Communion Of Dreams

“All our futures tend to be made up out of bits and pieces of our present.”

A very insightful essay into the role which speculative fiction played in the Victorian era, and how it is still echoed in our fiction today:  Future perfect Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future

Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is very much worth reading:

It’s easy to pick and choose when reading this sort of future history from the privileged vantage point of now – to celebrate the predictive hits and snigger at the misses (Wells thought air travel would never catch on, for example); but what’s still striking throughout these books is Wells’s insistence that particular technologies (such as the railways) generated particular sorts of society, and that when those technologies were replaced (as railways would be by what he called the ‘motor truck’ and the ‘motor carriage’), society would need replacing also.

It makes sense to read much contemporary futurism in this way too: as a new efflorescence of this Victorian tradition. Until a few years ago, I would have said that this way of using technology to imagine the future was irrecoverably dead, since it depended on our inheritance of a Victorian optimism, expressed as faith in progress and improvement as realisable individual and collective goals. That optimism was still there in the science fiction of Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, but it fizzled out in the 1960s and ’70s. More recently, we’ve been watching the future in the deadly Terminator franchise, rather than in hopeful film such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The coupling of technological progress and social evolution that the Victorians inaugurated and took for granted no longer seemed appealing.


I think this is very much why many people find that Communion of Dreams seems to fit in so well with the style of SF from the 1950s and 60s — in spite of being set in a post-apocalyptic world, there is an … optimism … and a sense of wonder which runs through it (which was very deliberate on my part). As noted in a recent Amazon review*:

James Downey has created a novel that compares favorably with the old masters of science fiction.
Our universe would be a better place were it more like the one he has imagined and written about so eloquently.

Anyway, go read the Aeon essay by Iwan Rhys Morus (who happens to be a professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales — no, I did not make this up).


Jim Downey

*Oh, there’s another new review up I haven’t mentioned.

In search of the lost cords.*

So, a couple of things to share this morning …

One, the decision has been made: we’ll be going with a design for the leather bindings which includes raised cords on the spine. In terms of the response I got from people, it wasn’t even much of a competition — “cords” were the favorite almost 10 to 1.

But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.

Two, if you are expecting to get a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams, but haven’t yet told me of your color preferences, do so soon. Further, if you didn’t get a confirmation response from me acknowledging your choices, then please contact me again. Because I had something of a book conservation emergency drop into my lap 10 days ago, things have been delayed a bit — but I’ll still be ordering leather and starting on those bindings before the end of the month. Please don’t delay.

And three, there’s a new review up on Amazon you might want to check out. Here’s an excerpt:

this book is very well worth your time if you love classic sci-fi. i would say that so far it is a combination of arthur c. clarke, isaac asimov, and a little stephen king. not too shabby for an unknown author. not sure if this is a series, and don’t want to ruin anything for myself by finding spoilers in reading others’ reviews. i’ll finish this book first. that may be soon- already lost most of a night’s sleep reading it. this is an original alternative universe, populated by humans and their robots, being created here; that is why it reminds me of asimov.

As always, I invite you to produce your own review, rate the book or other reviews, or just leave a comment in any reviews which particularly engage you. And you don’t have to do so only on Amazon — if you participate in another venue where such a review or recommendation would be appropriate, the help is always appreciated.

One final note: yup, the writing is proceeding apace. More on that later.


Jim Downey

*Always did like that album: 


But wouldn’t (The World Series) be confusing?

A couple weeks ago, when I was setting up the price change and promotional stuff for the one-year anniversary of Communion of Dreams, I was again confronted with something I had pondered and then ignored previously: was this book part of a “series”?

See, when you’re going through the interface to publish a book with Amazon, that’s one of the questions you need to answer. The helpful little dialog box explains the idea this way:

A series is a connected set of books. If this book is part of a series, identify where the book exists in the sequence with a volume number. We only accept volume numbers in numerical format (“1”, “2”, or “3”). Magazines and journals are also often grouped as a series. Identifying the series helps customers find other books in the series.
Having such a series is a long and well-established literary tradition, particularly in genre fiction. Sometimes an author sets out to construct a series, sometimes a series is identified after the fact. Some authors are only known for a given series, others have several. I think Isaac Asimov is credited with like 47 separate but inter-related series, an all-time record.
These days most authors seem to consider naming a series as a marketing tool, as is indicated in the above blurb from Amazon. Just looking at the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations on the Amazon page for Communion of Dreams, there are these named series:

It makes me jealous.

Well, OK, it doesn’t really.  But it does make me wonder. What would I call the series for the slightly-altered-universe in which Communion of Dreams exists?

When I first published Communion of Dreams, I thought that I would eventually like to write several other related books, but I didn’t know for sure whether I would ever get around to doing so. I mean, we make plans, and have hopes & dreams and all that, but it seemed both a little presumptuous as well as potentially risky (in the “tempting fate” sort of way) to claim that I was going to write a series of books before seeing what the response to the first one was.

And then there’s the complicating fact that at least for the time being I consider Communion of Dreams to be the end of any such series. St. Cybi’s Well is a prequel — the start of the so-called series, in fact. And I have some rough ideas for other books which would be related to the overall story arc, about one per decade of the time between now and the setting of Communion (2052). But those are just approximations. How can I number the books in the series when I have little confidence in how many there will be? And wouldn’t it be confusing to number the books in the order they are written, since they jump around in chronological sequence?

Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I could use some help and suggestions with this. If you’ve read Communion of Dreams, you have some sense of the overall arc of the series, at least as the history is outlined in that book. And I’ve chatted a fair amount about St. Cybi’s Well. Knowing those things, what do *you* think would be a good ‘series name’ for these books?

I’m serious — I’d like suggestions. Post it here in a comment, drop me an email, say something over on the FB page. If I use your suggestion, I’ll credit you with it and send you a hand-bound copy of either Communion of Dreams or St. Cybi’s Well depending on your preference (and if you’ve already got those coming as part of the Kickstarter rewards or something, we’ll work out an equitable substitute).



Jim Downey


Well, when you put it like *that*…

I’ve noted in the past that there have been a number of interesting comparisons of Communion of Dreams with the works of Arthur C. Clarke in general, and with 2001: A Space Odyssey in particular.  Which isn’t surprising, since the book is an intentional homage to that book, referencing it directly at several points. I’ve tried to be clear that I am not trying to claim that my writing is on the same level as Clarke’s — if nothing else, I have only written one book and am very conscious of the fact that I am following along a well-worn path, one which he initially cut through the wilderness and many others have since trod. Still, it is flattering when someone else thinks that my book is good enough to even consider a comparison to 2001.

Well, that sort of thing has happened again, with a new review on Amazon which went up yesterday. It’s quite positive, and says things like this:

James Downey has written a very strong sci-fi story that, like all good sci-fi, takes the reader on a wonderful journey into the realm of future human possibilities.

Then, amusingly, it closes with this:

The only reason I did not give it five stars is because I don’t rate it as great a story as say the classic Isaac Asimov Foundation series or Frank Herbert’s Dune, but otherwise it is a book well worth the time to read and savor.

Yeah, when you’re judging my book against such classic works as those, hell, I’d give it only 4 stars as well. Once again, those works were trail-blazers, and that alone makes it difficult for anything which follows to be fairly compared.
Anyway. I’d like to ask two things:

  1. If you have read Communion of Dreams, and have not yet written your own review, please PLEASE do so. As I have hinted several times recently, I have something new in the works, and very much need as many solid reviews as possible in place to help people have a realistic idea of what to expect.
  2. If you’re on Facebook, please go “like” the Communion of Dreams page. And tell your friends about it. Again, this will help a great deal with what I have coming up soon.


Thanks – I really appreciate your help.

Jim Downey