Metaplanetary – Author’s Note by Tony Daniel

Metaplanetary Stew

Metaplanetary’s initial conception was a lot like sailing on a pitching boat in the midst of a mental storm for me. I had always wanted to do an “no-holds-barred” epic novel, with every trope that I’d ever enjoyed in a science fiction story going into the mix. Then one summer day in 1997, on a run in Riverside Park on the west side of Manhattan, I sat down to rest beside the Hudson River and had a look at the white clouds overhead. I began to imagine them as great ships, many kilometers across. They were gathering for a squall that would hit that afternoon — or so the weather reporter had said on the radio that morning (the physical storm never arrived, by the way). But for me, the mental storm hit at that moment, and I began to see the outline for the epic future war I’d vaguely thought of writing about before. Cloudships versus what? There had to be something even more awe-inspiring to stand up to such a foe as a ship that was as big as a small moon.
I thought about little else for the next few days, stopping each morning at that same spot on the Hudson, and bringing with me a sketch pad on which to work out my ideas (I hid it in the bushes in a plastic bag before my run, and retrieved it after I’d put in a couple of miles. I suppose that if anybody had observed me and stolen the sketch pad during one of those runs, Metaplanetary wouldn’t exist.). I wrote down every cool science fiction idea I’d had in the last ten years and began to work them together to produce my setting — the solar system as it would appear in 3013 A.D. My main ingredients were advances in nanotechnology and physics and, on the cultural side, a combining of Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies into one spiritual system. I didn’t work any of this out to a greater degree than I’d need to tell my story, of course. But that initial making of the setting was what I needed to see the kinds of characters who would inhabit this future. And I already had my plot — a civil war that tore apart the system and remade it. All of these went into the brew, and the “Met” — a great spiderweb-like system of unbreakable cables connecting the interior solar system — was the final product. The war would be the cloudships versus the Met — individuality and initiative versus concerted organization and power under nearly complete control by one extremely intelligent dictator.

Then, with character, plot and setting all worked out, I sat around for nearly another year waiting for an extended period of time to write it all. I got that when I spent five months in Spain, near Barcelona, in 1998. I’d come to Spain without a word processor and my brother-in-law gave me an old German manual typewriter. He had bought it at a Berlin flea market years before (he is a native of that city) and had never used it, as one of the umlaut keys didn’t work. I, of course, had no need for that key, as I was writing in English. So, that spring, on a sunny porch overlooked by craggy, dry mountains covered with new blooming rosemary and sage, I sat down and banged out the first draft of Metaplanetary. –Tony Daniel

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