A New Novel: Virtual Yardies
My friends, Mad Bull, et al, will be pleased to know that I've finished the manuscript, Virtual Yardies.
You see, about a year ago, Mad Bull was going to be in Jamaica and he invited all of the Jamaican bloggers and those who were passing through to have what he called a "Link-up"—Jamaican for "Meet-up." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go, but as I looked at the pictures of the bloggers at the "Link Up," a story began to emerge in my head. What if, given the anonymity of the blogosphere, one of the bloggers turned out to be a murderer? Then, I asked myself, who would want to murder bloggers? The more I asked myself these questions, I wondered about the form of the story. I've always been intrigued by the Joycean quote, "The nail paring god of creation," and wondered if this could be applied to this story. Sure enough, another idea came and I thought, what if the story was told entirely as blogs, IMs, and e-mails?
I immediately sent out e-mails to the attendees of the event and asked them some basic questions and then wrote the story. What emerged was a first of its kind novel, Virtual Yardies, an epistolary novel whose narrative, if it can be called that, is held together by blogs, e-mails, and Instant Messages (IMs).
Virtual Yardies is about a group of Jamaican bloggers, many of whom have never met, and decide to have "meet-up" in Negril and the reunion takes a murderous turn. Their group has been infiltrated by a religious zealot who is determined to make the island "righteous" again by killing all of them for their "sins against God and man."
With the rise in religious fundamentalism and homophobia in Jamaica (according to Time, "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth,") Virtual Yardies is a fictional examination of the effects of these issues on the lives of those who live on the other side of the "digital divide." It's also about women, anonymity, and the Internet (Kathy Sierra), and how this new phenomena, blogging, is affecting relationships and community.
Virtual Yardies is a love story between Andrew (Virtual Yardy) and Valerie (Cockpit Country Warrior), but is also an exploration of ideas about race, the Jamaican Diaspora, love, religious fundamentalism, openness in cyberspace, freedom, responsibility, relationships with fathers, memory, homophobia, and the effects of these issues on a community. The action of the novel takes place in Jamaican cyberspace, Jamaica, Miami, and the Cayman Islands and covers the period from the start of Lent through Easter Sunday. Finally, the characters range from the flirtatious Nikki with an Eye on You! to the closeted queer, Cricket, Lovely Cricket, Rastafarian, Ital Herbalist, and the self-righteous AIDS warrior, Maxine's World.
Of course, Virtual Yardies plays on the idea of mimicry (Naipaul), being and becoming, and the virtual landscape.
I finished the novel and it languished on my desktop for about three months because the few presses that I had contacted turned down the offer to publish Virtual Yardies. Imagine my when I read in Tempest Press's blog (Monday, January 22, 2007), "On the literary front, I wonder if we can expect a novel or memoir composed entirely of blogs or e-mail correspondence?"
And I thought, if this idea is out there in the ether (now known as the blogosphere), then I better finish with the edits quickly.
Well, Mad Bull, Georgia, and Leon I've finished it! And although my agent, Janell Agyeman, who has just returned from the book expo in New York, says that many of the publishers are still lukewarm--they say it's a novel about non-US people about a subject few know anything about--she's going to try anyway because Virtual Yardies is the first of it's kind in fiction--because if it is published as I imagine it (a blog novel), it creates a new kind of reading experience: a novel that can be read in a linear fashion or based on the hyperlinks in a circular mode.
Light a candle for me.