Progress Report and FREE SAMPLE!

A reader asks:   “John,  Sorry for the off thread question but can you give us an update on your  next projects… specifically the novel about the time sleeping husband?”

My response: Asking about my writing is never off topic! It is an endless fascinating topic! You see, writing consists of the fascinating, never to be sufficiently described, very interesting act of seating your (in my case) fat fanny in a chair and writing words on a page. First you pick the words, then you write them down. Then you ask your wife for ideas. Then you rewrite what you wrote. Then you get your wife to read what you wrote. Zzzzzzzz…… Huhn? What? Sorry? Oh, a customer was asking about my work. Yes, boss! I’m on the job! Just had another good idea this morning in the shower!

Okay, enough about me. Listening to writers talk about their writing is as boring as dirt. Instead, let me talk about the book itself. Here is the opening:

PROLOGUE: Event Horizon (AD 2216-2222)


The future did not arrive.

Once Menelaus Illation Montrose, at that age when one reads the books that live in one’s heart forever, by accident came across in his library a cartoon of stark colors and convincing depth-illusion, which some writer of two hundred years ago had composed. It was a strange cartoon, unlike anything young Menelaus read in study, for each of the possible endings ended happily. 

At first he thought it was an historical, since it was set in the last years of the Twenty-First Century, so long ago, but his older brother Agamemnon told him with a sneer that it had been ‘futurism’ when first written.

He would not later remember much what the characters had been doing, which seemed to involve stumbling across yet another lost race on yet another new planet that slide back down to barbarism, having a crewman or two gunned down or eaten by vampire-plants, then having the Captain go ashore, flirt with an alien girl, and get into a knife-fight (that even to Menelaus’ unpracticed eye looked wide-gestured, slow and inefficient, meant for show).

The lost race was always doing something dumb, like worshipping an empty lighthouse, on account of they forgot how an automatic timer worked, or living beneath a leaking dam that they were scared to fix, and scared to admit needed fixing, on account of they thought the gods had built it. These gods always turned out to be nothing but an abandoned mine field, or a half-broken robo-tank on autopilot or something. Each episode always ended with the space-barbarians vowing to mend their ways, free their slaves, give up their stupid superstitions and study science.

No, it was not the doings in the cartoon dramas he recalled.

He recalled the shining promise glowing from the simple 1024-color images, the promises and the predictions. Here were artificial intelligences with godlike wisdom; men with appliances woven into cloths or skin or nervous system to augment intellect and reflexes; man designed by man, and superman redesigned by superman to become creations more superhuman yet; the stars within mortal reach, and surrounded by Ring-worlds and Sphere-worlds large as Earth’s orbit made of a living metal called Computronium, so that each square foot of a surface-area larger than worlds drank in sunlight on all wavelengths and converted it to pure thought. The future people lived without poverty or property in something called ‘a post-scarcity civilization’; and all the beautiful girls made love to everyone, male and female alike, without marriage or jealousy, because what was sin in all the previous eras was licit for them, the perfected people. At the end of the tale was the Rapture, and the souls of all the unafraid and progress-loving people were floated into the giant space mainframes, to live as pure spirits, immortal as gods, and the epilogue showed how the Second Law of Thermodynamics was overthrown by the machine superintelligences, and the universe itself lost its mortality.

Years later, he still recalled the name, and flourish of ever-rising notes that went with the opening frame. The cartoon was called Asymptote.

His brother Hector showed him the secret plot-twist on level sixteen to unlock the adult portions of the script, so Menelaus could watch the future women prancing in their underwear.   

The other thing he remembered was that his mother caught him, and she rolled up the shining fabric of his library so that it was like a stiff switch of rainbow-flickering lucent glass, and bent him over the kitchen stool.

It was one of the last times his mother ever took a strap to him.



He remembered that the kitchen stool was between the hearth-cell and the window. The hearth-cell gave light and heat to the kitchen, fueled the upright stove, and fed the cable that led to the barn where the cream-separator hummed. The window, which had come from his grandmother’s house in Austin, was an antiseptic permeable surface that even when open changed the smell of the forest and flowers outside into something that stung in the nose. In those days, the Pestilence of the Jihad was still within living memory, and grandfathers with breathing plugs in either nostril still showed callow youths the scars where their disease-ridden lungs had been removed.

The window box was filled with flowers. The Starvation Winter had gone on during all Menelaus’ early years, and it was not until he was six that he saw the springtime, a mysterious season, a hope and a promise even his eldest brother was not certain about. The half-decade of unbroken snow had killed the Pest, but also countless millions of men.

It was not until he was older, that he heard it called The Japanese Winter. When young men cursed the Tenno of Greater Japan, saying his mad experiment in climate modification meant to kill everyone North of Cancer and South of Capricorn, the old men wheezed and upbraided them, and said the Paynim unleashed the plague (which at first only attached itself to genetic markers found in Ashkenazim Jews, but which mutated to seek all primates) it was only the cold that saved everyone: Winter is the friend of man! the saying went, Thank God for the Nippon Winter, or we would be as extinct as apes.

It was for Menelaus the first spring in the world. The flowers and birds never before seen by him appeared. To him, the word “brook” meant a path of ice, and word “fishing” meant chipping a hole in that ice. When all these icepaths which had been solid during all his short life turned to rippling water, just as his mother had promised they would, he was sure, in his heart, that everything would be different thereafter.

It was so strange seeing green grass where there had only been white snow before; so odd to see runners removed from carts and carriage and round wheels, like something from a toy, put in their place. It was pure joy to run outside in bare feet, rather than trudge and slip in his older brother’s hand-me-down snowshoes.

It was odd to see men, those whose farms could not be tarped with greenhouse-cloth, the same listless men who had spent last year loitering or rioting at warehouses, and depots, arguing over boxes of food brought by rail, canal and cart from southern lands, now set to tearing up the earth with strange instruments, furrowing the ground in long parallel rows, walking after antique traction motors or antique mules, and speaking boastfully about being men again. The whole world was new, and it was spring, the glorious season of light, and Menelaus was sure the Asymptote lay just around the next turn of the calendar.

But at seven, Menelaus was apprenticed; and endless days of toil made his springtide winter again, no matter how bright the sun.