Speaking of Men (MMMporium 2015) is a satirical reimagining of the Tower of Babel story from the perspective of the women. It was the first novel I completed (in 2010) but was published two years after Seattle in Shorts, almost five years after Speaking of Men was written. The reason for the delay was that it was written for my first effort at National Novel Writing Month. I was nervous about the thought of uploading my text at the end of the competition and so decided to write something that I was never likely to publish. In this case it was because I thought that the humour was not sustainable and so I never returned to finish the novel that had been abandoned at 19,000 words. The reason that I abandoned it was because a friend was murdered and after her funeral I did not have the heart to continue. The reason I decided to pick up the project again and publish it was so that I could write a brief euology to Sonia Burgess, but when I re-read it I realised that the novel had been completed at 19,000 words and that I had wanted to expand it to fit in with the National Novel Writing Month target of 50,000 words. Although I had already written a new ending I decided to keep the novel to what was written up to the point of Sonia's funeral.
The origins of Speaking of Men was as a short story about the women at the building site of the Tower of Babel. That idea would have been difficult to turn into a 50,000 word novel especially as I spent the first week of National Novel Writing Month writing a different novel that I was struggling to get anywhere with. So to help me pump out the words I decided to invent a world setting that is absent from the Bible story and to expand the idea to building Capital City as an alternative to living in cities scattered across the region, with a tower reaching to heaven at its centre. The speed at which I was able to write (19,000 words in ten days) and the style of humour were enabled by my conviction that this was a book I would never publish. When I re-read it two years I discovered that it only required a light edit to make it publishable and the humour had not been as wacky as I remembered. That re-read was the first time I had read the text since Sonia's funeral and I had built up a very different image in my head of the writing style. The published version is very close to what I wrote in November 2010.
Not everyone will be comfortable with a satire of part of the Bible, but that brief ancient story has only three elements: all people spoke the same language, they started to build a city and tower, God intervened, and the people not spoke in a multitude of languages. Speaking of Men takes that outline and creates a new world in which men merely pretend to be religious to keep the women happy. God still intervenes, but the religious element is peripheral to the novel, which focuses on the notion that the entire world population (even allowing for the story of the flood) would work together on building one city.
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