At any rate, in that book Stan tracks a group - a jati - of reincarnating people from generation to generation in an alternate version of world history. The technique he introduces - and this might be a word-nerd spoiler - is to keep the first letter of the character's name the same in each reincarnation, as well as giving them similar outlooks on life, relationships to the others, etc.
I'd been wondering if this technique might have a life outside Stan's book for a while, and specifically wanting to try it out for myself. So I settled on a story of five or six documents from successive reincarnations of a particular person in different eras. One might be a Victorian obituary in The Times, one might be an entry in the genealogy of a Chinese family in the early Qing. I was going to finish with a birth announcement in 2006, which might have worked, or might have been as cheesy as an explosion at the Gouda factory.
So with weeks to go, I sat down with this, in retrospect, horrendously ambitious plan, and got nowhere. I couldn't write a single word. It wouldn't taxi, let alone fly. I'm pretty sure the idea is dead now.
About 24 hours before the deadline, I started thinking about the WFC again: that it would be good to at least contribute, and let the winner beat a large field. Somehow I got onto the idea of the underground as an underworld. I turned over stories in my head: Persephone, The Inferno, The Divine Comedy, etc. I briefly considered setting the Inferno on the tube, with stations corresponding to levels of hell, but considering I haven't read the Inferno it seemed a bit much. I mused that in the Greek or Christian conception, by contrast with even the poorest subway system, the journeys are invariably one way, and on the broken ground of this metaphor I staked the tent of my story.
After all this thinking there wasn't much time left, so I sat down and wrote something easy: banter between Australians in London. One character took the role of pushing an obviously absurd thesis, in order to give the underworld == underground thing room. Their dialogue also gives a chance to bring in other analogues, recycling, wacky allusions to the Greatest Hit Soliloquoy in Hamlet, etc.
It's supposed to be throwaway funny rather than over-sincere. My wife laughed, dunno if anyone else realised it though. People didn't seem to get that the characters weren't drunk but probably were hungover: it's set on a Sunday morning. It does look rather simplistic next to the displays of technique found in the other entries. One of the problems with the story is it has both extremely low (just laugh) and extremely high expectations in the reader, if you wanted to untangle it. eg, the Hamlet thing, that the train never makes it to Oval (where the South London cricket ground is found), that the Oyster card is a metaphor for the eternal soul.
I had fun anyway. Thanks fleece, commenters, voters.
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