First of all, may I say what an honour it is to once again write for The Chestermere Anchor for the first time in (checks resume for dates) bloody hell, it’s been thirteen years! Some of you may remember me as The Lakeside Limey – a 20-something Brit with a camera slung over his shoulder and a notepad in his hand who turned up to events in what was then the Town of Chestermere, bugging people and asking lots of questions for about a year or so in the mid-naughties.
Well, now I am an almost-40-year-old fully fledged Canadian citizen based in Moncton, New Brunswick. Most of my career has been spent as an advertising copywriter and creative director on Canada’s east coast, but the story of my first novel, Pedestal, starts way before I ever made it across the Atlantic.
It was around the turn of the millennium in a student house shared with four other young miscreants that I first put pen to paper on Pedestal. A twenty-year-old English major stoked by the fire of having been told by a high school English teacher that I “had the writing style to be able to write novels”, I skipped all the advice of old folk that knew better and dived straight into writing a sci-fi epic. I would be the youngest ever Hugo winner, launched into a career as a writer that would see me never have to work a proper job or worry about rent again.
Except, of course, it didn’t quite go that way.
What instead happened – and what I never would have predicted as that naïve, slightly arrogant young student – was that Pedestal became a labour of love (and sometimes less favourable emotions) that would be with me for the next two decades. That’s right – it took me fully 20 years to bring it from concept to published reality.
What happened? Life. I bounced around Canada, enjoyed a career with an ad agency that was every bit what you think it might have been if you’ve ever seen an episode of Mad Men. I came through a couple of failed relationships, an eventual realization that perhaps alcohol and I were better off apart (7.5 years since my last pint, now), a bunch of jobs, and a recent Adult ADHD diagnosis that actually made a lot of sense of everything my life had been up until this point.
But through all that, Pedestal remained with me. It’s a little blurry, but I think I had a reasonable first draft by around 2004. I revisited it several times over the years, but could never quite seem to get it ‘there’. I wrote other stuff. Lots of ads. Songs, poems. Some other, shorter stories. But Pedestal, its world, and its characters stayed with me, at times in the form of renewed inspiration, but mainly as the albatross around my neck – the project I could never get finished, and the reason I couldn’t possibly move onto anything else.
It was probably around 2015 that my good university friend, Pete Farmer, who now lives with his lovely family in Australia, stepped in. Always a much more disciplined writer than I, and technically brilliant, Pete took my ragged tome and gave me extensive notes to help whip Pedestal into shape, which prompted me to…sit on it for another year or so.
The prospect of an extensive edit, involving a fair amount of rewriting – of new writing – was a scary one. At the time, I was attempting to be a freelancer, and keeping the cash flowing took up a lot of my time and energy. It was hard to fit Pedestal in.
And there’s the crux if it. It has been hard to get Pedestal finished and out to the world. Really bloody hard. But, with the help of some friends, I am proud to say it now is.
In the end, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Mitton, you have to show some discipline. You have to see this through.” And, in the end, I did. I would set aside an hour a day to work on it and, over the course of a few months, I had a manuscript I felt worthy of showing to a publisher. That publisher liked it, and a couple more years on, here we are.
I’m really grateful that my former editor, “The Boss”, my good friend, Steve Jeffrey, asked me to write this short piece for The Chestermere Anchor. It will form the basis of a blog post I will soon release through my website, garethmitton.com, which, in the first of a few shameless plugs, I encourage you to visit to learn more about me and my work.
But enough about the story behind Pedestal. What about the story that is Pedestal? Well, it’s a science fiction piece. Wait, come back! Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I think you’ll find something here. My logline when asked that question all writers fear, “What is your novel about?” has long been this: Man reinvents God through technology. (I know – heavy, right? I was a weird kid!)
To go a little deeper, here’s the spiel:
In a future where the rich and privileged live in sprawling megacities stacked high above the now-squalor surface cities below, a third layer of reality tempts in rich and poor alike. ALTS – Alternative Immersive Environments – offer a means of escape both for those above and below. Delivered via nano-bugs that course through the bloodstream and latch directly onto the brain, these worlds are every bit as real to the user as their everyday lives – but substantially more exciting. As the strong arm of the law begins to reach out for the powerful software companies that bring billions of users into their parallel worlds, something even more powerful is brewing inside. An artificial intelligence the likes of which no world has ever seen.
Pedestal is a technological sci-fi thriller charting the story of the young geniuses behind the tech, the underfunded investigators that seek to protect the masses from their creations, and the burgeoning, ever-evolving A.I. that is turning its eye back on them all. As the lines of Topside, Underside, and ALT begin to blur, the countdown has begun. But a countdown to what?
Sounds pretty exciting, right?
For me, the really exciting part is seeing Pedestal in print after all these years. That was the goal and I didn’t think much beyond it. But now that I’ve birthed the thing, the reactions I’m beginning to see are an unexpected reward, too. Said respected book reviewer, Bill Arnott, of The Miramichi Reader:
“Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke may have laid the foundation, but we’ll always need visionaries and creators – essential for the future. Gareth Mitton is both of these things.”
Holy actual crap, did he just compare me to my heroes?
In closing, I hope you will pick up a copy of Pedestal and enjoy the ride. And I hope I won’t take 20 bloody years to write the next one.
Pedestal is available in paperback and eBook formats though Amazon. You can learn more about Gareth Mitton, see his work, read his blog, and try to figure out what he’s getting at with his doodles, at garethmitton.com. If you read and like Pedestal, an Amazon review would be massively appreciated!