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of clockwork men

The Centre

I can’t talk about Jo without giving the game away, so beware, spoilers follow. She defies easy classification and compression into a simple set of paragraphs. She was the second character to appear in the first draft, sketched out years ago, and she’s largely unchanged since those first lines.

Jo is amnesia. She’s the moments we’d rather forget, and so choose to paint over. She can’t forget, she remembers everything, and each instant finds a place to live inside her head. She defines what happens, down to the shape of each footstep and the sound that it makes when it hits the wooden planks that reach out over a lake that isn’t going to be there any more.

There’s a repeated motif, then. She’s responsible for them too.

Jo’s many things. She’s the face of a woman standing at Orly airport staring at a camera just over the viewer’s shoulder. She’s walking through a party that’s a year out of place in a hotel where no-one can remember your name. She’s an idea I had in 1995, and wanted to see how it would play out over a whole story.

Essentially, it was this:

My friends change. The group of people I know now aren’t the same group as I knew when I was 22, or 14, or 6. What really hasn’t altered though, is that they comprise a set of similar archetypes (characters, even). This might be my choice, a subtle clustering of the people I’m close to into similar groupings and roles, or it might be complete coincidence. What was also true in 1995, although it’s not really the case now, is that the set of people around me were completely new. I hadn’t known them five years before, and they hadn’t known me. That had also been the case seven or eight years before, and similarly before that. The person I knew who was always a few years older than me, who I looked to for guidance, and advice, was different in each set of friends. Different, but also the same.

Still with me? Good.

Jo is that idea, nudged a little. What if those people were the same. What if the friends she had when she was six were the friends she had when she was twenty-eight? The same people, but different faces. When one set goes away, they come back wearing new masks. Maybe changed a little, improved each time, hanging around for another nine years or so until something makes a new set.

And what if the something that was doing that wasn’t external, but herself?


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