Work in progress

The next novel.

As a gay writer unofficially married to a member of the U.S. military, I’ve been preoccupied with the relationship of art, war, and technology for almost nine months. The idea for my next novel resonates with the past writing I have done about the geopolitics of the Middle East, but is something totally new and differently interesting to me.

My plan for the novel is moving toward literary cyberpunk, takes place in New Orleans, could appeal to YA readers, and may possibly work as a series. I’ll say more when I’m done with a solid draft, likely late this year or early 2013. For now, the premise beneath my thought experiment is Art and war are complementary. Technology strives to make both unnecessary.

I know that statement is thorny. I would love to hear your response.

Synopsis of SHAHIDA

scarabRabia’s judgment of her college beloved, Ali, is wrong—she misunderstands his love as partnership, and when she gets pregnant, he abandons her to the punishment of her strict Jordanian father, who sends her to finish university at a fundamentalist school in Gaza City. She is to learn good Muslim motherhood and gain a husband; only then can she get her infant son back. In other words, what starts as an act of independence ends up as the yoke of traditional womanhood.

Yet the school is more than it seems. The headmistress singles Rabia out and offers another option: to go through the motions of the Islamic education program, but to also be trained in the government’s corps of female operatives, who will be married with the rest of their classmates to vacationing bureaucrats and carry out orders from the government. Rabia soon discovers that the secret program is not what she expected: it is a small class of misfits whose desperation is being exploited into zealotry. The women are being trained as shahidat, suicide bombers. Once in, she cannot back out lest she be stoned as a “collaborator,” and die before ever holding her son again.

The only way out is a fellow student who offers to help Rabia escape in exchange for favors to an underground organization. As the favors grow larger, Rabia advances on a road that leads to violence anyway—but it also leads to Sami, an unwilling revolutionary who falls in love with her. She must decide whether to accept his offer of marriage as a way out of a land where the veil of femininity can hide almost anything, and where every act is dangerously political, even love.

***This is about as rough as a rough draft can be. I posted it, however, so you can see how a concept evolves over the course of a year. See below.

What’s next?

In progress is a second novel. In the spirit of John Berger’s From A to X and some of Ursula K. LeGuin’s short fiction, the new novel takes place in an almost-but-not-quite-recognizable Middle Eastern country, where two young men are struggling to escape to the Far East in search of work. What holds them back may not be poverty, ideology, or the border guards—because stronger than any of these are what the boys call the Three Loves: family, home, and Leila, a young woman who may or may not be an informer for the secret police.

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