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UPDATE: I have published my first novel, Pareidolia, in its entirety.

The table of contents is here

I recently completed my first stab at a novel, a science fiction thriller with the working title Pareidolia. The very quick and dirty premise is below. Fans of Neil Stephenson and Peter Straub will feel at home here.

Premise: Kenneth Holcomb, a physicist working for a military contracting company in the ’60s, is tasked with back-engineering pieces of recovered alien technology that appear to have profound effects on human perception and behavior. Finding his inner whistleblower, he steals a cache of sensitive documents, quits, and fakes his own death. He lives underground as a transgendered man for decades, surrounding himself with a growing circle of students, programmers, and believers. His goal is to expose the conspiracy, and thirty years later he gets his chance: Roland, an old friend with ties to the FBI, informs Kenneth that one of the pieces of alien technology has just escaped custody and is up for grabs. 

The circle is dispatched to find it before the government does, but it’s closer than they think. New inner circle member Zeke reports that the alien artifact has just been spotted at a New Age expo, next to a young woman named Leah who has just given a live demonstration of her sudden ability to communicate with the dead. The device is stolen before Zeke has a chance to bring it back to the circle. When Roland is shot by mysterious assailants, Zeke is forced to find a way to vindicate Kenneth’s life’s work without getting himself killed in the process.

Read a deleted chapter here. Read another deleted chapter here.

Why not self-publish Pareidolia as an ebook? Why am I just giving it away for free?

The truth is that Pareidolia was more of a gigantic writing exercise than anything else. I’d taken a stab at some short stories, but this was my first major effort. Along the way I learned many lessons about common pitfalls and amateur mistakes, many of which I’m sure made it to the final draft.

The other reason is that the story is constructed in a fairly experimental (read “unpublishable”) way. I was heavily inspired by some postmodern novels from the 90s and thought it would be fun to try that approach for size; multiple first-person perspectives, worlds within worlds, bizarre situations, no satisfying resolution, etc. What wound up happening was a long and painful lesson in how not to write. Early drafts of the first few chapters were impressionistic to the point of incomprehensibility. The worse of it has been cut away, but the spirit remains throughout the current revision.

Finally, most people don’t get their first novel published. Hopefully some day I’ll come back and take this all down, once I’m established and experienced enough to see it for the train wreck it truly is. Until then, this train wreck is going to shine as my biggest and proudest effort to date.