Flushing Out Shriek: An Afterword–Notes, Fragments, Research, Alternate Scenes

Jeff VanderMeer • August 26th, 2009 @ 11:01 am • Uncategorized, Writing Tips

(Limited edition cover, art by Ben Templesmith and design by John Coulthart, and still available from Wyrm Publishing)

In cleaning up my computer and getting ready for all kinds of efforts for Finch, the last novel in the Ambergris Cycle, I came across my document of notes and research for Shriek: An Afterword, the previous Ambergris novel. I wrote these notes initially on scraps of paper and created the document to house each note in the appropriate section, as a bulletpoint item, so I wouldn’t lose any of them. At the time, I was on the road a lot for my day job and I didn’t have energy to write whole scenes or sections. All I could do is scribble down little inspirations as I had them. By that time, I had probably 150 pages of rough draft, so a lot of this constituted layering or material for the last two-thirds of the novel.

I’m posting it here just as a kind of public archiving. It contains massive spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel and want to, you’ve been warned. I’m too lazy to change the hierarchy, which got a little scrambled in the cut-and-paste, but the squares are one level lower than the bulletpoints. To most of you, this will no doubt be boring as hell, but it’s a supplement to this previous post.



• Use the death description after Duncan goes out of print. Death: How will I die? Not that way, not me. [What way? – Janice] For me, it will be the slow decay, the failure of my senses, the graying of the world, the remaindering and misunderstanding of my books, followed by the very forgetting of my words, the paper of the papers wiped clean of all marks, and so too the wiping clean of me, my brain sinking into slow senility, utterly, utterly alone, no vestige of past family and friends left to me, until, finally, when I am dust, I shall unleash a sigh of forgetfulness and leave not a trace of my existence in the world…But until then, if the black bough taps against the windowpane, I shall ignore its brittle invitation—and in all ways and in all things I shall not dignify the name of that which will one day take me…I sit here and laugh and smile, but do not mistake me for a shallow fool, for I am no more and less than the depths through which swim the thick and thoughtful fish of memory…This is awful!!!) Indeed it is, Duncan. And contradictory too. You seem almost proud of dying in anonymity—as if it were a sign of some great victory—only to say you’ll ignore death later in the passage. I wonder if this passage signifies anything. It was probably a mistake to include it here, only I’m too far into this narrative to worry about rewriting. To rewrite now would be like moving backwards and, like the freshwater Moth Shark, that would drown me in my own gills.
• Mushroom guide published by F&L during the proliferation of fungus—see mushroom guide.
• Jellyfish-like mushrooms: aquatic.
• The problem is not that I never knew my father but that I did know him: My father. Dad. Let me tell you something about my dad. Let us step back into the past, to the before-words that preceded this after-words. My dad was a hard man to love. A hard man to love. He lived for his work, and anyone who did not live for his work would receive very little love. Not a bad man. Not a man who would ever be intentionally cruel. Not a man like that, no, but a man who could ignore you so badly it could annihilate your soul. Duncan rarely saw that side of our father. Duncan was protected by an inherent interest in the mysteries of history. Me, I could have cared less about history. I was interested in many things—painting, reading, singing lessons, boys, in that order—but not history. I never could, at that time, see the personal side to history until I was living it. Until Mary and Duncan showed me what history could mean. And by then it was too late: dad was dead. And nearly me as well…
• In a way, it is somewhat sad. By all that’s fair, Mary’s reasonableness should have been rewarded. It should have been the truth. Only, it wasn’t.
• Four parts, corresponding to the seasons, with a description for each of what grows there?
• Hackbarth as a name.
• Use names from the Kaballah for the Zamilon File.
• Stick in somewhere Duncan’s remarks about being a book—probably at the point where he starts to get edited.
• What about clothing stores/museums?
• The Fruiting Towers.
• Telephone poles in Ambergris slowed the transmutation of the city.
• The head of Bender (statue) floating down the river with a fellow on a barge—a dream of Janice’s?
• Gray cap “spore mines” that explode in all kinds of bizarre and beautiful ways.
• In the second-to-last chapter, Janice’s mother dies—she goes to accompany the body in the spring—all the trees are blooming and her mother is dead…the night before, Janice got a call where no one said anything on the other side. “Maybe it was a wrong number. Maybe she decided there was nothing left to say. Maybe she just wanted to hear my voice.”
 Gray cap religion/cult based around Red Martigan.
 Nothing in his studies can help explain his father’s death.
 What came of his studies at the academy? (REMEMBER—she knows nothing of it—she just now knows that he must have and that he must have had a second notebook or journal.)
 Suggestion that Janice knows he has been up to something, even if journal does not really reveal it—there must be another journal—and this is supported by a few selected passages he has in the journal, and the suggestions of an outline of some type—the absence suggests a shape. That he’s writing a book about his life.
 Quote from Codebreakers, exemplifies in Duncan’s journal, how he feels about his gray cap studies: “Most of the time he is groping in the darkest night. Now and again a little flicker of light gleams across the darkness, tantalizing him with a glimpse of a path. Hopefully, he drashes to it only to find himself in another labyrinth. His knowledge that night is inevitably followed by day keeps his waning courage up, and he steers his course toward where the morning sun is soon to appear. Except that sometimes he is engulfed in interminable polar night.” Better used as the quote to open Zamilon File?
 Put in the subjects and the grade given in his class to suggest a pattern—essays, her grades, etc.
 It was then he developed two theories, which I believe will someday be known as the Shriek Dual Theories of History.
 What effects on the man because of having to keep silent—having no one to talk to?
 He used the Ambergris Historical Newsletter to disseminate his views under pseudonyms.
 What takes him underground? Some last, fresh knowledge?
 Memorancy=divination of the future from mushrooms. (This is one of the cultish/ “side history” things he pursues and reports on in the Ambergrisians journal—Janice describes it as a “flowering of spores long dormant”, a colorful array of insanity.
 Low waters—giant squid attacking people/swimmers.
 Already indicators that Mary would someday come to fundamental disagreements with Duncan.
 Some of Mary’s papers in his journal; if he could not keep all her letters, he could at least have this…
 The last part is the eyeglasses, like the Batchelor book?
 Their conversation with Sirin should be ominous.
 When we finally get to the journal entry where he describes going underground with Mary, we get JANICE’s parenthetical comments on HIS text, ironically enough?
 Mary grounded him in the aboveground world. She helped him to forget the underground.
 How Duncan became editor of the X, while Janice becomes a guide. Duncan’s job is where old historians who have been discredited and bitter go to die.
 What do Janice and Duncan choose as a pseudonym for their reportage on the F&L conflict?


• Explain Duncan’s history POV—his personal theory of history and let the reader figure it out?
• This is his Silence—to be abandoned by Sabon and no longer published.
• Discuss his long silence, the re-emergence, the badly edited new editions of his books, by Sabon.
• The Theory: That should the historian’s personal life happen to coincide in some way in which to the historian the personal history “doubles” or “doppelgangers” the history he has chosen to write about, that a synergy, an alchemy occurs in which the historian, in a sense, becomes the history. That, in all signs and symbols at his command, the history he has written becomes, for him, the story of his own life. This fact may not be obvious to the reader except in flashes and flickers of reflected light, reflected thought, except where the passion of the historian for the story peers out from the page—and there, in a sense, we find the historian pinned, exposed, naked to the world—if only the world correctly interprets the clues.
• Silence/Theory: When he writes of the Silence, he quite literally writes of his personal silence, and all the similar silences suffered by creative people. In a sense, he has made all of this history personal. He was too good a historian to invade his text, but there are certain parallels, even with Tonsure’s descent into silence and despair, only to re-emerge in the form of a book.
• Where Duncan went wrong is that he began to look to the early history for some indicator of how he should live his life, so that instead of finding the history that was personal, he decided to let the personal become history.
• As if he had internalized his books, he began to put on weight—they were no longer out in the world, but inside of him. All those words inside of him. Sentences crawling out of his skin. Paragraphs exhaled with each breath; on a winter’s day you could almost see them escaping in the white smoke of his speech.
• Duncan: Looking at all the historical annals of Ambergris, the answers to these three basic but quite horrific questions are always missing: (1) In the absence of a strong central government, how does Ambergris manage to avoid fragmenting into separate, tiny sub-cities; (2) What cause could there possibly be for the fluctuating level of violence and personal property destruction during the Festival; (3) Given the presence of members of over 100 contradictory religions and cults, what stops the violence?
• Comparison of the same situation from POV of Sabon the historian and Duncan.
• How many people have been killed months, years, after eating mushrooms? Or breathing in spores? Unexplained deaths go up 20% after each festival (Gort stats). Or how about those not killed but perhaps altered in subtle ways.
• Imagine always having to pretend, to be other, to hide what you believe—expand: Duncan’s aside.
• It was then that Duncan submitted to Sirin in his first draft of the Early History, after the development of his theory—it was 10 times longer and footnotes about 10 pages long. Sirin just laughed and laughed: “A great fiction, but…”
• Duncan discovers the work of “Howler” (Gibbon) on philosophe historians and how the personal politics of each person distorts their histories.
• Therefore, why not consciously distort the history by focusing on those portions that have the most relevance to one’s life?
• Already seen Sabon’s distortions.
• Early History was just the first salvo—to introduce bizarre ideas by “alternative” historians by degrees. Duncan was of the belief, given the inability of the majority to believe the truth about the gray caps, that all outlandish theories be promoted, regardless of their truth, in order to make minds receptive to the unusual and “improbable”—softening resistance, as he saw it, to the reality. A kind of insurrection against the complacent surface of things.
• Duncan’s theories, unlike those of other historians, presupposed gray cap meddling in human historical events—a stance most saw as paranoia.
• Elements from Introductory Essay to Decline and Fall (NOT paraphrased yet!):
o “If philosophers are not always historians, it were, at any rate, to be wished that historians were always philosophers.” – A quote from the French.
o Civil humanism furnished Gibbon with a vocabulary and a set of ideas with which to approach the past, but which the past itself might check and refine.
o Philosophic Historical position:
 Such a historian is never a mere chronicler, content to trace the fluid surface of the past. Historical sources are not blindly followed, but tested against each other and against criteria of probability. A synthesized narrative of greater solidarity and coherence can thereby be erected on the foundations provided by the rubble of those sources. However, the construction of this narrative is not the final goal of the philosophic historian. Narration is the handmaid of explanation (Duncan’s goal is the narrative), and the explanations found convincing by the philosophic historian are typically those which uncover the causality at work in the past. Where the naïve (untrained?) would see a random and multifarious particularity, and a belief in the workings of divine providence, the philosophic historian sees order and regularity.
 “History is to a philosophical mind what play was to the Marquis de Dangeau. He would see a system, relations, connections, where others would pick out only the caprices of fortune. This science is the science of cause and effects.” – A quote from the French.
 “The view of the philosopher is exact but at the same time expansive. Placed on a height, he comprehends a great expanse of territory, of which he forms a clear and unique image, while other minds just as exact, but more confined, discern only a part of the expanse.” A quote from the French.
 The intellectual eminence of the philosophic historian prevents him from being overwhelmed by the minutae of historical facts. His image of the past is formed by details, which might have been ignored as trivial by previous historians, but which, to the philosophic mind, resonate with information uncontaminated by the partiality of sources. In this undistorted image, true causality can be discerned…
 The nature of his insight into the sequences of history was molded by his understanding of the secret mechanism whereby human society flourished or declined.
 “Mankind…in striving to remove inconvenience, or to gain apparent and contiguous advantages, arrive at ends which even their imagination could not anticipate and pass on, like other animals, in the track of their nature, without perceiving its end…Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.” – Adam Ferguson, 1767.
o Implications of the Philosophic Historical position:
 Human agency accomplished everything, although not in the way the actors themselves intended.
 No heroism: the actors do not determine the lives of millions; indeed, the actors tend to emerge as deluded and even defeated figures, the instruments of a past they imagine they are directing, the inhabitants of a realm of illusion in which the causes ordering their lives were invisible.
 Oxymoronic, as developments arose from the actions of individuals and the policies of institutions apparently repugnant or antagonistic to them. Thus philosophic historiography would tend to be ironic, not in the sense that it employed a disingenuous tone (although it might do so), but in the sense that it voiced a vision alert to the paradoxical character of the relations which had existed between cause and effect.
 Unexpected sympathies; individuals and institutions, which he could only condemn as in themselves criminal or perverse, at moments contributed positively to human society, while, in obedience to the same principle, those he loved or admired might, despite their best endeavors, have exerted a harmful influence.
 Voltaire destroyed his credibility by subordinating historiography to an anti-clerical agenda. (In the same way, Sabon’s anti-Shriek attitude destroys her usefulness as a historian.)
o Dangers of the Philosophic History position:
 Generally: [The] urge to rise above the level of mere factuality could produce…a complex intellectual hubris—contempt for scrupulous accuracy, neglect of contradictory evidence, confusion of conjecture with truth, resistance to correction.
o Areas of interest to the Philosophic History position:
 Civil society—what forces built it up and what forces undermined it? This required investigation of political forms, effects of commerce on society, nature of individual and societal virtue.
 Barbarism—simply the antagonist of civil society or points of contact/continuity? Different stages of barbarism.
 Religion—social and political consequences of religious belief. To what causes could the rise of any religion be attributed? What human needs does religion address? What does it stifle?
o Abuses.
 History and providentialism.
 History and conservatism.
 History and sociology.
 History and demolition of previous historians.


• “The dead have pictures of you.”
• And somehow, I do believe I have kept, separate, in my mind, an image of total joy: my father, running to us across the lawn. And not what occurred after. And not what occurred after. It is with this image in my mind that I have made my decision. What is there for me here?
• In that last scene, she remembers the look of joy on Duncan’s face and parallels it to the look of joy on her father’s face. She writes that “I’ve never been happy. I’ve been powerful. I’ve been rich. I’ve been glutted with sex. But I’ve never been content I want that joy. I’ve shed my last skin—I’ve no skins left to shed.”
• As I sit here in the green light, I see what Duncan saw—the sliver, the narrowness of vision, the small amount we see before we are gone, and yet here’s the opportunity to expand that—to get to the heart of a mystery that cannot help but be profound.
• All else is preamble. All else is mirrors. Let it begin now.
• Reader left with the image of the bar folk seeing her as once they saw Duncan through the green glass: fading, fading, falling.
• Would I choose that narrowness if I had another way—an escape?
• This is not an Afterword. This is not an essay. This is…something else entirely.
• Logistics of it: Duncan disappears from his spot in the tavern—really a ghost—in mid-winter. They find a tunnel in the room in the Spore where they find his last manuscript—the afterword?—the tunnel blocked up from below and him gone. “There must have been some times when his visage must not have been visible—must not have been visible from the bar.”
• An echo of the “We are all connected” bit—echo that at the end.
• At the end, Janice says to Sabon: “You killed him as surely as if you had stabbed him in the chest.” The necklace falls to pieces. Allude to the glittering necklace but do not end with it.
• There was a momentarily flicker of pain in those eyes, the ghost of regret, perhaps, and then it was gone.
• Very End: Let us start again. Let us start over, and for good. This is not an essay—this is not an essay. This is not a history. This is not a pamphlet. But this is Duncan. And his Mary.
• There is little else to tell of import, although much else happened before the point that brought me here to type all of this up on Duncan’s old typewriter—Duncan’s ghost, if you like.
• Let me describe the room I am typing this manuscript in (and then describes it with you, realize where she is, and then the hole in the floor…).
• Duncan: “Must I echo to you your own words? That we are all connected by lines of glimmering light—how many times those words kept me alive, made me see approaching light in unending darkness? We are vessels of light, broken vessels, broken light, but vessels nonetheless. Fragments across the void.”
• This was a stab in the dark at the truth. This was a brief flash of light againt dead dark trees. This was that moment when you choose and what you choose makes all the difference in the world. But most of all, this was the history of my life and my brother’s life. (How could you tell such a story without a loving, cantankerous echo, Janice?)
• But regardless of what this was—afterword, afterwards—you are free now: I release you to return to what you were before. If you can. Me—it is time for me to abandon even this dim green light for the darkness. A shift of attention. Another place to go. That’s all it is.
• I can’t start over again. I’ve started over too many times before. You won’t believe me. I won’t believe me. (But I will.)
• I can’t go on like this. Why should I? Looking out at this great nothingness, for all that there is so much religion in this city.
• Final postcard, coated in fungus, telling Janice he is not coming back and telling her to go to the Spore of the Gray Cap if she wishes to follow.
• I halted on the edge of the abyss. I halted on the edge of a kind of Silence—I needed to write it all down first.
• Duncan will have the final say, after Janice’s last entry, if he wants it.
• Janice and Mary: But I was not done—not by hald. For it was then that I pulled the old, weathered, bronze-colored glasses out of my pocket and, leaping at her, placed them upon hr face. She stumbled, caught herself, blinked twice. A look came over her that destroyed the unity between mouth, eyes, forehead, forehead, cheekbones. She came undone looking through those glasses at what she saw….She screamed and kept screaming until, mercy flooding back into me, I pluckd the glasses from her nose and had her escorted from that place to someplace else—somewhere I couldn’t hear her shrieks quite as much…The necklace had frozen: a word from me would shatter it. I stood there, enjoying the moment.
• “What did I say to her? What could freeze her in mid-scream like that? Something simple. Something old. I said to her, ‘I forgive you,’ Janice.”
• Janice’s last words: “I’m not frightened any more. I’m not frightened. Let it come. This is After Dad Died. This is After Mom Died. Everyone’s dead or disappeared. What’s left to be afraid of?”


• What she must have thought of me, the few times, we met on the street—to see me in the glasses that defeated her. Hurried crossings to the other side, a nod, a glance, perhaps.
• When Janice puts on the glasses, the city is transformed to black, with people as quicksilver flashes, and a thousand fungi are revealed—coating buildings, etc. They seem alive. They rustle in the wind. There is a red path through it, leading to the Spore of the Gray Caps. When she looks behind her, she sees the red erasing itself.
• With glasses on, Shriek’s body is transformed; Janice can see the fungus moving on him, re-shaping him slowly, patiently. As if the cilia on starfish were molding him—in fact, the starfish compass that “died” just shed its skeleton and presence in the world of humans—skeleton-less and invisible, it now crawls all over Duncan’s body, negating his disease. The very fact it can alight upon his corporeal body is a sign he has been drawn over to the other side. “Yes, Janice, it’s the same one. In the gray caps’ world nothing ever truly dies—it just transforms. Other flesh. Other spirit. Other vessels. Look at it from their perspective and you could say it is quite beautiful.”
• Properties of the glasses:
o Somehow they cover vision completely; can’t see around the left/right edges.
o Delicate but strong. (Thin as a dragonfly wing.)
o Thinnest frames. Almost eyelash thin, but when tapped against the table, the sound reverberates.
o Cannot be broken or lenses scratched or removed from the frames.
o Composed of scales, translucent scales, and when you look through them at first they just give you a distorted view of the world, but if you put them on, a blackness bleeds into each individual scale and eventually across your entire vision and then you see the world transformed.
o Are the glasses bendable but not breakable, or not bendable at all? Probably bendable—if it is a creature.
o The frames give off a kind of heat—they almost pulse when you put them on; by contrast, the lenses are cold/freezing.
o The smell? What do they smell like?
o Each scale has an oil quality, like a gradation of colors—the sheen of oil in water.
• After meeting with Duncan, Janice tries to break the glasses but they won’t break and she doesn’t throw them away because if she can’t break them it doesn’t matter where they are.
• They transform into something else, even temporarily. A creature.
• “Actually, they have become a kind of talisman—they are here on the desk as I write, although I never put them on. I don’t think I need them anymore to see what Duncan sees.”
• Janice: “Eye glasses mean something very different to me than to most people. I do not wear them myself and I still find myself flinching when I see them on someone else—before wondering what they might see.”
• With the glasses she sees a spy mushroom in the eye of a dead dog.
• I took off the glasses. “I don’t want to know this, this horrible thing. Why should I.”
 “No matter what you do,” I said. “No matter how much you publish, no matter what you do, you’re going to die, aren’t you? It won’t save you.”
 He laughed even though his eyes weren’t and gave me a grin that showed his teeth.
 He said, and it sent a shiver through me, made me complicit, made me grin too, he said, “There may be a way.”
 There may be a way. For weeks I have thought about this. For weeks and months I have wondered what he exactly meant, although of course I knew what he meant—I just didn’t know if it could be true. It would all rely on a fundamental, intrinsic belief in everything he had ever shown me.
• When she first sees the Spore of the Gray Cap, it lives up to its reputation/name—coated in fungus no one else can see.
• Dead body, but eyes alive and watching.
• Even flies are spies.
• The glasses are a living creature that scuttles away crab-like at one point.
• When Janice puts on the glasses, she sees strange words and symbols written on the walls, and realizes that, in a sense, the city has never completely fallen out of their hands.
• Also, she sees the pulled apart mushroom dweller symbol over and over again in various modes.
• A blueprint of a city over a city.
• If she had worn them at night, it would have been even more terrifying for it shows the world in black-and-white.
• Sabon: “She was drunk. After a party. She thought the glasses were a trick, a joke. She didn’t realize…I was drunk, too.”
• Strange accumulations of fungus, invisible to the naked eye.
• “You don’t understand—if they wanted to, they could kill us all. In a day. Without a thought.”
• Smell of breath—food, etc., on it.
• Describe voices as machines.
• (No—it’s like a kaleidoscope, only by the end it makes sense. You can see through it.)
• The black mushrooms.
• A gray cap is there. It takes his hand and leads him off.
• The Senses:
 Seed pods, genetic seeds, DNA (Simak’s “Destiny Doll”).
 Rods (colors) + cones (black-and-white) = sight.
 B+W is more sensitive than color.
 Less resolution from the side.
 Decoding from brain—can process it whatever way you want.
 To the organism.
 Key in the on the filth—what does the garbage mean?
 Aroma sensors would turn it all into a visual color.
 Directionality/source of smell.
 Colors associated with smells.
 Squid change color.
 Sickness.
 Seeing sickness.
 Genome projects.
 Genetically-programmed.
 Bacteria.
 Link genes.
 Signs plus shades.
 Metaphysical.
 Breadth of vision (tunes out a lot of information).
 “Eyes” by Ellison.


• Shouldn’t The Afterword contain extensive discussion of E.H.?
• Reappearance after many years of his books (list them) in hideously-edited form and with different titles. (He sent me a postcard once that read: “One hates to think of Shriek, struggling to express himself as his beloved Sabon struggles to snuff him out.”)
• Lacond (unless Lacond is Shriek or he takes over Lacond’s name upon the man’s death?) and Sabon always upstaged him, but this pamphlet, through the largesse of a friend, was a chance for him to redress the imbalance. (Bad turn of phrase. As bad as turning an ankle.)
• Janice asserts that the Early History represents Duncan’s attempts to reveal as much as possible, but in a way that is acceptable to the public.
• Shriek says she cannot recall some of the descriptions of the underground that Duncan quotes as being in the Journal of Samuel Tonsure—another copy, or substituted his own experiences.
• Does not divulge that Sirin was a good friend, or that Lacond and Sabon could properly be called rivals. (Although some theorized that both were pen names for a certain D. Shriek.)
• Sirin’s fake history: Derivations of a …
• Sirin, says Janice, wants to take credit for everything.
• Definitive History of Ambergris by Sirin—one of his fake histories.


• I understand the reasons for Mary’s comments about Duncan. I understand that the glittering necklace of conversation surrounded a neck, a head, filled with maggots. Filled with images that do not mesh, that cannot be comprehended, and which makes it impossible for Sabon to accept any of Duncan’s theories—she has found her own personal history. She has written her own history.
• In other words, every text has been an attempt to remake the world so that it doesn’t include what she saw below ground—and that includes editing out any reference to that world in Duncan’s books: give examples of her edits!! Thus, she has proven Duncan’s theory. That is what I’d like to say to her when she is surrounded by her glittering necklace. That she embodies Duncan’s theories as much as they can be embodied in rough flesh. That experience must reveal something. Maybe that is the climax—what happens when he leads her down there!!
• Duncan shows/shares the glories/terrors of the underground kingdom with Mary and she doesn’t care. That kills him more than how Mary feels.
• Convey how Mary feels through the shroud of Shriek’s disdain.
• Perhaps Duncan is somewhat selfish, not realizing what effect revelations might have…
• Sympathy for Sabon from Duncan: “How could I expect her to believe what I myself scarcely comprehended at times. Oh Mary—I wish I’d never told you this.”
• Mary really hates him afterwords…sorry: afterwards. But Duncan includes a long, parenthetical aside about how he loved her and she loves him.
• Meanwhile, over the years, Sabon, whether out of a true idealism, to further her own career, or from the sudden shudder of a memory of a nightmare, chipped away at those books so that although they still existed on bookshelves, in libraries, in a sense they did not exist—contained between their battered covers only shredded pages, or worse, were regarded as so fossilized that the covers could not be opened to reveal the pages within.
• Really need to build up the flesh necklace—how it came to be: the publication of the books.
• Finally, we have to see it from Duncan’s POV—we have to get a journal entry that describes what he and Mary saw.
• Duncan: I showed her all of the corrections—I showed her all of it. From root to root, cavern to cavern. She and I were both drunk when she put on the glasses—she laughed and said, “What’s this?” and laughed again, straightened the glasses as if to improve her sight. I had given them to her inert so she wouldn’t see them move. She looked so beautiful then. I could not bear it. So she followed me, delighting in my party trick, a disbeliever still.
• Mary’s description/opinion of the mushroom dwellers (see Early History).
• In her laughter, and their distress, as he looks at her, he realizes he will always be alone. That he will not have the luxury his dad had—of a normal life.
• What happened down there? It was as much on my mind as what might be happening now to Duncan belowground. What was preamble may become after word.
• DUNCAN, toward the end, tells what happened down there, in an aside.


• Sirin adds the description of the glasses-or, rather, enhances it, because the glasses have been smashed—by what?!—just fragments of glass left and through these he looks for only a moment. He explains this in the end note. (So this means the glasses description is more concise and sophisticated.)
• Manuscript found in Spore of the Gray Cap, next to the re-opened tunnel.
• Two earlier drafts found, much more like afterwords. (Very short.)
• It turns out that Duncan had been accessing the underground through the Spore.
• Third draft had changes by Duncan to dialogue attributed to him, plus notes/comments in margins included by Sirin as parenthetical statements.
• Published as an addendum to the EH by the Amber. Historical Society?
• Or is it just a few photocopied accounts passed around by Sirin?
• Includes a sample typed page with Duncan’s comments and Sirin’s edits.
• “Some say I wrote this Afterword as a joke. It’s not true.”
• Sirin: “I replaced all of Janice’s parentheses with semi-colonic expressions (so to speak).”
• The use of parentheses in Sirin’s end notes seems to indicate Duncan’s presence, editing still.


• A “chapter” all in one sentence.
• Telephones proved more ruthless than guns in the festival—electricity goes out.
• It is a New Art revolt? Funded by F&L, against the merchant classes.
• Now came the time of the Festival and with it a most terrible carnage against which the middle classes had no defense.
• Duncan warns her it is coming.
• This continuous sentence is riddled with Duncan’s asides talking about the festival from the gray caps’ point-of-view. (They release spores, they harvest dead men’s eyes.)
• This event should make Duncan and/or Janice realize something—I don’t know what.
• F&L and Hoegbotton fight it out in the streets during festival.
• Festival comes after their break up—he saves Sabon’s life, but it is too late—she will not come back to him. Janice: “I feel that if only they had survived that night together, if only they had still been together—nothing could have separated them. But as it is, they had really shared nothing, no hardship before.”
• Duncan’s terrible decision to show her his underground world.
• Gray cap “spore mines” that explode and kill in all kinds of bizarrely beautiful way.
• Then the bad festival came, like the antithesis of the Silence, to convince us all that the law in the city was illusory, that it could not truly exist, whether we thought it resided in the palm of an obese, elderly Hoegbotton or in the prayers of priests or simply in the minds of the people of the city. A week before the Festival, the city bled from a thousand puncture woounds, for overnight the flags of the gray caps appeared in multitudes and bunches, in rapsodies of red that seemed, like the ever-present fungus always on the verge of forming some pattern, some message, only to fall apart into chaos again. Everyone knew this was a bad sign. Everyone knew but few took steps to protect themselves—and still the Silence exerted its influence, for it had instilled a subtle fatalism upon the population.
• Almost as numerous as the red flags were the agents of F&L, who proliferated with a pseudo-supernatural fecundity. A loophole in their contract on Sophia Island continued with a capricious and deceitful repository of the banks of the River Moth. (Footnote?) had once again allowed them to open conflict with H&S on the streets of Ambergris.
• The spate of good Festivals could not last—in fact, it made all of us nervous, so nervous that any anything could make me flinch around festival time: the snap of a twig, a sudden flash of a motored vehicle around a distant corner, an unexpected bird aflit upon a branch. And so history imposed itself upon the narration once again and my brother’s fascination almost killed him.
• They’re on separate sides of the city—Janice at Trillian, while Mary and Duncan are in the Religious Quarter to witness the unveiling of the Super Saint, amid a cacophony of lights. Duncan’s journal—through Mary’s eyes—interspersed with her views.
• Duncan saves Mary from some great calamity, but only by inducing a fit wherein his fungus becomes actie—beginning of the end; they share an apartment for three more months. (They live together for four horrible months and then, one night, drunk after a party, Duncan decides to show her the underground.)
• From World Press Review: “The sky was darkened by the smoke from the books, burned pages floated up into the air and fluttered back down again like a black snowfall all over the city. Those who caught a sheet could feel the heat and fleetingly read what had a strange appearance of a black-and-white negative. Once the heat dissipated, the pages crumbled away in our fingers.” – Kemal Bakarsic, Librarian.
• Fight continues at Borges Bookstore, among the shelves.
• It started with a postcard from Duncan: “It will be bad this year, etc…”
• Borges Bookstore goes up in flames.
• A mushroom is tossed into a crowded H&S HQ—what do the spores do in that instance? Turn everyone into powder or what? And is it then clear that F&L has the backing of the gray caps?!?!
• The fourth act of Trillian begins with infamy and ends with a crowd bereft of the energy to become a mob. I sat watching from my box seats. I was there with a sailor I meant to convert, but not sex. “Belacqua’s part had grown with the years.” Janice first finds out about the bad Festival when the opera she is at goes to hell at the edges—the fighting on the streets infiltrates the theater and slowly devours it. In fact, it is the last performance of Trillian. Act 3, Scene 4—describe it—the Belacqua scene!!! “Belacqua had just made his brief appearance—itself a foreboding sign.” Only the second actor to play the role in the play’s history, the first the son of a famous thespian who had quit.
• Duncan no longer feels the need to go underground—experiencing all seasons above ground.
• F&L came after both of them—Duncan saves him and Mary with fungus (from gray caps)—it slows the progression of his disease, this fight, but the whole thing frightens Mary.


• Intrusions. Real life is intruding on renditions of real life. How odd. Clearly I don’t have too much more time. (NEED this kind of thing before the Mary part…).
• It’s getting too late to be perfect. Too late to rewrite. All I want to do is move forward. All I want is to look ahead. Typos will proliferate like fungus no doubt. Sentences will wind up nowhere. I don’t care. I just want to end it.
• I have put as many words between myself and this decision as I can. But it hasn’t worked. There’s a space between each word that I can’t help but fall into and through. The spaces are, ultimately, as wide as the words and twice as treacherous. Ah, well—it was my choice. Should I have it any other way?
• This is not an afterword. Not an afterword? you exclaim in surprise? Surely you guessed that 20,000 words ago. Surely you knew.
• I was beginning to sound like a character in a book. I need to get out (put this before her jaunt outside, into the city).
• Start a section with a memory of her father.
• But I imagine you’d prefer answers rather than more questions. I can think of at least three questions I’d be asking: (1) From what physical location is Janice typing this assinine account?; (2) Is Janice crazy?; (3) Why did Mary Sabon have such an extreme reaction to such an ordinary pair of glasses? These are all good questions. All quite answerable any time I feel like it. Meanwhile…
• Start a section with memories of home, after dad left and/or before. “Funny—that reminded me of her…”
• Janice describes the hole in her “room” and compares it to the hole Bonmot was put in at his funeral; she pays the tavern owner to leave her meals at the door. USE THIS!!!!
• Looking back on some of these pages, I realize this has not been much of an appreciation. An afterword should, I think, include some aspects of an “appreciation”—for the subject, for the content, for the author. My Hoegbotton Unabridged Dictionary says this after “afterword”: XXXX. My Frankwrithe & Lewden Dictionary, predictably, disagrees, arguing that: XXXX (ask Paul).
• Actual mushrooms start to grow on her pages and she has to shear them off.


• She is no longer a painter or a gallery owner, but an art historian, once more on the “fringe”: “I never had the opportunity to become obscure—I was always obscure. I always was on the fringe. Never once reviewed. Never once.”
• Duncan says she should marry. She tells him there is no man for her.
• Suggestion she tries to kill herself because her boyfriend leaves her?
• Escape, escaping, escaped…I’d done it—I was no longer in danger of being a success, no longer in any danger at all…it was Duncan who was in danger now…I begin again, in a city I did not entirely know…I loitered in the same circles, lounged in the same antechambers of vice, but it was only pretense, a kind of afterglow that lit but did not warm the face…nothing but the ocassional painting sale to support me, thus Duncan’s life became of more than casual importance to me.
• She sees the face of her father from a window in her hospital. “Truffidians would have said I was looking for the face of God.”
• Shriek becomes a Truffidian as Duncan becomes a tour guide.
• Describe her suicide banquet—disgust her, spends all of her money on it—the last. She’s going belly up.
• Everyone abandoned me as if I were whirling so fast that the others were simply flung off at some point. (Put this after the convalescence in the house.)
• Once I descended out of madness.
• We were on our own for a long time after Dad died. Mom did not take care of us. I took care of Duncan, as much as he could be taken care of. I passed my first chance at further schooling to look after Duncan.


• Compare Duncan/Bonmot’s relationship to the relationship btwn the professor and madman?
• The Sabon transition is wrong—that starts out a section and get to Sabon some different way.
• Distill out recurring images that should be brought up every once in awhile.
• Is the problem that the story of Sabon’s courtship is severed by the story of Janice’s suicide attempt?
• Sabon: There should be details about her, as if she slowly approaches the narrative and begins to gather force as we approach her actual appearance.
• What is Sabon’s background?
• What can go into footnotes?
• How to get a balanced view of mary through Janice’s narrative? (Through brother’s comments? Not enough.)
• Antechamber: Flesh him out and also the actual discussions between Janice, Duncan, Bonmot (do these separately).
• As a secondary character, how does Bonmot impact the narrative?
• Better Bonmot physical description.
• Funeral comes later.
• Janice-Mary encounter comes later—at the end.
• Echos of Early History phrasing should occur over and over.
• Give chapters names.
• Study Brecht.
• They show up in later stories because they didn’t die—in Fragments or Zamelon.
• Flesh out the gray areas—for example, we don’t know much about Bonmot, nor do we know much about Janice’s friends. Duncan’s didn’t have many friends—which means Sabon is doubly important to him.
• As one character at one point in time goes one way, another at another point in time goes the other way in Janice’s narrative.
• Should there be a celebration of the city to open the novel?
• What did Duncan write in his journal about his sister? Especially during the suicide attempt?
• Should think more about Janice’s relationship with her brother.
• How was Duncan changed by her suicide attempt? (Should elaborate.)
• A scene where Duncan mockingly overlays his own dialogue over what Janie remembers of the dialogue—especially with regard to Bonmot, even contradictory of seasons, etc. I.e.: “It was in the Spring.” (No—it was in the Fall.)
• Under-use of Sirin and Bonmot.
• A list of chronological and non-chronological events.
• Ideas on how to work on character (Mary):
 What are the character’s dreams?
 Write a scene from that character’s POV.
 How do other characters react to the problem character?
 How does the character talk? (Wordy, never finishing sentences, hesitant, punchy.)
 What does the character hate?
 Tell people about her—what comes to mind?
 What does she fear?
 What’s her biggest secret?
 Use visuals—the way she looks, moves, talks, relates to others.
 Write the story in brief from Mary’s point-of-view.
• Work in Janice’s religion.
• Bonmot’s death begins to trigger the end—because both of them feel that there is less to hold them to the world, fewer human connections.


• Their break up is sporadic and gradual until he finally shows her through the glasses. He takes her down there first and then puts the glasses on her.
• Like some excited adolescent, he compared notes with me.
• Bonmot eventually forgave Duncan, but there would be no more lunches under the willow trees.
• “But do not think one event triggered this.”
• They lived together for nine miserable months—she’s a neat freak, he’s a mess, etc. Leads to break-up/separation; she returns to her parents, but they still see each other for awhile…then the glasses.
• They last until the strange festival and then she moves out and then she still seems him, but erratically—says she’s busy on her book—until he takes her underground, and then it is over…
• Blissful domestic love notes to start: his journal, where he patheticlaly preserves even scornful notes she wrote to him about taking out the trash, not to keep tracking in “that strange green mud.”
• Some of Mary’s papers in his journal, if he could not keep all of her letters, he could at least have this.


• Duncan as tour guide:
 So what set off Duncan’s latest disappearance? Not anything of much consequence—just the introduction into his city tours speech of key quotes by Mary Sabon: this sent him over the edge.
 Janice shares a page of Duncan’s dialogue for the tour, plus the Sabon quotes.
 Duncan has to wear a cape.
 Duncan resorts to guided tours of “Haunted Ambergris”—a company bought a graveyard as part of its tour business.
 Janice lists tourists’ negative comments on his tours, to hilarious effect, and with Duncan’s counter-point.
• Janice as travel guide actually guides people to the gallery site and recites a history of it and the New Art: thus were we both made to pay for our crimes against…against what?
• Duncan: “How could you know that I was being transformed, that I hadn’t come back above ground to forget about the gray caps, but to learn how to return to their world for good.”
• Exile melodramatic speech made by Janice until she admits she was just a tour guide.
• She once passes someone who is also wearing the glasses and they exchange a knowing stare—“Why should I have thought that Duncan was the only explorer of the underground?”
• A report by H&S security on the Glasses Cult—they know the truth/secret.
• The trick was not to flinch at the sometimes mobile, unlikely things that might loom out of the corner of the eyes—or sometimes loom more directly; the less said about such apparitions, the better.
• Sometimes I felt as if the skin of the city/world had been torn away to reveal another place—a parallel world that had only a few points of similarity to ours.
• Ambergris decides to discourage tourism because too many tourists have been injured or killed during the Festival. Janice is on the board—poster of a dead dog: this is what you are most likely to see in Ambergris or a picture of a dead tourist—Janice says: “I was washed up as a creative force, but out of a cruel kindness I was deemed acceptable for promotion to the den of horrors that was the Ambergris tourism board.


• Territory dispute on River Moth property, between Hoegbotton & Frankwrithe. When tide is low, F&L occupies the territory, based on an old trading rights agreement signed after the Silence. Describe at the beginning of the festival. F&L wants to carve out business within Ambergris.
• F&L fight over territory near the docks—the lease said the area covered by water is F&L, but due to the strange climate, the water keeps receding and coming back and they keep fighting over the point where the water starts—they actually debate whether “moist” land counts.
• Who leased them the land?
• Why didn’t the gray caps stop the festival problems?
• A mini-war that starts over the disputed Moth territory.
• Does Duncan send mary messages during this time?
• The description of the situation—could be presented as a war report in a broadsheet, in a breathless style.
 Duncan shepherds Mary through the Festival. The gray caps surround her, but do not attack her. Mary says nothing about this—though found it strange. If she finds herself speechless, it is a mistake. So Duncan finds her to be in complicity with him—but she isn’t. (Do you blame me? Small arguments crept into their conversations, but Duncan deferred to her, sadly enough.
 As Duncan and Mary were torn apart, unable to see each other, two other groups were seeing entirely too much of each other: F&L and H&S.
• F&L becomes a House first—Morrow tradition. So in a sense, H&S concedes by also becoming a house.
• Lacond: The broadsheets, many metamorphosed into “news papers” or, as Henry Hoegbotton rather ominously put it, “noose papers”. Their lust for headlines made them easy prey for anyone with a little information.
• Of James Lacond I shall say less and less, not more and more, just as his presence became less and less, until he was someone else entirely.
• What came of his research at the academy?
• What about the aftermath?!?! Fall out from the Academy? That must be written about, even if briefly. Caused trouble for Bonmot.
• Mary and Duncan as reporters plus visit to Sirin.
 Sirin’s satire of the situation: “He wrote about it later. I excerpt him here from his novel, Unsightly Things—changes the names of the protagonists, while skillfully skewering them with satire (refers to Reds and Greens, too).” The satire Sirin creates should be set in his trademark fantasy land (WHICH IS?) that he uses for satire (OUR WORLD?). It should incorporate the Reds and Greens. It should lampoon Voss Bender and Ambergris society. HE SHOULD BE IDENTIFIED AS THE author of “The Strange Case of X”—he’s doing a series set in that strange world. Perhaps it mentions rats and gray caps. Does it feature a sad-sack main character, even Belacqua. Satirizes the art community too—skewers Duncan or Janice? He must write it a few years after the events.
 (Butterflies and moths lived inside his head, making it difficult for him to hear.) – Duncan says this about Sirin.
 While recalling my visit to his office, I realize I can see into the future. There is nothing to bind me to just telling what I thought during the visit. Why, here, in this corner of his office, I see his betrayal of H&S, his switch to F&L. And over here, glimmering darkly like some…etc.”
 What specialized knowledge do Duncan and Janice have to make them valuable? Does Duncan know someone other than Gaudy? If so, then mention that person when he goes to Gaudy—i.e., “at X’s behest, Duncan went to Morrow, although he never saw X once there, but was immediately escorted to the office of Gaudy.”
 Funny book on Sirin’s desk—How to Transition From Mortician to Restauranteur in Five Easy Steps (a former mortician who opens a restaurant—prepares food like he prepared people—tries to put food around people; used by Janice at her parties—put it into that section instead?)
 Exchange and Thackery T. Lambshead guide are there too—in fact, a whole list of books on the walls; she’s familiar with them from other visits—photos of family on desk? He wore horribly colorful ties. IN FACT, that whole scene is her recollections of him at various times when she went to visit him!!!!!!!! Carry THAT off.



• A giant fungus: a spy center as big as the city; this is what the Silence hid—fungus infiltration all from the same source!!!!
• I learned some interesting things from Duncan’s last book. In it, he had abandoned the necessity for history in favor of a science of fungus, a cascade of facts that he thought might, on a molecular level, solve the mystery of the gray caps. Duncan’s ridiculous theories, promulgated through the newsletter:
 That people die years later from eating a mushroom. “The mushroom that today appears as a cause of death yester year are ingested without complaint.”
 Duncan has circumstantial evidence of a vast fungus—guy stomps out a mushroom only to have it pop up again in another crack—reported in the newspapers as crazy man who is stomping the ground.
 Duncan lists other examples—fears another Silence is upon us; why not go underground and meet it head on.
 Duncan actually predicts the gray caps taking over the above-ground city, but no one will listen—how does he reach this conclusion? But this is why Duncan goes below ground for good, finally—for Janice it is different: nothing left for her above ground.
• From giant fungus article:
 A giant fungus slowly weaving its way through the roots of trees for centuries to become the largest living organism ever found.
 Started as a single spore too small to see without a microscope and has been spreading its black shoestring filaments, called rhizomorphs, through the forest for 2,400 years; it now covers 2,200 acres.
 The outline of the fungus is strikingly similar to a mushroom, stretches 3.5 miles across, and extends an average of three feet into the ground.
 Maybe Duncan draws a diagram of it.
 It kills trees.
 Only surface indications are clumps of golden mushrooms that pop up in the fall with the rain.
 Digging into the roots of an affected tree, something that looks like white latex paint can be seen. These are mats of mycelium, which draw water and carbohydrates from the tree to feed the fungus and interfere with the tree’s absorption of water and nutrients.
 Spores have a hard time establishing new organisms, making room for the old-timers to spread.


• That I briefly converted to Truffidianism under Bonmot’s guidance after my accident.
• That not everything I have told you is the truth as Duncan saw the truth.
• That I was a drug addict for most of my adult life. (No, wait—you did tell us that.)
• My affair with Sirin.
• I had a major love affair—he came to see me after the suicide attempt.
• Bonmot’s subsequent relationship with Duncan.
• The results of Duncan’s “experiments” in the classroom.
• That by the time my gallery failed so utterly, “Trillian” had logged 6,000 performances.
• That I am the one who told Bonmot about Duncan’s relationship with Mary and set him to waiting for my brother.
• That I asked Duncan about the incident when he was a child and strayed underground for that tour. He said he didn’t remember it and wouldn’t talk about it ever again.
• That when Lacond died, Duncan, with Lacond’s prior approval, continued to publish under his name. Lacond was afraid that his death might blunt his ability to continue his arguments.


Version 1
• I entered Duncan’s world again through a pair of spectacles delivered, as I would later discover, through entirely “profane” means, to my desk at the Gallery of Hidden Fascinations. It was the early afternoon of a spring day. The weather had been strange of late, and the sun shone hazy through a bank of fog, only faintly shedding any light through the great double windows that advertised the innards of my gallery. (Barf) I had put on a lamp or two near my desk, and since the weather appeared to have scared off any potential customers, I was working diligently at paying off bills and artists (although apparently not diligently enough, since the gallery declared bankruptcy only six months later).
• Suddenly, as I entered numbers in my ledger, I became certain I was being watched from above. I looked up from my work, out the windows into the sepulchral (barf) day, the fog through which city denizens worked their way in and out, appearing here only to disappear there. A form of paralyzing dread overtook me. The pen dropped from my hand, but still I could not look up. (A built in gray cap defense—acting on the physiological level.)
• I might have sat that way forever, frozen, watching the mist, dreading the unknown (as Mary would come to dread it later), if a customer had not, in a single swing of the door and his jet-black coat, startled me from it. I stood up just as something dropped from the ceiling and onto my desk. (It was tired of holding on—it had made a long trek.) If not for the approaching customer, I would have screamed, but somehow the rituals of politeness took control and my scream was subsumed (barf) into a single, violent shudder, which I disguised by walking forward, around the desk. I did not look up the entire time I was attending to the customer. (This customer is awfully generic.) In fact, I almost followed the customer out the door when he left, weighed down by a painting under each arm. (This is great place to describe the gallery post-suicide attempt: the squalor of it now.)
• Instead, I turned and, from the door leading to the street, I scrutinized the ceiling above my desk. Nothing there. Nothing in the whole gallery. Just the mist on the street, casting shadows on my paintings.
• And the something on my desk. Which was small—that much of an impression I had received from my sideways glance as I’d fled my desk. I walked to the cash register, pulled out a thick stick of an unfinished frame as a weapon. Walked to my desk, aware of the unkind glances given to me by the few portraits on the walls. There are times when I wish my taste in art ran to themes and styles less macabre. (It’s an exhibit of a particular artist’s work: make that a nice backdrop to this scene.) Stalking up to my desk with a club of wood (this all seems like unnecessary business—just start with it dropping on her desk?) intended for less violent purposes was one of these times. (Where’s Bender?)
• But: anti-climax. The only foreign entity on my cluttered desk proved to be a pair of peculiar glasses, right side up atop a program from an old Voss Bender play. A red triangle of fabric had been knotted around one “leg” of the glasses. I circled the glasses slowly, looked up at the ceiling once or twice, weapon still raised above my head. Still nothing there. Anyone observing from the street would have thought me crazy.
• My heart beat began to slow. I lowered the piece of frame, set it down on the desk. I sat down, chuckling at my own fear. Glasses. Stuck to the ceiling? Falling onto my desk? I still could not yet grasp the causality of the event—had a guest stuck them to the ceiling months ago and they had finally succumbed to gravity—but at least the event itself seemed to hold no danger for me. Or so I thought. It would make a semi-interesting story for my colleagues.
• I picked up the glasses. The metal was warm to the touch, almost sinewy, but thin—almost eyelash thin. The metal had a strangely golden, pinkish hue, and a texture both rough and smooth at the same time. The lenses shared the thinness of the frames, but of a different order: thin as a dragon fly wing. The lenses too were hot and my questing finger recoiled when the minute translucent scales that comprised the lenses seemed to my tactile inquiry to almost move, when it must have been the texture of finger and lense combined that produced the sensation.
• A hum seemed to rise from the glasses—a vibration mixed with a sound, but I could not at first tell if this were simply the shaking of my own flesh, a ringing in my ears.
• I tapped the glasses against my desk. A sound tinny and fine, like the sound of a tuning fork, emanated from them. Out of the same curiosity that pulls the wings from flies, I first tried to bend and when that failed break against the side of the desk, the glasses. They did not even bend.
• Fully into my experiments now, perhaps glad to turn my fear into aggression against what had caused the fear, I took a nail (change) from a drawer and tried to scratch the lens. I could not. (Duncan should be commenting on the glasses throughout this passage.)
• Then I set the glasses down, more confused than before. The fear began to creep in again. What should I do with them? I wondered. Outside, the fog had deepened, come hard off the River Moth. No one had entered the shop during my explorations. The sun had become a feeble white point outshone for brilliance by the luminescence of the fog itself.
• I took a closer look at the red swatch of fabric. It did not look as if it belonged with the glasses. It did not belong to the same elegance or precision. With a slightly trembling hand, I unknotted it from the glasses. Now it looked familiar. The shade of red, the triangular shape. Where had I seen it before? I remembered a moment before I saw these words written in a familiar hand on the fabric:
Put on the glasses. Follow the red circles.
Do not be afraid—BBD.
• Duncan. And the red swatch was a mushroom dweller flag, most commonly seen atop a wooden stake driven into the ground near where those gray caps who did not return to their subterranean homes slept during the day. Suddenly the flag and the glasses seemed very connected indeed. My mouth was dry, my heart beat increased again.
• Put on the glasses? The thought had never occurred to me. I held the glasses up to the lamp light and looked through them but did not put them on. Although the “scales” of the lenses distorted my view of the fogged-in window, I suffered no change of perspective. These were not prescription lenses.
• I started down at the scrap of red cloth on my desk. It stood out from all the other, rather mundane, colorless minutia that had begun to take over my life: the bills, the tax forms, the awkward geography of business that had replaced my attempts to create art myself. A scrap of color. A scrap of blood. A scrap of message. (More specific.)
• What harm, after all, could there be in putting on a pair of glasses? I stared out at the fog-shrouded sky. I walked to the door. I opened the door and walked outside. The fog clung to my skin. The faint tinkle and chime of distant conversation. The melodious roar of a motored vehicle. The smell of flames. The taste of metal. Could these glasses allow me to see through the fog? Could they undo the mist? I still held the glasses, in my left hand, out from my body, as if they might explode and shower/shatter me with glass.
• I put them on.
• For a long moment, nothing happened and in that moment, I grinned. My poor brother had me staring through distorted lives into a world of mist.
• But then I could swear I felt the frames tense, tight around the side of my head, and for a moment, I felt an intense heat around my ears. But so brief that I did not make a sound.
• Then the glasses began to fill up with blackness. The blackness oozed from the top of the frames and, with a methodical precision, filled firs one “scale” and then the next. Slowly, as I stood there mesmerized, the liquid occluded my vision, replacing it with its own vision. (What’s her reaction?)
• When the blackness was complete, the fog no longer existed, swept away, banished, along with all things unclear, diffuse…Mary, I would be happy to describe what I saw for you if I thought that, even at this late date, it might make some difference. To you. But it is to your necklace of flesh, not so glittering now, that I make my case.
• My world now consisted of two…templates? Levels? Layers? The world I knew had become subservient to a second world. It is not so much that the world I knew disappeared, but that it, still sharply in focus, became the translucent, the clear, background to a new world. I could distinctly see the street, the stores opposite my gallery, the street lamp on the corner, the two women standing under the street lamp, the pigeon asleep atop the lamp post, the façade of store fronts that extended down the street—every solid brick and pound of flesh of it.
• What stood revealed, however, made my reality seem very poor stuff indeed. How to explain it? I was never a very good painter—how now to paint with words a picture that few have ever seen? (Start with color. Start with symbols. Start with texture. Start with hue. Start anywhere, but start!)
• Example: across the street, the printer’s store front…it was “painted over” with a living swath of minute, glowing red fungus. There were signs and symbols everywhere! How to describe. I could not even paint it for you. The vision defeats the pen. It would take a better writer than me to even begin to describe the least of it.
• Every building—every building—had symbols and words written upon its sides: glowing and bold, in phosphorescent greens, yellow, reds, purples, blues. Arrows and road signs in a foreign language. Like the difference between the city before and during the Festival of the Freshwater Squid—when the lights highlight every balcony, every flourish, now I was looking at the city as the gray caps saw it. Conveniently mapped and described for their benefit. This was their city still—this overlay was the skin of their control. It was like a dream and a nightmare all at once. On the edges of my vision, I could see things moving in ways that did not seem natural. In the air, a million spores leapt together, suffusing the sky with an orgy of renewal.
• The sky itself was more dusk than dawn, the stars like pale ghosts in the sky, larger and more opalescent.
• BDD. BDD. I repeated the acronym over and over to myself. I tried to think rationally, logically. What had Duncan written? Follow the red.
• I looked around me, saw red tracks set out before me: a red line for me to follow, and so I did, through a transformed city out of myth.

Version 2
• They just come down on the desk, scuttle around like a lizard, and then become the glasses.
• My self dissolved into…something else. How do I describe? How do I begin? Where do I begin? (Oh, for Truff’s sake, Janice! Start at the beginning. Proceed to the middle. Finish with the end. Muddle through. Muddle through.) Perhaps I should start with color. Perhaps I should paint it for you. The way an artist layers paints, these glasses layered information. Or, as an artists layers paints to reveal, to accentuate, some facet, some theme, some previously unknown truth, so these glasses revealed a different city, a city to which the gray caps had truly returned. (Never left, Janice, dear sister. How can I possibly keep silent while you tell my story? They never left. The glasses didn’t reveal what was hidden. They merely showed what had always been there throughout the years. The centuries.
• Everything had become a negative of itself so that the fog snuck in like coal smoke and the dark, hard brick of buildings became as light, as unsubstantially white, as glass. And burned into this real world, the world by which we are assured of our own foundations—and by this I mean our bedrock, that the world as interpreted by our senses has an objective reality, at least as much as we can pretend it does (get on with it!)—burned into, I tell you, were all the signs and symbols of the gray caps. (cut the nabby refs) I cannot use the word superimposed because this might convey some ethereal, unreal sensibility to what was a concrete, super-reality. What I am trying to say, Mary, is that the real world, the world I had known for 30 plus years, no longer had any reality to it when confronted, when met by, this other world that existed on top on it and yet also within it.
• But what did I see? I saw: a phosphorescent green cloud of spores busily dancing in the midst of the fog, the glistening fullness of them almost that of a single, sentient entity.
• A wall of brick covered—clotted—from top to bottom with insect-harsh letters and symbols, in a welter of colors as diverse as could be imagined.
• Long, centipedal creatures at the edges of my vision, rippling and undulating, taking on the translucence of the brick and blending in completely. (See description from novel of md’s helpers.)
• And, stretching out before me, threading its way through a street littered with clumps of glowing yellow, blue, green spores, a trail of red splotches, forming a line, forming a destination. As if in dream, I followed the path. I had no choice. (Ah well—perhaps no one could have done it justice. Or injustice.)
• She once passes someone who is also wearing the glasses and they exchange a knowing stare—why should I have thought that Duncan was the only explorer of the underground? (describe this other person…)
• A report by Hoegbotton security on the Glasses Cult—they know the truth/secret.
• The trick was not flinching at the sometimes mobile, unlikely things that might loom out of the corner of the eyes, or sometimes loom more directly; the less said about such apparitions, the better.
• Sometimes I felt as if the skin of the city had been torn away to reveal another place—a parallel world that had only a few points of similarity with ours.
• To describe an eye:
 Use a Gray’s Anatomy book to break the eye into its parts—which means the “describer” must be a doctor (or text must be third person).
 Indicate that the description just given can never do these eyes justice, as a photograph of two people in love cannot match the physicality of that relationship (stress duality).
 Describe eyes, again in terms of metaphor.
 Mesh the metaphor to the clinical description.
 Describe the effect both of looking into the eyes and looking out from the eye—how much more clearly that eye must see, for example.

5 Responses to “Flushing Out Shriek: An Afterword–Notes, Fragments, Research, Alternate Scenes”

  1. drax says:

    Oh, Very Cool. I’m not diving into this any time soon, no way—but I’m very glad it’s here, waiting.I guess the whole Ambergris Cycle will be strange, with FINCH as my entry… Then again, w/ Moorcock I started with STORMBRINGER and never looked back…

  2. The Sound Effects Of The Electric Guitar | Guitaroholic says:

    [...] Flushing Out Shriek: An Afterword–Notes, Fragments, Research … [...]

  3. Jim Hall says:

    Very nice indeed. A nice gift for your fans!

  4. S.J. Chambers says:

    I am taking heed to the spoiler warning, but I did scroll through to see how extensive the notes were. Over how long of a period of time (since you said you were traveling) did it take for you to complete all the notes/plotting process?

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Selena: Probably five years to complete the novel, but the notes/character stuff set out here, probably a period of 18 months, maybe 2 years. This isn’t all of it, because at other stages I just drafted right from scrawled notes and things. I had to be very patient, but the shape of the novel, and the fact that I needed to understand the characters very deeply, meant that the extended time frame of writing it was very important to getting it right.

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