My current writing project is called The House of Writers, a novel set in a likely future where literature is as welcome as sheep droppings in a cup of Horlicks. Forced to work for the expanding ScotCall empire, most writers have packed it in for safe desk jobs answering queries about anything and everything for a population of ill-educated bozos, while only a handful remain in a raggedy office block on the outskirts of a small rural province where Scotland’s writers turn out work for a narrow audience of unhinged freaks who still like to read. The protagonist, Cal, is an idealistic and ambitious youngster who believes he can make a name for himself in the House, while his family are assimilated into the ScotCall encroach.
Each chapter finds Cal moving up the nine floors of the building—from High Quality Literary Fiction all the way up to Bestsellers up top, each populated by various eccentrics whose works have been warped and exaggerated at the whims of their paymasters. The experimental writers lurk in the basement, breaking out occasionally to cause mischief on the higher floors, steal food, and plan ways to strangle ScotCall with their own phone lines. As Cal advances, ScotCall steals office space with the assistance of his poisonous sister Kirsty, who delights in the systematic destruction of all pointless scribblers.
The House of Writers is an anarchic comedy, with no pretensions to subtlety or mainstream acceptance. The idea is to indulge in wordplay, bouncy and playful language with a funky rhythm, and sheer stylistic exuberance as a celebration of what is brilliant about literature and the reading of, and why books should take precedence over everything else, especially food and procreation. I also want to posit an alternative to the book-burning visions of Bradbury et al and suggest literature will always exist, but will simply get marginalised into obsolescence, or buried under a mound of trash, and people’s standards will sink so low, Everyman’s Dan Brown editions will be released by 2070.
This is a sketch of the novel. So far the surreal comedy is leading me into other areas of (unwelcome?) strangeness. By imposing a structure on the book, hopefully my “freewheeling” tendencies with regard to plot and character won’t lead to the sort of tedium that awaited readers of my last comedy, A Postmodern Belch. We shall see. And once again, methinks I am writing essentially for niches too small to be niches, but so be it. Long live my beloved niches.