Work continues on the commuter folklore book. The text so far is strange and fascinating; the publishing side is proving interesting too. There is so much to plan – layouts, covers, proof-reading and so on. Asking about a proof-reader led to a flood of offers – some of whom included typos in their emails. It looks as if I have someone to work with, and I just need to finish the text.
Currently I am doing lots of research and filling my head with lots of ideas:
The (factual, real world) history of commuting has turned out to be absorbing. Commuting predates both the railways and the coaches – there used to be ‘walking commuters’ who came to London from outlying villages. The word commuter itself dates turns out to be American and dates back to the 1840s.
Most interesting is the way the train commuter has gone from aspirational figure to derided as dull. Early commuters were taking advantage of new technology to live outside the grimness of cities. By the twentieth century they were mocked in comedies like Monty Python and Reginald Perrin.
As I research, I’m starting to write the new pieces. Some are emerging from notes made in the years since the original project. Others have been triggered by the books I’ve been reading. Many years ago, on the Bad Signal mailing list, Warren Ellis wrote about where his ideas come from:
“I flood my poor ageing head with information. Any information. Lots of it. And I let it all slosh around in the back of my brain, in the part normal people use for remembering bills, thinking about sex and making appointments to wash the dishes. Eventually, you get a critical mass of information. Datum 1 plugs into Datum 3 which connects to Datum 3 and Data 4 and 5 stick to it and you’ve got a chain reaction.”
I’ve overloaded my mind with the details and background of commuting, along with the history of British railways. It’s now combining with all the oddness that usually sits in my head: Sussex ghosts, ley lines, modern hauntings, what the Internet really is. And it’s time to put it together. I can’t wait to see what comes out.