David Louis Edelman August 4th, 2008
One of the fun little promotional things I did for Infoquake was to post all the first drafts of chapter 1. You got to see the journey of the book from something I doodled on in 1997 or 1998 to the finished product that hit the shelves in July of 2006.
I’ve now gone ahead and done the same thing for MultiReal. You can now read online the first drafts of MultiReal’s chapter 1, along with footnotes and commentary about each draft. The big difference between the Infoquake drafts and the MultiReal drafts is this: for the latter book, there were thirty-five of them. Yes, thirty-five drafts of chapter 1. Told you I’m something of a perfectionist. (Keep in mind that most of these first drafts were simply rehashes of prior drafts, and most of them are incomplete.)
Instead of posting all thirty-five drafts up on my website, I’ve chosen to simply post the best or most representative samples of the eight different directions I tried. Along with the final published version, of course.
So among the abandoned concepts you can read about in these drafts are: Magan Kai Lee as ruthless martial arts expert (draft 1), a bureaucratic smackdown between rival governments about the weather (draft 17), Horvil fascinated by advertising (draft 18), and Henry Osterman trekking off to Harper’s Ferry to commit suicide (draft 29).
Quick excerpt from draft 29, my favorite abandoned version of chapter 1:
Henry Osterman was dying.
He stumbled into the provincial town of Harper on his own two feet, a pallid scarecrow of a man, his hair greasy, his clothes tattered, his fingernails curling in on themselves like shriveled worms after the rain.
Nobody could say how he had gotten there. The roads leading to Harper had been pulverized a quarter of a millennium ago by the wrath of thinking machines run amok. Tube trains and hoverbirds were technologies for a theoretical future when the world had learned to live without fossil fuels; multi and teleportation were the pipe dreams of lunatics. To get to Harper these days, you needed either a strong horse or a boat limber enough to steer through the debris clogging the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Osterman had neither.
The city itself was barely worth the effort. A few dozen dilapidated buildings huddled together at the bottom of a hill, that was all. The more prosperous cities nearby had pieced together a fragile shell of trade from the shards of yesterday’s civilization, but so far Harper had little to contribute. Still, you could get three radio stations again in Harper, and sometimes on clear nights you could see the feeble blink of a Chinese satellite. The local music scene was bustling. Drinking water was almost drinkable. Progress.
Hopefully this will prove useful to writers looking for some insight into the process, if not for future scholars at the Edelman Studies departments of major universities worldwide.
(Originally published at David Louis Edelman’s personal blog. Feel free to comment here or there.)