Your Cities Now Are Hours

12 November 2008

Once upon a time, there was an unpublished book called

The Wages of Gonzo Lubitsch.

That presented two problems:

1. Any time the author gave the name of the book – at a party or in someone’s living room or whatever – the person he was talking to invariably said


This was alarming because books need good word-of-mouth, which is hard to achieve if no one can remember or understand or even process the sense data from hearing the title.

2. The name Gonzo was irretrievably associated with Hunter S. Thompson, who had recently died, and every third book was called “[somethingorother] Gonzo”. The title was supposed to reference the muppet of the same name, but supposed doesn’t solve the problem.

So with heavy hearts, the author and the publishers got together to change the name of the book. And that’s where the fun began.

The author went home and came up with ten to twenty alternative titles every day for ten days – and that’s not even counting the ones he rejected because they made no sense at all.

Some of the tamer titles were:

The Haulage & Hazmat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company of Exmoor County

The Great Bewilderment

The Unanticipated Man

Then there were some which were a bit weird:

Other Side Front

The Unanticipated Consequences of a Clockwork Plan

The World, Unravelled

And finally there were some which were just bonkers, but were really great titles for something:

All Or Nothing Days

Spokane ’37


Your Cities Now Are Hours

I’m not going to explain all of them – I might use them one day – but that last one, because it is almost certain that I will never, ever find a way of getting it out there, is something I want to mention because I’m secretly really fond of it. So fond, in fact, that the whole 3rd-person-narrative thing of this post has dried up and blown away. For the best, probably – it was starting to sound just a teensie bit arch.

I wanted something which would have the odd-factor of All Your Base Are Belong To Us, but with that additional sting: the suggestion of transforming a simple physical space into an abstracted unit of time. I was going to steal the origin of “all your base” – quirky videogame translations – and weave it into the story which was eventually known as

The Gone-Away World. (Of course.)

And the Go Away Bombs would allow me my mad little moment, taking the perfectly ordinary statement of world domination, your cities now are ours, adding an h to get the crazy hours, suggesting space=>time and finally referencing the videogame-ishness of bombs falling onto a world you can’t defend in an impossible battle which has no apparent cause. A certain group of people would have found this unbelievably clever and cool.

It is a very, very small group.

It may, in fact, include only me.

My editor, joy to him and his house unto the tenth generation, said:

“Nick. What was the point of this whole thing?”

To produce a title people would be able to remember and say to one another.

“Without having to spell it.”

Yes. Oh. Ah. Damn.


And finally, by a combination of efforts and creativities and stubbornnesses, we got to the title we now have. Which I love.

But there is still a part of me which mourns the worst title ever: Your Cities Now Are Hours.

This has been a completely self-indulgent post. Thanks for listening…

Ooooh! But I just had a totally cool thought! I don’t think there’s a word for the nostalgia one feels for something which never happened! Sort of the opposite of Foz‘s mnemencholia. Which would make it…


See? You waded through all that and you caught me neologising! That has to be worth the ticket! No?


3 Comments to “Your Cities Now Are Hours”

  • Jeanne said on November 12th, 2008:

    Totally worth the ticket. Reading author blogs–and having the authors actually talk about their books that I love–makes me feel like I’ve gotten what Holden Caulfield wanted, to be able to call up an author after you’ve read his book and talk to him…or hear him talk to himself!

  • Foz Meadows said on November 12th, 2008:

    Parastalgia – love it! :)

    Every book/story I’ve ever tried to write, I have a sucky time with titles. Inevitably, it ends up on my harddrive under the name of the protagonist, where it stays, because I rarely find anything better. Although I am quite proud of the short story I wrote recently, The Nihilist Ice Cream Parlour, but even so, I stole it from a drunken conversation. Muahaha.

  • MikeCamel said on November 14th, 2008:

    That group of one would include me, in some strange modality. (Why does my mobile know how to spell “modality”, anyhow?)

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