The Lives of Perfect Creatures

After I finished writing my first novel, I decided to go in a different direction. Writing a Gothic fairy tale was fun and challenging but for my second book I decided to do something a little more personal and slightly more realistic.[1] Not that The Machine of the World wasn’t personal. [2] But this one turned out to be more about what was going on in my head over the last five years or so, as I figured out what it was I believed in (not god but what, then?) and what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The Lives of Perfect Creatures tells the story of a young woman and her friends, as they attempt to find small moments of beauty in a world that sometimes feels overwhelmed by the tragic and absurd.

This is the hook I wrote to describe it in the cover letter I’m currently sending off to publishers:

Sophie didn’t intend to steal The Man With The Mustache’s umbrella but she did it anyway. In her search to find him and make amends, she meets the ghost of Yuri Gagarin, philosophical hobos and an astronomer hounded by a priest, a rabbi and a minister who think the comet he discovered is a harbinger of Jesus’ return to Earth. Her best friend, Astrid suspects that what Sophie is really looking for is a truth more permanent than apparent. But Astrid has other things to worry about (like finding out the real name of the Little Red-Haired Girl who comes into the library every afternoon). Meanwhile, the Chinese are planning to land on the Moon and the city of Odalisque is slowly drowning due to ice caps being melted by the heat death of the universe. How all of this is related to the umbrella is hard to say in a way that makes sense but Sophie is sure it does, somehow.

The title comes from a quote by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, “All the universe is full of the lives of perfect creatures.” Tsiolkovsky is the father of manned space exploration. In 1903, while the wright brothers were building the first functional airplane at Kitty Hawk, Tsiolkovsky, a math teacher living in a cabin in Russia, was writing the equations that would allow for humans to escape Earth’s gravity and enter space 50 years later.Besides math and physics, Tsiolkovsky wrote science fiction novels exploring his ideas about how humanity could move into outer space and more importantly, why we should. Space exploration plays in the background as a metaphorical emphasis to the character’s predicaments as each of them are looking for a way to find a way to make the sometimes crazy world around us make a little more sense.

If all this sounds a little existential, that’s on purpose. About halfway through the first draft I realized I was writing an Atheist Novel. And I mean that in the same way Christian Authors write Christian Novels. I found that the heart of the story revolved around how non-believers found meaning in a meaningless world. So, in some way the characters are  refuting the common claims about how us non-believers and how we are cold and nihilistic lost souls, subject to the whims of our empty animal instincts. Instead, the characters are just like me and everyone else. Trying to figure out what makes this crazy world tick and how best to find those little moments of joy and pleasure in a world that w  snot designed for our benefit or convenience and often seems purposely at odds with such ideas.

Did I mention it’s a romantic comedy?

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1. I say slightly more realistic because the tone of the novel is more of an absurd and stylized depiction of reality, like a Wes Anderson movie or Pushing Daisies. It has a heightened sense of the real, which I find not just entertaining but also condussive to highlighting the randomness and absurdity of life. it gives reality a fairy tale like quality which has the ironic side effect of making the dreams that the characters have seem more real. Also, I don’t believe in Realism. Realism or Naturalism is just the default style for people who can’t be bothered to do a little eccentric set decorating. And if you’re going to all the trouble of inventing a world and a reality, why not make it  a little brighter, stranger and silly?

2. The Machine of the World (available for free as a PDF or for sale as an inexpensive paperback on the sidebar to your right) was written as a birthday/Christmas present for my wife.

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