Monday, July 18, 2011


As much as I love writing for the simple pleasure of it, I always seem to do better when I have a deadline. It's probably a holdover from my newspaper days. As I have told people on many occasions, when I first started out, if I had to write two articles by Monday, my weekend was basically shot. But getting out of a council meeting at 10:00 p.m., and looking at a blinking cursor thinking, "As soon as I finish this, I can go to bed," will do wonders for your ability to knock it out.

And so I have given myself a new deadline. From a source I mentioned before, Poets & Writers, I found a publisher, Main Street Rag, which is looking for novellas in the range of 30-50,000 words. I've been kicking around an idea for literally years. I liked the concept, but somehow knew that I would be hard pressed to flesh it out to the 80-100,000 words typical of a novel. 

The title I settled on is Udopia. I think it is along the lines of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I don't wish to compare my work-in-progress to Orwell's classic, because that would be horribly vain. But like Nineteen Eighty-Four, it's  a cautionary tale about what can happen if we let our guard down, and give too much of ourselves to the government and, more critically, the Internet. I could not have written this ten years ago, because there was no Facebook, no Google, no geo-tracking, and no 9/11. But because of what I've read in the news, and because of what I've learned through my work as a privacy professional, I think I have some things to say.

Here is the opening:

    It's been a long day.  It's only. . .5:30, I think.  But it's just been a looong day. A long, trying day. One of those days. One of those days you just want to end. But I want to start. I need to start. I need to start now. Because there's a lot to say. And if I don't get started, I might not have time to finish.
    I wish I could call this a cautionary tale. But I can't. You can't think, "I’d better slow down before I get to that sharp bend in the road" while you're plunging off the cliff. You can’t think, “I wonder if there’s an undertow“ while being dragged beneath the waves and out to sea. And you can't think, "Maybe this isn’t the best place to seek shelter" while you're sitting in the lion's mouth.
    Near the town of Cairo, Illinois, the Ohio River meets up with the Mississippi River to form the “Lower Mississippi,” though those who live along it have another name, born of first-hand experience: the Mighty Mississippi. While neither river, on its own, would be called puny at any point north of Cairo, once the two join they form a nearly unstoppable force.
    What’s the point of my little lesson in geography?
    In the early years of this century two seemingly unrelated--and individually powerful—tides came together to create a different, though equally treacherous, unstoppable force. There was 9/11, and there was the Internet. Once they converged, no one could hold back the waters. Our world changed.
     So where do I begin?
    Most folks would say, “At the beginning, naturally.” But it’s not that simple. You see, to begin this story at the beginning really doesn't make sense, because the ending--or near the ending--is really where it all begins. The beginning is just, well, something that comes along in the middle.  And you can't begin in the middle, now can you?  If I began at the beginning, you'd get a good story, all right, but it wouldn't make too much sense.  Because the ending is really where it all begins.  And so if I began it at the beginning, you'd just be plain lost, because you'd miss the beginning.
    Or was that the ending?
    Am I rambling? Or would that be "wrambling," since I'm writing? I apologize. Like I said, long day.
    Let me just tell you how it ends, and you can judge for yourself.  At the "trial," they tried to paint me as a traitor. "How could he do what he did and claim he still loves America?" they asked, though it was more statement than question. And 24 empty eyes looked back at me, waiting for my response. I didn't answer. I didn't speak the truth, say what was on my mind: that I did what I did because I love America. Or at least the country that we once called America. It wouldn't have mattered. The judge, the prosecutor, and even the jury of my peers would have stared blankly at me, unable to decipher the words coming from my mouth. Words like “values” and “honor” and “freedom.” Especially freedom.
    And besides, what was I going to say?
    I am guilty.
   Of what? I guess that’s what I want to talk about.
   It all started, or should I say, ended, in a country that was called America. 

I imagine I'll post updates and progress in this space. I'd love to hear your comments. 

My deadline is September 15.

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