This last week, I've spent working on Charisma, but I've taken a step back from the manuscript itself to rework and replot the book. It's still got the same overall design and the same direction and conclusion, but many of the details along the way had to be adjusted once I wrote a rough version of the first third or so. These things happen; it's a good thing. It means I'm getting a handle on the book by way of the concrete details I have for it already — that whole "in the trenches vs. from 30,000 feet up" thing.
I also have the ... psychedelic (for lack of any better way to put it) developments for the back half of the book well established.
See, I'm noticing a pattern in my stories, at least the last few of them. There's a climax involving someone being tempted by a revelation that alters their perception of reality, drastically enough that the altered reality they experience seems like the way things need to go for everyone. But they retain enough of a tether to the world you and I know to realize such revolutions only works in dreams. And then they, literally and figuratively, awaken.
I am convinced this stems directly from my own experiences with Buddhism generally and Zen in particular. Drugs have nothing to do with it, and I'm fairly certain they never will. I don't doubt for a second that drugs can provide transcendent experiences for some people. I'm just far more interested in the way the senses I have right now, and the mind I have right now, can receive such things.
I'm also a little worried it means I'm repeating myself. Like I said, this has happened for something like the last four or five books, not including this one. Repeating myself, whether in the large or the small, makes me feel limited. But I gravitate strongly towards stories where this kind of deep-seated turning of perspective in the seat of one's psyche takes place. They feel to me like the kind of story that matters, the kind I care most about telling, even if I end up only telling it in marginally variant ways. And at least the mechanics of this psychedelic morality play aren't the same twice in a row, and the insights gained are likewise diverse.
The next book after this, Pavilion 7, is relatively pure SF — not the "modern-day-fabu-realism" I'm writing now — and so doesn't have a psychedelic element of this kind in it. But it's at least informed by the need the character's have to live a life that means something, where before they weren't living, just permitted to exist.
I hope I can make some discoveries along the way that give Charisma the differentiation it needs, beyond its setting and gimmickry. But I'm also getting the impression it's okay to have this vision thing across more than one book, as long as that's not the only thing in it.