You can’t go home again. That’s just true. Thomas Wolfe wrote a whole book about it. Or his editor did, anyway. Today’s 3F3 is from that time when I went home again, back to the place where my first novel was born. I remember…
The year is 2018. I’m 38 years old.
We had spent five years in Japan before moving to Columbia, Maryland. I was coasting into my senior year, ready to graduate with friends I’d known for five years (forever in military brat time), when everything suddenly changed. I found myself in a new city, starting a new year at a school where I knew nobody. But just like every other military brat, I had been there before. I had done it before.
I made friends, met a girl, and before I knew it, it was time to move once again. This time, it was to the Jester West dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin. Two important things happened that year:
- The Matrix came out. I saw it twice in the theater.
- I tried a long-distance relationship.
Years later, when I looked back on that time, I got what I still think is one of the greatest story ideas I’ve ever had: what if Matrix technology had existed in our 1999?
I started comparing a world where the best tools for maintaining a long-distance relationship were email, ICQ, and prepaid long distance cards versus a fully immersive virtual reality. The story was pretty easy to write after that.
Over the years, my memory of Maryland faded, and even when I was writing Xronixle, I had to consult Google Maps to see where things were laid out. Much of my time there was lost to dramatization and confabulation.
I honestly never thought I’d see that place again.
But, it just so happened that twenty years after I left Columbia, my job sent me back. Well, not to Columbia, but it was just a short drive away. I knew as soon as I got the news that I would have to go visit the old haunts, visit old friends. I found that everything had changed so much. Trees have overtaken the landscape, but the bridges and paths I walked were still there.
The bridges and paths X walked with C were still there.