It’s got a title! It’s got cover art!
Is it done? Oh no. No, it is not.
The problem is that life keeps getting surreal. Just absolutely fucking surreal. The subplot started out as standard “lone gunman with personal arsenal”, and then a bunch of dudes took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and that became a much more interesting subplot. My brain seized on that and now I can’t even find the lone gunman anywhere in the draft. Which is a strange kind of tragedy, as he had a wife and kids and everything, and now he doesn’t even exist.
(Writing is weird. There was a person that only I knew about, and now he’s utterly gone. There’s got to be a book out there about the ghosts of half-written characters, all of whom are half-formed and mostly crazed.)
I like the setting better now, though. It’s in a huge abandoned metalworks factory, which allows for quite a lot of environmental shenanigans. And I’ve had to learn about property law and occupation rights, which I enjoy, because I am also weird.
Anyhow. I’m aiming to finish the last draft by early May, for a late June release date.I’d like to have paperbacks available for sale at WorldCon. Here’s a spoiler-lite(tm) section about occupation and ownership that’ll drive the plot of Book 4.
And yes, there are flaws in Fletcher’s argument, because Plot.
The camera pulled back to focus on a youngish man with perfect teeth. He was wearing military camouflage, well-worn and patched, but clean. The man smiled for the camera, a wistful smile; Rachel thought he looked like Clark Gable in his more outdoorsy roles.
“I’m Jeremy Fletcher, and welcome to my home,” he said. “This factory has been in my family for generations. If you’re over thirty and you grew up on the East Coast, you’ve probably used metals that were smelted in this very plant.”
He turned and began to walk towards the center of the factory. The camera followed. “The government forced us to close in 1986,” he said, placing a paternal hand on a monstrous piece of equipment. “They claimed we hadn’t done enough to meet environmental regulations. They lied; my father had complied with every code on the books. I’ll make a long story short and say that if you look up a man named Arthur Bennett, you’ll find that he was an assessor who went to jail in the late ‘90s for accepting bribes.”
Hill stood and walked over to the white board, where the names Jeremy Fletcher and Arthur Bennett went up in fresh dry erase marker.
“Is that true?” Zockinski asked the room at large.
Santino, his fingers clattering away at his keypad, nodded. “Bennett’s name turns up in multiple news stories about bribery and corruption. Apparently, some of the good folks in the regional Environmental Protection Office were living large for a couple of decades before they got caught.”
On the screen, Fletcher resumed his slow tour of his family’s factory. “My father refused to pay Bennett, and tried to go through legal channels to both keep the factory open and to get Bennett investigated for corruption. The system failed him. Twice. By the time Bennett was convicted of bribery, my father had spent most of our family fortune just trying to hold on to the factory.
“Ironically…” Fletcher paused for effect before adding, “my father wasn’t able to reopen the factory because environmental codes had changed during the time it was closed. It would have cost millions to bring the facility up-to-date.”
He pressed on, one arm sweeping out to take in the factory. “He filed a civil suit against Maryland. He filed another against Bennett. My father lost those cases. But through it all, he paid his taxes on this factory, and never gave up the dream of reopening it.”
Fletcher’s winsome movie star smile fell. “Sadly, my father passed away before he could realize his dream. I’ve followed in his footsteps, trying to secure finances to invest in the factory, to invest in the community!
“I was making progress, but a couple of years ago, the banks began turning me away. It took some digging, but I found that True Ally, a real estate company, had been snatching up every piece of property in the neighborhood. I approached them and offered them to sell, thinking I could rebuild my family’s legacy in a new location.
“No.” Fletcher shook his head. “Instead of negotiating, they laughed me out of their office. I didn’t know why, until the notices came… The government is demolishing the property and reclaiming the land for development.”
“To be fair, I was offered money,” Fletcher said. “But pennies on the dollar, and not nearly enough to rebuild.”
“True,” Santino said, reading documents faster than either Rachel or Phil could have located them. “Or true enough… I think if I dig deeper, some of this won’t hold up. There are time stamps on some of these that look a little hinky—”
Hill shushed him as Fletcher moved closer to the camera.
“Tell me, friends, what was I supposed to do? My father and I followed the law—all of the laws!—that were supposed to protect us. We are days away from demolition, and my land has been seized under the guise of eminent domain. They aren’t building a highway or a powerplant—they’re claiming my land has been abandoned and are selling my property to True Ally.
“So,” Fletcher said, holding out his hand. The camera turned, taking in a large number of men dressed in various shades of urban camouflage. They were armed, each of them carrying a minimum of two weapons. “Here we are. My friends and I have occupied my own building ahead of demolition, peacefully, to ask the government to reopen my family’s case. I have followed all legal channels within the fullest extent of the law; the least I expect is the government to do the same.
“I need to emphasize that this occupation is not a military movement. It is a peaceful protest. Every person on site is here willingly, and no one will be harmed. In fact, we met some people today who were glad to join our cause…”
The men stepped to the side, and there was Hope Blackwell.