Discover more from Eliot Peper
Foundry launches today!
After years of writing, editing, and production, Foundry is here.
This is a story about two spies locked in a room with a gun.
This is a story about how semiconductors are refactoring 21st century geopolitics.
This is a story about the greatest of games, the game that subsumes all other games, the only game that really matters: power.
This is a story about finding yourself before they find you.
This story is a trap.
Foundry began with a dream.
I woke up in the middle of the night with no memory of the dream’s larger context, but a single remnant image hanging in my mind, my heart foundering in its emotional wake. Rolling over, I made a quick note, and then fell back asleep.
The next morning, I read the note:
It wasn't that she was holding a gun to my head. It was that I could see the safety was still on. She thought I was completely at her mercy, which was what put her at mine.
Curtains billowed in my imagination and, beyond them, I glimpsed a fading dreamscape of bright blue domes, whitewashed walls, turquoise sea. I wanted to know who these two people were, what they cared about, where they came from, why they were at odds, and how they had arrived at this paradoxical crux. It wasn’t an intellectual desire so much as an ache—how a detective might yearn to close a particularly puzzling case.
A thought arrived, unbidden: that’s the opening line of a novel. The only way to answer my questions would be to write it. So I transcribed the note, and then wrote the next sentence, and then the next, and then the one after that. Sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs became chapters, and the chapters kept multiplying until I found my way back to that room with those enigmatic characters and together we reached an ending.
As I was drafting the manuscript, I became fascinated by the insanely complex science and engineering required to produce the chips that power our phones, laptops, cars, and, well, civilization. Semiconductor manufacturing is the current frontier of human technical endeavor—a modern day Manhattan Project—and the vast majority of advanced chips are fabricated in one of the world’s most hotly contested territories—Taiwan—making the supply chain a magnet for political intrigue and espionage. Scientists! Spies! Laser-wielding robots! The more I learned, the more interesting the questions became, so I wove their implications into the novel.
I usually write with a plan. The plans vary in scope and detail, but I have an idea of where I’m going in a particular story. Plans can be extremely helpful. Instead of deciding between destinations, I can focus on figuring out the best way to get there. But the cleverer the plan, the more painful it is when it breaks. Writing other novels, I’d realize halfway through that my plan didn’t work anymore, and that realization would spark a creative crisis. I would spend weeks or months struggling to find a solution—gaming out possibilities, soliciting advice from friends, rearranging narrative variables. Often, it felt impossible, like I might need to give up entirely and archive the manuscript. Eventually, I’d manage to find a new way forward, but not without a lot of angst.
Foundry was different. I was writing the story line-by-line. I had no plan. This meant that I was in a permanent creative crisis. I didn’t know where we were going. I discovered what happened next alongside the reader.
Drafting the manuscript was a slow dance with the unknown. Again and again, it felt impossible. Without a plan, I was constantly improvising, rereading that opening line thousands of times, using the material that had accrued on the previous page to draft the next page. Simultaneously, without a plan, I had no emotional investment in the plan working out. There were no sunk costs. No attachments. No angst. I was free to experiment, to play. It was exhilarating and terrifying and tremendous fun.
Writing Foundry changed my relationship with uncertainty. Unlike the protagonist, I’m a terrible dancer, but I know enough to understand that you don’t control your partner, you follow each others’ cues. Dancing with the unknown was an exercise in paying ever closer attention to what was on the page, letting the story reveal itself, summoning the courage to say “I don’t know” in order to create the space for knowledge to arrive.
“I don’t know” is fundamental to how fiction works. Leave professed certainty to the aspiring influencers. Novels are vehicles for wondering what if, for seeking other points of view, for celebrating complexity, for exploring questions without easy answers, for voyaging elsewhere. And, every once in a while, when you encounter the right story at the right time, you return from that voyage changed, armed with new ways of seeing.
Foundry is my best work yet, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. The hardcover and paperback are beautiful, the ebook will arrive on your Kindle with a single click, and I narrated the audiobook so you can listen to me tell the story.
Books thrive on word-of-mouth, so if you love Foundry, the best way to support it is to tell people about it. In a noisy world, it’s worth pointing out things you love to others who might love them too. That’s how we build a better culture. That’s why I write this newsletter, so if you’re reading this, you get it.
If you feel so inclined, here are three things you can do to help:
Buy a copy right now. Early sales catapult books up bestseller rankings and attract attention from press and booksellers. This matters. A lot. Like, really.
Post a review. Early positive reviews give books a critical boost, exposing them to new readers who depend on your good judgement. Amazon, Goodreads, Audible, your blog, anywhere and everywhere! It makes a BIG difference.
Tell your friends. We all discover our next favorite book because someone we trust recommends it. Be that friend! Share it on social media, recommend it to folks who’d enjoy it, and gift it widely.
If you want me to come on your podcast, speak at your event, write for your publication, do a Q&A with your book club, or bring something special to your audience, just hit reply and we can work something out.
Thank you for being the best readers any writer could hope for—I am forever grateful for your support and enthusiasm.
Now, I hope you’re ready for an adventure…