A story without action

How the story of the "grune comet" was created

As a writer of science fiction, i am not one of those authors who comment on readers’ comments; everyone has the right to express his or her own opinion. But in this case i would like to make an exception

and tell how the story of the "green comet" came about. A surprisingly large number of telepolis readers have commented on this, and for them and others it may be interesting to learn the story of this somewhat offbeat short story.

In the first years of my work as a freelance writer, i met wilhelm goldmann, the founder and director of the publishing house named after him. He was one of those old, venerable publishing personalities that no longer exist today. One day, when he returned from a trip to the usa, he told me that he had discovered something very strange there, namely a genre of literature called science fiction. And he had decided to publish something like this in germany as well. Because he did not know much about technology and science, he asked me to take the matter in hand together with him. And he went on to say that he intended to publish the books not one after the other, but eight at a time, so that he could also attract interest from the press.

The opportunity for such an enterprise was favorable, because hardly anyone in the german-speaking countries had been interested in the book rights of the best american science fiction authors so far., they were cheap to get and we could smoke what we were interested in. Soon, seven contracts were signed, and there were difficulties with only one of the authors. What to do? Mr. Goldmann had a special idea: the date of the press conference could not be postponed, but fortunately the list of titles had not yet been published – would it not be possible to combine the short stories i had told into one volume?? I told him that there were only five or six stories, and none of them had more than two pages – how could that become a book?? Oh well, he said, i’m a writer, and he didn’t need the book for another fortnight. That was enough to fill a book with one hundred and eighty pages.

At that time i lived in a rural environment with a film producer. When he traveled occasionally, he would give me the keys to his mansion, a castle-like building. And exactly at that time, the owner had a trip planned, and that meant that i could work undisturbed for the next few days. And so i took the job.

In the park-like area there was a swimming pool, which was always dry because of leaks. I retreated to this pool with a dictation machine. It was a quiet, windless place where it was easy to work. When a visitor was approaching, i would carefully peek over the edge of the pool, and if the visitor was not important to me, i would quickly dive into my pool and continue writing undisturbed. And so i actually managed to deliver sixty-five stories.

There was only one difficulty left: on the first of my working days, mr. Goldman called me and told me that he needed to know the title of the book. I replied that i could not give a title, i was writing the book first. No, he could not take it into account, he needed the title now, for the press. Then i said: "the green comet".

This is the genesis of my first short story collection and the story "the green comet". The book was finished in time, the series was presented to the press, and i could be quite satisfied with my work and its success. Only at the very end of my work i was faced with a task that had given me a headache. When the first 64 stories were finished, the last one, the title story, in which a gruner comet was to play a leading role, was still missing. This story, i thought, had to be something special. And that’s when i got the idea: it should be a story without action, without characters, without creatures or landscapes that have ever been described, an abstract world with multiple dimensions of space and time. Can you write such a story? I have tried.

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