Since finishing SHAHIDA in April (and again in August), I’ve been researching the next novel. It is a low-level obsession, always at a simmer, which is how I know the idea has the staying-power to keep me interested in the project for the next two to three years. Still lacking an outline, or even a logline, I cannot call it my work-in-progress yet: But I can finally identify the obsession. It’s that America has been at war for ten years, but until I met my wife, who is a decorated participant therein, it was easy to, well… forget, most days, that we are fighting.

  • From this side of the gun (or console), why does war look so much like peace? Should it?
  • Is it a war between the United States and al-Qaeda, or between the nation-state and a borderless state?
  • What does victory look like? How do we know for sure if we’ve won?
  • Who is responsible for this quasi-amnesia, and is it needed to win a war on terror?
  • What does Internet freedom have to do with it?

I know the standard answers to these questions. Those answers fit on placards. The longer versions fit in op-eds. But there is a dystopia, a speculative novel, something, simmering between the lines, too. My goal is to outline the story soon, and then fill a few more months with research; I will say more later, but for now, I trust there is an important effect on human identity, and therefore relationships, that matters here. And that effect is worth a novel.

Besides that goal, here are the others in no order: Finish the marathon on Nov. 13. Stay on schedule at work. Plant some flowers around the tree in the backyard. Find a damn agent, finally. Walk the dogs in this beautiful warm autumn weather. Sleep well two nights in a row. And life is good; therefore, to live it in awareness that it is not good for everyone, and write something that might make a difference.