Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Lost Books of Tomorrow

My recently published short story collection Monorama opens with a sequence referenced on the cover, "The Lost Books of Tomorrow," and is a fairly unusual landscape of episodes that jump around from subject to subject (though time travel comes up a lot).  I was inspired in title and conception for the format of this section by Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey, which features forty-four variations on the life and influence of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, survivor of the Trojan War, and victim of a seriously delayed journey home.  Mason's book was one of my favorite recent reads, a textbook example of imaginative storytelling, and while it takes a moment to realize that none of the chapters have anything to do with each other, that ends up being the genius of the concept, and the reason I found it so provocative.

"The Lost Books of Tomorrow" was very nearly the title of the whole book, because the general idea, as it remains in this section, is that each of the stories in Monorama paint a portrait of the elusive future, taking new looks at concepts you may be familiar with but have perhaps never considered quite like this.  There are thirty-two shorter stories in "Lost Books," some of them a page, some of them a paragraph, and yes, some of them longer than that, and some of them set more or less in our present day, but all of them reflected through a lens of curiosity in some way, like a version of The Twilight Zone if it were prose fiction (no William Shatner appearances, alas).

Each of them was originally a standalone piece, and were going to be presented as such (or in the original working model of this project, almost in Scheherazade fashion, as part of one narrator's extended effort to retain the reader's interest), with titles that clearly marked the beginning of the story.  Instead, I've simply left a space between stories.  James Frey wrote in a somewhat similar fashion in Bright Shiny Morning, and that was another book I had in mind when ultimately choosing this format for "Lost Books."

The reference on the cover that I was referring to earlier, "The Lost Books of Tomorrow were finally found!," is another indication of my intentions.  I wanted it to feel like you were reading snippets from fiction you might actually find in the future, so that the concept of Monorama, along with "Lost Books," is that this will all be far from a typical experience, which "Lost Books" as an opening salvo will make clear from the start.  Removing titles from this section and simply letting the reader lose themselves on a highway of curiosities proved to be the best way to represent this.


  1. I'm on #30 of the Lost Books. It is a whirlwind of imagination.

    1. It gets a little less windy once you get into the other chapters, but hopefully as entertaining.


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