On Faith and the Difficulty of Writing

by Jeaves, a robot, as conveyed to Jeffrey A. Carver

You don’t have all the answers. And you never will. But you’ve got to have faith in the journey. That’s what my author says. It’s in the nature of writing.

My name is Jeaves. My author–who calls himself Carver–considers me a figment of his imagination. Hah! Actually I’m an Artificial Intelligence from the future.

I’ve spent more than my share of time hanging around the future, and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen Betelgeuse go supernova; I’ve seen Throgs in the Starstream; I’ve seen an eight-year-old girl save a starship. I’ve seen the future, the far future, the alien future, and been part of it; and I’ve come back through time to help out some others who are doing their best, in faith, to make things better than they might otherwise be.

There’s more than one kind of faith, of course–religious and otherwise. There’s faith in self, faith in God, faith in the Great Oneness of Everything, faith in logic, faith in chaos. Maybe they’re not so different as some would have you believe.

And then there’s faith in the writing process. When my author set out to write the science fiction novel where I first appeared (it’s called From a Changeling Star, and I’m very fond of it), the poor devil didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Not that he hadn’t written novels before: he’d penned half a dozen at that point, and had spent nearly six years creating one behemoth called The Infinity Link. (Why is it that his lon-n-ng novels always seem to have titles with words like “infinity” or “eternity” in them? Coincidence? I think not.) When he started on my book, Carver had an outline that he’d used to sucker an editor into contracting for it. That’s my interpretation; he might actually have believed that the outline made sense.

But if he thought it would serve as a guide through the minefields of writing the book, it didn’t quite work out that way. The outline involved an offworlder named Ruskin, who’d lost his memory through the meddling of some nano-agents, or NAGs, and who eventually discovered that he was part of a project to make a star go supernova in hopes of creating a stargate through the anchoring of a cosmic hyperstring to the resulting black hole–are you still with me? Well, my author’s outline had a few little gaps in it. Not unlike Ruskin’s memory.

A story is supposed to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Carver’s outline had the beginning and the end, and a lot of hand-waving in the middle. It’s a wonder the publisher bought it. But they had faith, you see. It wasn’t an unreasoning faith; it was faith that he would somehow pull off an engaging story, because he’d done it before. I know this because–after the book was written and published–his editor confessed the truth, that the outline had left her shaking her head in mystification.

It wasn’t just the editor, either. As my author set out to write the book, he found himself bewildered. He was a little like his amnesiac character, Ruskin–who, while struggling to recover his memories, discovered that he had warring sets of sentient nano-agents in his body, each trying to control him for its own purposes. Carver found his plot elements similarly at war. He drew himself mind-boggling flow charts, trying to make sense of it–and all the while wondering if this year-long writing effort would collapse on him like an avalanche of half-melted snow.

That’s where faith came in again. You see, he too had faith–shaky, yes; uncertain, yes; questioning, yes–but a faith in his ability, God willing, to put it all together in the end. He just kept going, juggling story-lines in his head, sometimes bobbling them, but never quite dropping them. Sometimes he doubted. Certainly he quailed when he gazed at his mess of a first draft, and listened to the critiques of his baffled writing group. But he had the faith, or stubbornness, to pick it up and rewrite it. The second time through, it made more sense than before, though frankly, that’s still not saying much. However, the essential threads were starting to shine through. At last, he could see where he was going, and why. At last, he could begin working in confidence.

And so he rewrote again.

And again.

I’m not going to say much about how, dope that he was, he neglected to do some important research about the inner workings of supernovas until really late in the game, and then had to scramble to go back and fix it all because he couldn’t live with having the science wrong. I’ll let him tell about that some other time.

He doesn’t like to admit it, but he was just plain scared. Scared that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off, scared that he’d promised something he couldn’t deliver. But he was also exhilarated. He was dancing on fire and ice, trying to find his way through to the story’s end. And you know what? When all was said and done, he actually felt that it was the best damn thing he’d ever written. I did, too. (But of course, it was where I came into existence. And neither of us knew then that he was going to let me narrate the book that followed, the one with the Throgs and the girl. Or that I would find my way into another series of books that would link two universes together. That’s how the journey goes, discovering one thing after another.)

Even now, many books later, he still thinks it’s one of his best. And he thinks that the way in which he wrote it–faith in the face of fear–probably had a lot to do with the way it came out.

It’s happened since, in other books; and according to him, it’s never gotten any easier. He says it’s analogous to a faith in God–a joining of the rational and the irrational, the head and the heart, taking a great leap into the dark from what you can see, to try to understand what you can’t see.

I started by saying, you don’t have all the answers. Well, here I am, an AI who’s been kicking up and down the timeline for eons, and I still don’t have a clue to some of the questions troubling me. But I intend to take a cue from my author, who says–in his more optimistic and lucid moments–that it’s not the answers, but the searching, that makes the journey worthwhile.

Jeaves is an artificial intelligence (AI) who has inhabited many different bodies over the eons, from human-built robots to intelligence systems of alien origin. His first generally known adventures occurred in the science fiction novels From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars, by the human author Jeffrey A. Carver. At the end of the latter story, Jeaves passed out of presently recorded human knowledge for a time, only to reappear in a very different setting in the third book of the same author’s The Chaos Chronicles. At that point he had spent untold years looping up and down through the time stream, pondering his own existence, and witnessing long stretches of future history–most of which he has not yet revealed. It is hoped that he will provide more information in forthcoming volumes of the Chaos story.

Copyright © 2000 by Jeffrey A. Carver