Hardback 9781908125040 Paperback 9781908125057
My Brother’s Keeper
The Silver Wind
Timelines: An Afterword
Martin Newland is fascinated by the nature of time. Watches and clocks are for him metaphorical time machines, a secret means of coming to terms with his clouded past and voyaging forward into the future. But was his first timepiece a Smith, given to him on his fourteenth birthday, or the Longines he received as a present four years later? Was it the small brass travelling clock unearthed in a run-down house for which he is to act as estate agent? Who is the maker of these time machines? Clues abound but contradict each other: was it an ex-seaside circus performer, or a ‘miracle dwarf’ engaged in a government project to subvert the course of time into parallel realities? As Martin pursues these mysteries, is he haunted by the spirit of his dead brother, or by the death of his beloved sister? The answer to all these questions is yes.
The Silver Wind was published by Eibonvale Press in 2011. Although it would be contentious to call this book a novel, and although each of the chapters you’ll find inside it can be read as a standalone story, I have always thought of it as a single entity.
The book took shape over the course of several years. ‘Time’s Chariot’ and ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ were always companion pieces, two separate but connected attempts at beginning a novel. I wrote about three different versions of ‘The Silver Wind’ before I found one I was happy with, and there was another, wholly Martin-led version of ‘Rewind’ before I realised that what the book needed was a story that gave Miranda a point of view. The clocks and watches belonging to the grandmother in ‘Timelines’ are all real – they belonged to my own grandmother, Hilda Lily, and the silver half-hunter that originally belonged to her adoptive father Raymond was actually the core inspiration for this book.
I love clocks and watches. They have a magic to them, something that arises out of William Morris’s stipulation that for something to be truly beautiful it must also be useful, and that useful things should be made to be aesthetically pleasing. There are few man-made objects more formally lovely than a well made timepiece – and a lovely watch is the epitome of contented self-containment. I woke up one morning and realised I had no idea how a mechanical wristwatch actually worked and so I set out to learn something about that. I was especially delighted to discover that in the digital age there still exists a company of elite watchmakers, master craftsmen who continue to refine techniques that have been steadily and continually in use for hundreds of years.
And then of course there’s time itself. We think of time as a fixed, objective quantity yet clock time is in reality a wholly artificial construct, and anyone who’s ever waited for a bus or been late for an important appointment will be aware of how no ten revolutions of a clock’s hands are ever subjectively the same.
A clock is in the most literal sense of the word a time machine. I wanted to write something about that, too.
The hero of these stories is Martin Newland, an ordinary man with the qualities of the extraordinary we all share. I like to think of him as my ‘Time Traveller’ in homage to the novel that made me fall in love with speculative fiction, H. G. Wells’s perennially magical The Time Machine. Martin has his own particular problems, griefs and talents, but he is also in a sense an everyman. Like any man, he yearns to know where he is headed, and what the universe is finally about. His struggle to come to an accommodation with infinity is perhaps the theme that most unifies these stories, but the stories themselves deal with those small acts of creative defiance that allow the artist to transcend ordinary mortality.
You can buy The Silver Wind here.