Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Four soups

Here is the original opening of Cyberlama followed by some new possible openings that I'm considering. Thanks, Michelle, for reminding me to write!


I begin this volume of my memoirs—my sixth—a few years early. Originally, I had planned to write a new one every fifty years, but I sense that something unusual is going on. What that something is, I don’t know yet. I write this based on nothing more than a vague impression I got from some members of the staff as they were working in our room, a sense of tension, or secrecy, perhaps. Well, I can be certain of one thing at least—I know that I am not a genius. Having lived for so long, my insight into human nature still can’t rival that of Shakespeare or Tolstoy, Proust or Woolf, Cotter or Bailey. But it is serviceable, and when I’m at my best, it is honest. Usually that’s good enough.

To start at the beginning, my name is Diana Foster. In the year 2010, at the age of twenty-six, I was invited to take part in an experiment to sustain my life indefinitely. My spinal cord was fused to an ion activator that would allow my brain to continue functioning long after it would traditionally have given out. My circulatory and respiratory systems were integrated into nanovalve hydraulic pump systems—state-of-the-art technology at the time. I was fed through a tube. My UV exposure was reduced. My cardiovascular fitness was controlled. In short, everything possible was done to make sure that my body would endure for as long as the program continued. I am three hundred thirty-four years old now, and I feel as fit and alert as I ever did.

Option 3647

I opened my eyes to find Dr. Schultz and Dr. Russo whispering to one other. They stood by the biorhythm station, their shoulders almost touching. Dr. Schultz traced his finger down a list of numbers on the screen that were too small for me to read myself. Though I tried to stay quiet, Dr. Russo glanced over his shoulder and caught me watching them. He tapped Schultz on the shoulder. They logged off of the computer and left the room.

Option 4561 

The uniformed man cleared his throat as Diana stepped into the cobblestone courtyard. He waited underneath the lamppost beside the building entrance.

“Ms. Foster?”

She continued walking, her night’s groceries in a canvas bag in her hand. The light in the Guardienne’s apartment was already off.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you. I just need to deliver a letter to you.”

“Oh, you’re an American,” Diana said.

“I’m from Washington.” The man straightened. “I just need to give you this letter.”

“It must say something important if you had to fly all the way over here to give it to me.”

“I wouldn’t know.” He offered up a thin envelope. The shadow from his fingers kept her from seeing whom it was from. “Apparently, they tried to mail you the first one, but you didn’t respond.”

Option 6678

I begin writing this five years early. We learned today that Volker sneezed. The event was recorded by the electroencephalogram, electrocardiogram, and the eye movement sensors. We contacted Dr. Schultz about it, and he has confirmed that it is indeed true.

Why am I playing around with this? I'm not really sure. Part of it has resulted from me thinking more about the big picture story. I think if the thing I'm trying to record is about my protagonist, Diana, joining this experiment and then coming to terms with whether or not it was a good idea, then the chronological presentation might work. It seems the most logical and the least distracting. But the reason I started jumping around in the first place was because such a long timespan is covered, and I liked the idea of mixing and splicing memories, which is a consequence of life. I'm not sure if I like Volker's sneeze as the frame for the story. It feels a little predictable. I'm also seeing if I like the story more when I write in scenes as opposed to a more conversation telling that I originally began with.


  1. 1. I like the original version best.

    2. I like the "birds that cannot fly" subplot for a framing story. It seems symbolically important. Work on that, Malasarn.

  2. I like that original version because it feels the most immediate to me. It also feels more established in a small amount of space. Openings are so, so difficult to get right. I'm not looking forward to the opening I am going to write soon for my country song book. I've already thought about 50 ways to start the story.

    Do what feels best for the story and what excites you most. :)

    1. I've stopped worrying about openings except to toy with the idea that you need a really sparkling sentence toward the end of the first paragraph. Otherwise, I like stuff like, "It was Thursday." That's how "Go Home, Miss America" starts.

      "excites" is good advice. I will add "write towards the stuff you don't understand but want to."

  3. Excitement can be tricky when the book is this old, though. Sometimes needless changes can be far too exciting!

  4. I like the style of Options 3647 and 6678 best. They jump you immediately into the story. The original opening feels much more formal--much more Ishiguro, really, which isn't a bad thing but I'm not so wild about it here.

  5. I like the style of Options 3647 and 6678 best. They jump you immediately into the story. The original opening feels much more formal--much more Ishiguro, really, which isn't a bad thing but I'm not so wild about it here.