What Could Have Been: The What-Ifs of The Arcology–Friday Four
Something different comes our way this week–as I’m running low on TV shows I can actually scrape up some research on, I thought it might interest some of my newfound readers to learn the alternate paths the story of my novel, The Arcology, could have taken. It went through a lot of revisions, some of them radically different. It seemed like a better way to present this was in the list format, so why not do it that way?
I swear I’m not just trying to kill 3 birds with one stone…
Buckle in as we move through some possible versions of The Arcology and I give a bit of an idea as to why I didn’t go with them.
4. The City of Kindred
The final version of The Arcology is set in the fictional city of Kindred, whose exact location I’ll withhold for now (for a rough idea, it is somewhere on the east coast of the US). The name Kindred is actually a reference to the middle initial of Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a sort of proto-cyberpunk and the basis for Blade Runner, which is unarguably the most influential work in the genre. The setting went through a few different incarnations, many of which were future versions of real cities like New York and Philadelphia. That proved problematic, though, when it came to dealing with things like actual landmarks and how these various things came to be. The amount of money you’d need to buy up the land something like the Arcology would require in New York is astronomical…
So a fictional city made the most sense, and it allowed me to do a little more world-building, too.
3. A Week in Magmell
In the earliest drafts, once Lance met up with Fiona, he didn’t leave the upper levels of the Arcology until the end of the book. This was one of those things that I didn’t realize was causing so many problems in the story until I changed it. While it’s difficult to talk about without giving spoilers, it gave more characters a chance to shine, a better glimpse at life in the bottom, and tied up a few characters’ subplots which had otherwise gone ignored. It also provided an opportunity to set up the next story… but I’m getting ahead of myself. The main benefit was, of course, helping to emphasize the class struggle that’s at the heart of it.
Magmell is a name that came from Irish mythology, a paradise land that was difficult to gain access to. Irish mythology is a great and underutilized source of symbolism and I’ll definitely use more of it in the future.
2. Another Mystery, Another Client
Coming up with a story is a tricky thing, of course, and it could take a few tries to find something that’s really working. My first attempt at what would eventually become The Arcology started out radically different. The original client who came into Lance’s office seeking him out was a man named Bernie Horton, a rich boy and recent graduate who went partying at clubs in the poorer sections of town with a rowdy group of friends. He came to Lance because a friend had disappeared several days after getting into a fight with gang members at one of these clubs, and needed discreet help to find him. This was so far back that Lance’s character wasn’t even totally solidified, so the class elements mentioned above weren’t even considered yet; no Ascended, no Melanie, not even Fiona. It’d have almost been an unrecognizable story, but it just wasn’t working quite right. After I thought it through a lot more, I realized I needed a different tactic. While that mystery evaporated, Bernie lived on as one of Fiona’s old friends.
And related to that…
1. One Arcology of Many
In that same first version, there was one other major difference: there wasn’t just one Arcology. Initially, I had five Arcologies, spaced around the city in rough alignment with the four cardinal directions. The Central Arcology was effectively what Magmell is now: where the wealthy live, the success story that could be touted while ignoring those that didn’t work out. All the others would be total failures, lawless cities of their own kept completely isolated. The idea was for it to be much more an urban anarchy inside, “a wretched hive” to borrow a phrase from a far more famous sci-fi property. When I reformulated the story, I decided it was better for the Arcology to be unique, and from a realism perspective, even building one of them would be such a huge undertaking that it was unbelievable to have so many in one place, especially for the reasonably near-future timeframe I wanted.
Well, there you have it: lost characters, changed settings, and a significantly different plot. Seemed only fair after talking about everyone else’s plans that I should share my own. If you want to tell me what you thought, you can leave a comment below, or message me on Twitter @RetroPhaseShift. And if you haven’t checked out The Arcology yet, you can pick up a copy on Amazon below:
Let me know if you do! If you have another format you prefer, it’s available from a variety of other sources which are listed here. And if you’re already a fan of the book and want to keep up with progress on the sequel, you can join the mailing list to the right. The first email goes out tomorrow!