So let me tell you what I was trying to achieve with Fine Structure.
This is going to be a little difficult for me to write because one of the first and most important things I was aiming for here was to write as original a piece of science fiction as I could manage. I deliberately tried to avoid invoking as many science fiction (and general fiction) tropes as I could. Irony? I wanted to create something which was pretty new. The central concepts of Fine Structure - most notably, the concept of information as a substance with an equivalence with energy and mass - was, as far as I know, pretty much entirely original, as well as naturally (through a little creative application) giving rise to a surprising number of wonderful new technologies and powers, such as teleportation, telepathy, mind control, memes, antimemes and other things which are generally impossible. Memes and antimemes in particular, as powerful tangible objects with offensive capabilities, are pretty new in modern fiction. This also gave rise to the concept of the Script as an informational representation of the Structure - "the same thing from different angles". The Script also builds from a concept I first outlined in the Ed story The annoying orange orb outside my window each morning, which in turn was inspired from the line in Futurama where it's revealed that while FTL is still impossible, scientists have simply increased the speed of light to enable intergalactic travel.
The major source of inspiration for the Powers plot, meanwhile, was comic books. I love comic books. Like all media, they have their criticisms, but most of all I like the scale of the stories, the absence of anything in the way of a budget, the lack of restriction on who can appear where, and the idea of working in a shared universe which has so much historical significance and inertia after being built up by previous generations over decades and decades. Comic book movies do exist, and despite the limitations of the medium they have, for the most part, served well. Comic book prose, meanwhile, has usually been pretty unpleasant. I can't get past the first chapter of the Crisis On Infinite Earths novelisation and it's written by a guy who writes truly tremendous comics. They are simply different skills. Tying together as many superpowers as possible inside a unified and logically consistent framework was fun, sure. I'm particularly proud of the fact that Mitch Calrus' power set is almost exactly the same as the Martian Manhunter's. X-ray vision, invisibility, intangibility: all covered in one entirely rational leap of logic! But the main challenge I saw in front of me was "how do you write a comic book fight?"
I wanted to put the reader right there in the moment. This is why Power Of Two is written in the first person perspective, and why the whole story (other than the anomalous On Digital Extremities) is written in the present tense. Comic books are written in the present tense, and these days the "internal monologue" is pretty ubiquitous, and both of these practices put the reader closer to the action. It feels like it is happening now to me, not something that was happening then to that guy. I also wanted to capture the scale of threats which comic book universes feature so frequently, in a way which felt as close to reality as I could manage. In case you hadn't noticed, Oul is the Galactus of the Fine Structure universe: the cosmic, unstoppable supergod which we see coming from space to destroy the whole Earth, which we then drive off with our superior science and heroism. This is also why there's a Fine Structure multiverse. It just occurred to me one day that there should be a multiverse, and this is where the chapter 'Verse Chorus, in which the multiverse is created, came from. The underlying thread of a series of superheroes, each one being twice as powerful as the previous one (and hence more powerful than all the previous superheroes combined) is one which I've had in mind for years and years.
I wanted to capture the pace, scale and frantic complexity of, let's be honest here, Grant Morrison and Joe Kelly's JLA comics. I wanted to build a story complex enough to be worth multiple readings, with buried detail for the closely observant - although I've dug most of that up myself in the Q&A. Several of the chapters aren't intended to tell a story but to capture feelings at specific moments in time, similar to how The Custodian did in his short story Chase scene whose title I immediately knew I had to steal to make Fight scene. And, most of all, I wanted to be able to build up to a monumental climax in which the whole world and everybody in it is miraculously saved, at tremendous cost, and at the last possible millisecond, from the direst peril. This is how every superhero story ends, right? "All the heroes are dead. The Sun is falling into a black hole. The anti-God makes Earthfall in fifteen minutes. It's time to save the world. TO BE CONCLUDED."
I wanted to improve my descriptive skills, which is why Fine Structure is less driven by dialogue than the Ed Stories were. 1970- in particular was a major exercise in description for me. For future stories, I'm intending to work on my characterisation and giving unique voices to characters. At the moment they all sound pretty much interchangeable.
As for a moral-- an implication for the modern world, as is traditional in science fiction-- well, Fine Structure is a story about the importance of science. The main message of Fine Structure is: science will save the world. Science is the only thing that can save the world. Science is unstoppable, reason cannot be killed, logic cannot be stopped, there is no force on Earth which can stop a scientist from learning, and turning our backs on science will doom us all. Even the gods are rational and obey laws. The future is not something which happens by just waiting for time to pass. And if you want to be assured of a life after death, you have to build it yourself.
Thank you all ever so much for reading.