The Lethe Cluster was born out of a poem and a meditation on death. It was my first submission to the NYC short story competition, several years ago now, and it got me through the first round that year. It fuelled momentum, passion and ambition. The poem by Ruswa Fatehpuri is that rarest of literary beasts – the sci fi poem. Apart from Rutger Hauer’s astonishing rumination in Blade Runner there are none other that spring to mind, and those attack ships on fire may not actually be a poem. In the Fatehpuri poem – A Starship Captain Writes Home to His Wife the sense of longing and distance is compounded with a sense of impending doom.
The meditation on death was my own – how many ways can a man die? Can one be alive and dead? And in that moment the Lethe Cluster was born. A region of space that erases memories, killing those who remember you in your own memory. You are dead because there is nothing that ties you emotionally to the life you had.
The story The Lethe Cluster remains one of my favourites of my own writing. It was intended as the title story to my first collection, but feedback from my first readers and friends was that given the mixed genres of the stories, something so overtly sci-fi might put some readers off buying it.
The Lethe Cluster at the heart of the story is the exploded remnant of a solar system, in the middle of a broad galactic arc. Its position impedes travel and communication, and therefore distorts the flows of power and prosperity. Traversing the Cluster is often fatal, and always damaging. It creates an environment in which competing interests can flourish, and in which the mystery of how and why the solar system died can be explored.
It was too good a concept to leave in a short story, and I have in idle moments been mapping out the grand space opera which will explore it. As often happens it is the little stories at the periphery of the main plot that divert my interest. That’s where this section of my blog comes in – a place in which to share those vignettes, some of which may survive into the main narrative. The primary purpose is enjoyment, I just love telling stories. But there is another agenda. Sci Fi and Fantasy place all the regular demands of fiction on the author, and one more. The world building must be complete, compelling and comprehensible. For me the only way to test my approach to intergalactic travel, economics, trade, poverty, and credible back stories to the marginal characters is to write them.
There are three vignettes on my blog so far:
Memories – which follows the main character from The Lethe Cluster
The Other Death – a pastiche of a remarkable story by Borges, and the first in a sequence of letters between two friends which fills in some galactic history.
Honour Over Love – a response to The Other Death
4 thoughts on “ClusterWars”
Frameable: “But there is another agenda. Sci Fi and Fantasy place all the regular demands of fiction on the author, and one more. The world building must be complete, compelling and comprehensible.”
And, yet again: “For me the only way to test my approach to intergalactic travel, economics, trade, poverty, and credible back stories to the marginal characters is to write them.”
Ali, you should write a book on writing or teach it at university or something! (Ali Abbas’ Three C’s of speculative fiction writing)
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