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[books|writing] The January Machine

Back in the 1990s, I wrote my first attempt at a novel. It was called The January Machine. I quote the opening paragraphs of the synopsis I retrofitted some years later…

The year is 2041. Global warming has arrived with a vengeance. Ocean levels are rising, temperature extremes are off the scale, and loss of the ozone layer is destroying entire ecosystems. The United States has fractured under green and Third World backlash, with multiple secessions and a major West Coast earthquake complicating recovery. Meanwhile a prosperous, fascist Poland has risen to world dominance on the ruins of the European Union.

In this setting, human-grade AIs are relatively common, although their application is heavily regulated. In response to draconian AI-control measures, a shadowy AI underground known as the “goldens” seeks civil rights. In addition, time travel, while not possible in 2041, figures into the story from the perspective of the world’s future.

Marcus Sharpton, affiliated with the goldens, stumbles on stolen Polish military data — control codes for the January Machine. The January Machine was a Soviet doomsday project, consisting of several hundred nuclear warheads lining a Mohole, or deep crustal excavation, near a Siberian tectonic plate boundary. When activated, it would create a mega-volcano several hundred times more powerful than the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa, plunging Earth into a long-term nuclear winter, where superior Soviet arctic warfare capabilities would ensure their military dominance.

I was trying to write a science fiction thriller. I had a lot of fun with it. Frankly, The January Machine is a terrible book from a craft perspective, but there’s a lot of neat ideas and some cool tropes in there, and it’s recognizably a Jay Lake book.

Mother of the Child has been asking for a while if she can have a printed, bound copy of the manuscript so she can re-read the book. My friend SC offered to do the layout and get the project through a print-on-demand vendor. Thus, I give you The January Machine:

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As I’m trying to pull together a fund-raiser to help defray the substantial travel and lodging costs associated with my NIH clinical trial, I’m considering putting a few copies of the book in as premiums. I have some to spare, as the POD minimum order requirements were larger than my immediate needs.

It’s kind of fun to see that first effort from the mid-1990s have a print life, even one so small and odd.


Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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