I had an interesting idea that I want to expand into a book eventually, and I wanted to write down the process as best as I could remember it and share it with you.
Today my roommate and I went to the bank so that she could deposit a check–a real paper check, go figure. Anyway, while she was filling out the paperwork and getting in line at the drive-thru I slipped out of the car to have a cigarette.
Next door to the bank is a place that, among other things, stores furs for people when they are not being used, and the sign outside the building contains the word “VAULT”. I happened to be standing in a spot where a support pillar for the drive-thru roof obscured the “V” and I saw “AULT”, which I misread as “ADULT”.
Because of the neighborhood and the rather staid typeface I didn’t jump to association of pornographic that often accompanies the word adult, instead I started thinking about being an actual grownup, an adult in the sense of being responsible.
Then I turned my head and “ADULT” turned into “VAULT” and the phrase “adult vault” came to mind–a place to store grownups. That got me thinking about the value of grownups to a civilization, and they strange way that the current culture in America has of showing it. There have always been those that have eschewed responsibility and work in favor of an extended adolescence, but being a kid forever has never been so easy or so socially acceptable as now, it seemed to me.
It seems that there are more and more people who refuse to grow up, and fewer who have to shoulder the load of keeping the important things running–food, shelter, clothing, and the machines that make mass production of those things possible. In my own business it is rare to find anyone doing maintenance under thirty. The ugly, dirty, and difficult jobs don’t seem to appeal to a generation raised on “Let’s Have Fun!”
Now, I could be completely wrong about that, and I really don’t want to get into an argument with irate 20 year-olds about my calumny of their generation. I really hope that my perceptions are wrong, because I hope that there will be someone to keep the lights on when I am too old to do it.
However, I was thinking about stories and plotlines, and the “what if” machine started up in the greasy basement of my mind. I started thinking about the Eloi and Morlocks in The Time Machine and the sandmen and runners in Logan’s Run.
“What if,” thinks I, “we have a society where the majority of people are kept mentally and physically adolescent? We have a handful of people who keep the machines running, produce the food, make the durable goods, and provide a healthy–if simple–life for the rest?”
I started thinking about how that would work, and working out in broad numbers how many versus how few, assuming a high but sustainable level of automation. It was a fun thought exercise, but there wasn’t really a story there.
But wait–the “Morlocks” would die off and would have to be replaced. One could imagine two parallel societies, as Wells did, but my thoughts ran in another direction. If we assume that whatever is done to the masses is reversible–additives to the food that they are provided, say, that would be flushed from the body over time–then when the worker class needs new recruits they simply pick out a few members of the masses and train them to do the work.
Then I had my story. We start with a kid living his life in a happy daze, playing and hanging out all day long, not able to think past the next day because every day is the same. Then he is suddenly pulled from his herd and told that he must learn to repair the machines that supply the support to the herds across the continent.
I like it. There is an element of polemic there that I will have to carefully watch–I don’t like books with MESSAGES–but if I keep that in check there could be something there. I jotted down enough notes to get started and saved it. I don’t think I’ll get started on it right away–I still have two other books to finish. But I want to be able to remember what I thought.
I’m also seriously considering seeking a co-author for it, because I’ve found I like collaborating and I think that this particular story would benefit from another perspective–there’s too much Morlock in me to be even-handed, I fear.
I’ve even come up with a tentative title: Endless Summer.
So if you’ve ever wanted to know where I get my ideas from, now you know. From misreading signs.