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In my previous blog post I committed to making use of more detailed story outlines, which I think will be particularly useful for The Start of Eternity where I am attempting to follow Isaac Asimov's lead and have a non-linear narrative. I started a phase map for the story which is helping me think about transitions between chapters. What can be learned from Asimov with respect to telling a story where the sequence of events is revealed to readers in an out-of-order way?

In his time travel novel, The End of Eternity, Asimov begins the story with a "teaser" showing the main character, Andrew Harlan, at a point in physiotime where he is about to become a criminal. Asimov then takes us back in time and shows us key events in Andrew's life from his first time travel mission and on up to the point where he began his criminal behavior.

The first flashback is forty pages long and Asimov portrayed it as taking place in a moment of recollection just before Andrew enters Time as a Technician in order to cause a Reality Change. Back in his Present, Andrew quickly completes his assigned mission in Time, then a second flashback begins, this one much shorter, showing Andrew's decision to break the laws of Eternity. Asimov then whipsaws us back to Andrew's present place in physiotime, showing us the moment when Andrew's conscience was eased by realizing that there was a good chance of getting away with his planned crime. From there on, Asimov lets the story play out in a linear way. How does Asimov help the reader navigate through the non-linear sequencing of events in the first third of The End of Eternity?

Another issue for The Start of Eternity is that the protagonist, Gohrlay, leads a strangely long life, similar to that of Asimov's robot character, Daneel Olivaw. Daneel lives as a positronic robot for thousands of years and then transfers his memories into a human's brain. Gohrlay also goes through that kind of robot-to-human mind transfer, but it is revealed in The Start of Eternity that all positronic robots with human-like cognitive abilities had major parts of their brains produced by copying the structure of a human's biological brain into positronic circuits. That original human brain was the brain of a Neanderthal woman named Gohrlay. In The Start of Eternity I want to show key events from all three stages of Gohrlay's life, but I do not want to show them all in a linear temporal order.

I want to begin The Start of Eternity by having two "jumps in time" that make it possible to show (in the first chapter) short glimpses of the two early stages of Gohrlay's life: 1) her original biological existence and 2) her stage of life as a robot, after her biological mind is "downloaded" into a positronic brain.

The story then (in the third chapter) jumps ahead to a point in Gohrlay's life when she is again instantiated in human form, having transferred her memories out of the positronic brain of her robotic body and back into the brain of another human body. It is in this last stage of Gohrlay's life that she finally has a decisive confrontation with aliens from another galaxy...a battle for control of the fate of humanity.

So The Start of Eternity begins with a linear, if somewhat saltatory narrative, but then in chapter 15 I want to jump out of the linear flow and fill in the story of what happens right after the very first page section where Gohrlay's Neanderthal brain is destroyed and converted into positronic circuits. I'm struggling with how to both
1) make a smooth transition from the first page to the second page (a transition which jumps over a large block of intervening years)
and
2) provide hints to readers that they will eventually see the story of what happens to Gohrlay during the long gap between those first two page sections.

What Asimov did in The End of Eternity was use flashbacks, having made the very first chapter an introduction to Andrew during his preparation for committing a crime. It would be possible to begin The Start of Eternity with Gohrlay the Time Guardian, perhaps just before she suffers her crushing defeat at the hands of the Huaoshy. What is now the first two chapters could then be split into two flashbacks and most of the rest of the novel could also be "flashback". The end of the novel would be Gohrlay's defeat and the Huaoshy then making the decision to alter the dimensional structure of the universe to make sure that time travel becomes impossible. However, I'm not sure that helps with my goal to have the story of how Gohrlay creates Eternity be at the end of The Start of Eternity.

Asimov had a large amount of experience writing mystery stories. He was very good at revealing just enough information to keep readers informed and interested while allowing a surprising ending. I'm starting to think that it might be a mistake to use the same name (Gohrlay) for all three stages of her life. It might make more sense for Klemps to give "R. Gohrlay" another name. Also, the human body that is used to receive the memories of "R. Gohrlay" could have a name, just as Fallom does in Asimov's novel, Foundation and Earth.

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