Dusting off the files

The only thing weirder than seeing your (first) novel out there is seeing a different version of it.  It’s so strange it’s almost like getting a second novel published!   Though in some ways, the recently-released mass-market version of Mirrored Heavens is a different novel, because (unlike the trade paperback), the mass market contains a really cool set of agent dossiers that I had a lot of fun writing.  Not only are those dossiers a great way to get to know the ensemble cast of secret agents, but there’s also information on those agents’ spymasters, and even files on the rulers of the United States, all of it providing a lot more detail on the world of 2110 AD.

But re-reading them over just now has left me thinking about the notion of what’s in and out of camera-view.  Movie directors ponder this all the time; so do authors, but in a different way.  And it’s not just a matter of making sure that stuff-is-progressing-even-when-the-reader-can’t-see-it.  It’s something more; I was always fascinated by watching how Bladerunner dealt with the notion of the off-world colonies:  by never showing them, the movie somehow made them far cooler (as witnessed by Rutger Hauer’s epic final speech).  Such “off-camera text” also resonates within the text we can see.  It’s interesting to think that a set of files existed in the world of my first book, only they were out of the picture frame; with the second iteration, they got moved within the scope of the camera, and—even though they aren’t explicitly visible to any of the book’s characters—they shed new light on scenes that have gone down already, and force the reader to reconsider/rethink that text even as they lay the groundwork for the book’s sequel, The Burning Skies.

This is all the more so as I wrote these dossiers from a specific point of view, namely the Praetorian Guard.  That serves to privilege the text considerably, as the Praetorians are the elite intelligence/military complex that protects the president of the U.S (whom agents refer to as “the Throne” to reflect his near-monarchial powers).  The Praetorians know the terrorist/infiltration group known as Autumn Rain is seeking to topple the Throne, and they’re keeping a file on everyone.  But Autumn Rain is adept at finding blind spots.   And maybe the blind spots are within certain files . . .

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  1. 1. Mark C.

    In my view, off-camera material works so well specifically because it’s off camera. By forcing the reader to fill in those gaps themselves… well. The imagination is more powerful than any camera, any piece of text, and invoking it doesn’t mean using powerful prose or vivid camera shots, because those crowd out the possibility of the reader’s imagination coming into play.

    The fewer details given, the more opportunities for the reader to put their imagination into play and dream up something for themselves. The more details given, the more opportunities for the reader to be smacked over the head with the fact that their mental image was wrong and have to try and come up with a new one that fits better.

Author Information

David J. Williams

Descended from Australian convicts, David J. Williams nonetheless managed to be born in Hertfordshire, England, and subsequently moved to Washington D.C. just in time for Nixon’s impeachment. Graduating from Yale with a degree in history some time later, he narrowly escaped the life of a graduate student and ended up doing time in Corporate America, which drove him so crazy he started moonlighting on video games and (as he got even crazier) novels. The Autumn Rain trilogy sold to Bantam in the summer of 2007; the release of THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT completes the series. Visit site.

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