Susan and Jack, now energy beings, are assisting a parallel Earth in the braided multiverse where things are unfolding very differently because of one critical decision made by Susan’s father. And now, this world may be doomed…
Susan and Jack have left Earth, but there are many more worlds out there. Many more Earths, even.
I’ve had this one for over a year but it’s been hard to get a handle on the story. It started as a case of following the strange little riff in “Solsbury Hill” and letting the music go where it wanted. It started to paint a picture, and it definitely concluded a story that felt like it needed a coda, but it didn’t quite seem to be the future of the Novas universe. It was something else.
So I’ve let it be that something else.
It is 1999. One of the 1999s, at least. No, one of the other 1999s…
It is 1979. Susan and the other children of SKYWATCH, now calling themselves the Novas, have been on the run in the city underground, building a tentative career as punk musicians while dodging the attentions of the Center for Scientific Progress.
(previously in Program Eleven/II: Novas 184.108.40.206 )
So far there are nine entries in the “Program Eleven” series, each a playlist of eleven songs, and kicked off a year ago in honour of the Apollo 11 anniversary. Because I like big round numbers, naturally there would be two more, though I didn’t know what they’d be.
These final two entries turned out to be prequels filling in the story years 1978 and 1979, explaining how Susan ended up in the situation we find her in in Novas 5.3 – a singer alone, on the run from the sinister Company, haunted, and with mysterious memory gaps.
(A guiding image that came to me from the songs “Gloria” and “Shadows of the Night”, and which itself was part of finding a backstory to “Danseparc (Every Day It’s Tomorrow)”, where Susan just sort of appeared my head as an avatar of the 80s, *my* 80s, the decade as seen through wide preteen eyes, who’d been there all along… the New Wave singer with a kind of electrical halo of big-science strangeness about her. Was she an alien or a robot or a clone? Was she a spy or in space or in a nuclear war or in love or trapped inside a computer or leading a punk revolution? Why not all of those! What’s a story that can maximise all the sci-fi potentials? And there it began.)
(Look, it’s hard to explain my process here. I just go where my instinct seems to be pointing and then I stop when the songs seem to be the right ones. The music comes first. Then I play around with backstage story parameters until everything fits. Using songs as story modules is a randomiser, a bit like drawing cards, but it’s not completely random because they have to be songs I like.)
So now it’s the years 1960 to 1978, in that rock-opera continuum slightly ahead of ours where everything is a bit faster and neon-brighter and more Jim Steinman. But now it’s also sort of the Young Adult book version of that.
(You’ve also probably noticed by now that albums in the Eleven series with titles that start with “The” are inside the “System”, which is not quite strictly speaking always a VR simulation but more like a sort of Dollhouse kind of setup with both a simulated reality and a kind of cyborg-agent mode. And titles that start with “A” are fully outside the System, in the Real World of Novas. If not, then heads up, that’s a thing. I’ll explain later. There’ll be a little bit of retconning to do but not too much. The point is that spy adventure happens because there is spy music, and sometimes it works best for the story as simulated and sometimes it works best as real. The nuclear war happens in a simulation; the visit to the USSR happens for real, but it’s also kind of unreal because Susan (and later, Jack) keeps getting memory-wiped, because, cyborg. Except for The Day After Tomorrow. That one’s about the actual real world, popping a level up the stack. And The Earth Forever Turning is clearly Susan’s dream while she’s inside the System, but it’s actually also about the real Apollo 50th anniversary in 2019. It made sense at the time. Long story short, the Eleven series is broken into two sub-series, The and A. The A series happens outside of the computer. We are now in the A series at this point in time.)