government really needs the old government’s help. You can be sure they’ll keep Hawthorne alive as long as anti-aging treatments allow.

But forget about the General. What about the more likeable characters?

Paul and Shara will remain happily married, although that they’ll have trouble balancing their busy new careers with their private lives; and it won’t be as easy as Shara thinks to give up her government work. She'll spend a few years butting heads with politicos, but eventually she’ll decide that she can do more good in the private sector. Fortunately, by that time, she’ll have done more good than she realizes in the public sector. Paul will have only a little less trouble trying to run his university. He'll spend as much time in the classroom as he can and hire administrators for the real dirty work.

Once Wizard hires and trains her staff, she’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors as much as she likes. But don’t think that means she’ll lose her interest in computers! Picture her at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, sitting on a boulder and enjoying the view, while simultaneously uploading and downloading five different feeds.

Melora, Josue, and Ian will be senior professors at the Phoenix School for Genetics. Eventually some grateful citizens will erect statues on campus dedicated to them and Paul; and inevitably some students will drape underwear on the statues’ heads. Josue will laugh, Melora will grumble, and Ian will secretly wish his statue was covered head-to-toe.

Zane will have even more difficulty leaving Hollywood than Shara will have leaving government work, but he’ll stay out of the limelight and insist on doing only “important” films. After about three decades of this, the Academy will finally take him seriously and give him an Oscar.

Charlotte and Aimee will remain best friends for the rest of their lives, and Charlotte’s grandchildren will grow up calling Aimee “aunt.”

Mullins will either become a park ranger or move to New York City. He hasn’t decided yet.

Rubens will write (read: have a ghostwriter write) a memoir of his experiences with Hawthorne and Shara. No one will be particularly interested.

If you want to imagine any particular romantic couplings for these characters (apart from Paul and Shara, who are an exclusive pair), you're more than welcome to do so as long as they're mere speculations and not stories.

Finally, here are a few notes about the overall shape of Sleepwalkers. I didn’t start it with any overarching themes in mind, but they began to spring up naturally once I realized what I’d done with the setting. Originally I chose Phoenix just because I wanted to use a non-Southern city for a change, and I’ve actually been to Arizona. But then I made the connection with the mythological phoenix, and I realized how first Paul and then most of the other characters experience a rebirth/resurrection (This was still long before I came up with Shara’s test, but of course she fits that model more clearly than anyone). Sometime later, I thought about the symbolism of living underground and/or in darkness before rising into light and life again. And finally, after all of the above, I got around to noticing how often I'd referred to sleepwalkers as “zombies.” My subconscious fucks with me like that. A lot.

Another major theme of the story is guilt and forgiveness. I first started fantasizing about Paul and Shara when I was about 11, and I imagined myself in the role of Shara (who was a totally different character at the time). Now, as a forty-something adult, I see that my stand-in is really Paul. His sense of guilt is my sense of guilt, and although I have much less reason to feel it than he does, I still need someone like Shara to forgive me and help me forgive myself. That's a big part of why this story ends on such a happy note. I put myself through hell writing parts of it, but I knew how it would turn out okay in the end.

Well, thank you for coming along with me on the ride. I've been dreaming of publishing this story since I was old enough to come up with it; I just never thought it would happen. So even though this will sound incredibly sappy, I have to say it. Having the chance to share my fantasy with all of you, and hearing how much you've enjoyed it, is like - yeah, I really do have to put it this way - a dream come true. 

I found the image at the top of this post here.


magic9mushroom said...

"Let me start by addressing a question that came up in the comments section of this blog: Dreamer is still out there, so can’t someone else build an empire like Hawthorne’s? Well, no. Not very easily."

I'm not seeing how Waker being publically released would actually prevent another Takeover. Sleepwalkers still aren't going to Wake themselves, after all, so they still pose exactly the same infiltration threat that they previously did. And even if you take some basic precautions like regular genetic testing of military and political figures (and assuming that there's no way to subvert those precautions - which seems unlikely given Shara's stunts with hacked scanners), there's still nothing to stop some chucklehead from making his own private harem or that kind of small-scale abuse.

The only way I could really see to remove Dreamer as a constant infiltration threat would be to give everyone Paul's Waker factory, assuming that that's even possible.

Anonymous said...

Good luck publishing! Though it would be awesome if you archived the comments somewhere when you took the blog chapters down - they've been a great extra part of reading, and I'd miss them.

Anyway, I wanted to say - thank you for a great journey and story and everything. (And your symbolism was really cool and I'm really glad it ended well and whoot for Wizard). I've enjoyed it so much in so many ways.

And kind of in an extra way. As someone whose fantasies have also usually come in story form, the idea of writing them down and putting them out there someday has been a kind of over-the-rainbow dream of mine for a while now. And while I doubt it'll happen anytime soon, if at all, it's incredibly inspiring to see someone who has a similar thing living that dream, to see it as a thing actually possible in the real world. So I've been thinking thank you ever since you first started talking about the old-fantasy aspect of it, and I wanted to finally say it. Thank you!

Sian Pearl said...

More than anything, the part that resonated with me was the part about guilt and forgiveness. As we get older, we accumulate baggage, and broken relationships, and do things to the people we love we deeply regret.

For all the high-octane fetish fuel powering your story, it was in the end that one thing that kept me returning, and would make me want to read it again. And I do.

I wish you every success self-publishing. I have tried it myself in the past, with only the most modest returns, but you never know, some strike gold.

My wish it that you do, and that people appreciate it for its depth as much as its undeniable hotness.

thrall said...

Okay, in order as usual:

Yes, magic9mushroom, Dreamer is still a threat on a small scale. Yes, someone could certainly create a harem, or create spies or moles. But as you said, regular genetic testing of people in sensitive positions would help avoid another Empire (And high-grade scanners could be made more resistant to hacks. Remember, Shara only used a med scanner that was designed for customization.). Paul and Shara's solution isn't perfect. It's just the best they can do.

lyricalagony, think you very much. :-) I'm glad the story ended the way you hoped it would, and I wish you luck posting your own fantasies online. I'm sure you'll find an audience if you do. Also, yes, I will be saving the comments sections for each chapter. I have a plan already; it's just a little complicated to post in a comment of my own. I'll say more about it later.

Sian Pearl, I'm very glad the ending resonated with you in the way I meant it to. And thanks for your wish that others will feel the same. That does matter to me.

magic9mushroom said...

Oh, and one other thing... most of the EMCSA is backed up on the Wayback Machine. Juuuust so you know.

thrall said...

Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to remember to take the story off of there, too.