Dead Sydney - A Free Online Novel Of The Bird Flu Pandemic
This will either be one hell of an adventure, or an absolute disaster. But it's too late to back out now.
From today I will be publishing three or four short chapters a week from my new novel 'ED Day' on a dedicated blog. That is, the new novel I'm still writing.
The chapters are free for you to read, download and even comment on, if you're motivated or inspired to do so by what you read. And I hope that you are. If you've ever wanted to be a book critic, before the book is finished, here's your chance. Go for it.
The first chapter of this new novel is up on this site - ED Day : Dead Sydney, and I'll be posting chapter two over the weekend. Another two chapters will go up during the next week.
The novel, written in the form of a journal, tells the story of how 300 people survive a massive bird flu pandemic that wipes out millions of people in Sydney. Some of the survivors are convinced there was nothing natural, or accidental, about the pandemic that has killed everyone they knew and everyone they loved.
As the story unfolds, you will learn more about how the pandemic came about, how the survivors met, and how they go about rebuilding their lives and society. But there are a lot of corpses to clean up first.
I started writing this novel in December last year, and in January I posted the first three chapters on a MySpace blog, where about two dozen people dived in and tore it to shreds. Not all of them were harsh, and it was a fascinating experience to get such immediate feedback and get caught up in discussions about the characters and what was going to happen to them.
I've sent an invite over to those readers, and I hope they'll come and find out what happens to the story they began reading and then suddenly heard nothing more about, until now.
Why more writers don't give away their fiction online, or publish novels in chapter installments on the internet, is a mystery to me. The argument that giving away a novel online will stop people buying it when, or if, it's ever published simply doesn't make sense. What's the difference between reading a book for free online, and borrowing it from a library? Or sitting down in a bookshop and reading 30 or 40 pages for free during your lunch break?
I'm about two weeks ahead of what I'm publishing right now, seven chapters, and I'll try and keep at least four or five chapters ahead of what goes up on the ED Day blog. That way, if something happens, if work intervenes too much, or if I have a cataclysmic brain spasm, the regular readers won't be left hanging, waiting for another chapter. If I'm creamed by a bus, however, you'll have to work out the rest of the story for yourself.
Right now, I'm not sure how the story ends, but I think some of the situations I'm setting up might provide storylines for another novel, a sequel. Maybe. In case that does happen, I've given this novel the sub-title of 'Dead Sydney'. That way, if the story unfolds in a way that means there is another story to tell when this one finished, I can keep it going and move onto book two, but still keep it under the main title of 'ED Day'. You'll find out what ED Day stands for in Chapter Two.
I'm following Stephen King's rule about not outlining or working out a full plot for the novel. Half of the fun of this should be writing myself into corners and then trying to find a way back out.
And as the tale is set in the future, not too far in the future, I want to include details of what is happening here in Sydney now, and write about the spread of the bird flu virus in general.
Writing the novel this way may prove to be a good idea, or an extremely bad one. But, like I said, it should be fun, and if I end up with a few thousand regular readers yelling for the next chapter, I won't be able put off finishing the novel. I won't have a choice.
I'll write more about the other reasons why I'm doing this later, but for now you can jump over to ED Day and get stuck in.
Feel free to comment on what you read, and hopefully we'll get some interesting debates going.
And yes, I'm well aware of the Stephen King novel The Stand and the movie 28 Days Later. I love them both, but they aren't the only film or novels that tell their tales in a world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a plague or virus.
I can still remember seeing Charlton Heston in The Omega Man for the first time on television, very early one morning, on a school night, with the main guy wandering the empty streets of San Francisco, and retreating to his fortress at night before those absolutely freak-scary vampires came looking for him.
The 'Dead World' setting is definitely a genre unto itself now, and it's a weird and sometimes terrifying landscape to set a story in.
A quiet, still Sydney where humanity has all but disappeared is a scary place, but I like, and believe in, the idea that that survivors of such a near completely fatal pandemic as portrayed in ED Day really would help each other, and take care of each other, and get on with rebuilding their lives and society.
As Paul, the leader character of ED Day, says in Chapter Two (or maybe Chapter Three), you can only sit around in your commandeered penthouse getting hammered on free 40 year old whiskey for so long before you want to get back to work and get busy doing something worthwhile. Get busy helping people.
But the world of ED Day is not going to be full of kindness and caring and sharing.
Far from it.
The human population of Sydney has been reset back almost to zero and they will have to fight to stay alive. Plus, there's something going on outside of Sydney that none of them are even remotely aware of.
As you will discover in Chapter Three, sometime mid-week, those who leave the centre of Sydney, to try and get back home, or to see what's happening on the other side of the Harbour Bridge, never come back.
There are dark forces at work amongst the ruins of a once bustling Sydney society. And for many of those who survived the pandemic, the worst is a long way from over.
ED Day - Chapter One : The Silence In The City