I actually halted working on the book for about a month. Mostly because I’d reached a point in the narrative where the focus shifts to the villainous faction of the story. There was a question I philosophically wrestled with during that time on whether the (impartial) third-person narrative voice should adopt a tone for this chapter that’s in any way different from earlier chapters that focused on the hero and his trusty sidekick. On the one hand I really want to convey the innermost workings of the antagonist’s head, but on the other hand I want to avoid telling the audience what to believe about him. A certain equilibrium between the two would be ideal. It’s a matter of knowing when to lean to one side and when to lean to the other. Not the easiest hike, but I’m forging ahead with it.
I’ve been actively editing the manuscript over the last several weeks, gutting and reconstructing several chapters that I had written months earlier but still had a sliver of some ineffable quality that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A certain not-yet-ready-for-prime-time quality. I wasn’t quite sure what that quality was before, but now that the chapters in question have been allowed time to breathe, doing the necessary killing of the darlings is a much easier task.
The portion of the book that I’ve revealed to the public so far actually represents a very small percentage of the totality of all that the book is. There are many more characters and wacky adventures to come. One of those characters is called Sherman. He’s a talking ferret – more accurately, a utility program in ferret form, a program capable of running other programs in the Environment. He could hypothetically appear in any form he wants to, given the fluid and malleable nature of the Environment. But a white ferret is his preferred guise, and the only one he really uses. Unless he’s in the mood to change colour. He is Kent Fairholt’s sidekick, confidant, chief science officer, cigar lighter and occasional weapon.
His name is derived from Sherman Avenue, one of the major thoroughfares in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which for seven years was my hometown. Many characters in the book are named after streets in Hamilton – two other characters, Elmýr Garfield and the aforementioned Mr. Fairholt, were surnamed after the two streets to the immediate east of Sherman Avenue along Main Street. That was actually the part of Hamilton I used to live in, so it’s kind of near and dear to my heart.
I like to link of Sherman as a sort of Google Assistant with fur. He processes whatever request Kent gives him, and always seems to be the expert on every question under the sun. Except that Sherman speaks in an ultra high-speed variant of Morse code expressed in the normal clicking sounds ferrets make. Since this book takes place at a date far off in the future when humanity has long forgotten about Morse code, Sherman’s utterances can only be interpreted and understood by Kent, who has special software installed in the microscopic computer in his brain that translates Sherman’s ferretese into something ordinary humans can readily understand.
Sherman also has a transubstantiation engine in his stomach. Whenever Kent needs something, be it a weapon, some kind of tool, or even just something to munch on, he can just ask Sherman for it. If Sherman feels Kent’s request is honourable and within reason, he uses his stomach to compile whatever it is that Kent needs, and regurgitate it out his mouth. If not, he just gets all lippy with Kent about the merits of his request.
The transubstantiation engine is not the only program that Sherman can conjure. He is also running a complete and thorough digital replica of Her Honor the Crocus Rupertia, Most Blessed Vicereine of Lodge No. 7714 of the Thirteenth Nation Sisterhood – a veteran cyberwitch of the most erudite disposition, and Elmýr Garfield’s late mother. Crocus Rupertia has a mind of her own, and frequently speaks to Elmýr using Sherman as her medium. I could tell you more about that, but then we’re getting into a whole other character and that’s really the subject of another blog post.