Just about four years ago I started writing Catskinner’s Book.
I didn’t have any real plan when I started it. I had a narrator and his shadow self, and a desire to play around with some of the ideas that William Burroughs used in his Nova Express novels. I liked the idea of an alien invasion viewed as an infestation of informational parasites. I knew that I wanted to write about people who had become something other than human as a result of the choices that they had made.
I had a bunch of other influences, Phillip Dick, George Alec Effinger, Tim Powers, Samuel Delany, Robert Anson Wilson, Clive Barker. I was playing the whole thing by ear. Mixing things at random to watch the reactions. Mostly I wanted to recapture the feel of the New Wave Science Fiction that I remembered from my youth.
The tale grew in the telling. Once I had the essential cosmology I realized that I had a canvas for painting a big picture. It came together like a nonogram puzzle–each square getting filled in by a semi-logical, semi-intuitive process and I didn’t really see what I was making until I had a chance to stand back and look at it from a distance.
I can see now how the books fit together. Catskinner’s Book led into Cannibal Hearts, which brought The Worms Of Heaven into being, and they all built the framework for Gingerbread Wolves. I can see now that when I thought I was talking about aliens and riverboats and electric frogs and Lovecraftian elder gods I was also talking about stranger, more dangerous things. Love and duty and honor and family and choices and the terrible price we pay to become who we are.
And now I see that Gingerbread Wolves wraps up the story. The real story, the inner story, about James and Catskinner and Agony and Michael Chase and The Opener Of The Way. I realized that in telling this story I was telling myself things about my own family, and my own shadow self, and coming to terms with… well, things that you don’t need to know.
It’s all there in the books if you want to look. But you might be more comfortable if you don’t.
Honestly, you don’t need to know. James has his own story to tell, and I trust that he can keep you entertained on his own. The Book Of Lost Doors will stand or fall on its own merits. I think it stands. I think it’s a damn good story.
But I also think that I have taken it as far as it needs to go. I’m not saying that I’ll never revisit James’ world. It’s a big place, and I’m sure that if I go looking for trouble over there on the other side of the lost door I can find it. But it would have to be a new story. Gingerbread Wolves ends this phase of my career.
I feel good about it. I feel, in some ways, the same way that I did when I finished Catskinner’s Book. I saw the thing through to the end. I didn’t quit when it got hard and stopped being fun. I stayed on the ride to the end of the line.
That means a lot to me. Lacking compassion, all I have is duty.
I am working on a new novel, one that is entirely unrelated to this series. I am happy with it, I think it’ll be a good story. It’s about a different kind of magic, different sorts of people, and–I suspect–a different piece of my own soul.