The Invisible Blog Tour – How to build a fictional world within a realistic frame – a reflexion on my City-States cycle.

How to build a fictional world within a realistic frame  – a reflexion on my City-States cycle.

By: Seb Doubinsky, author of “The Invisible”, Meerkat Press.

Hi! My name is Seb Doubinsky, and I am a dystopian fiction writer. All of my eight novels take place in a parallel world of city-states, that share some of the same history line as ours (Colonization, World War Two, space conquest, for example), but differ in their political structure, which resembles those of the Antique city-states like Babylon, Ur, Athens, Rome, Tenochtitlan, etc.). My city-states are both cities and the territories attached to them, like the real city-states from our own world. What’s more, they operate within strategic and political alliances, such as the Western Alliance, the Chinese Federation, the Slavic Confederation, etc. 

I have been asked many times how this universe came to mind. My first major was history, and I was always fascinated by the parallels one could draw between the past and the present, especially under different forms and expressions. For instance, if power has always been the dominant force of any society, so has been the struggle against it. By free associating one of my cities, New Babylon, with the ancient structures of ancient Assyria, for example, you come with a central power that can only survive through a tight control of its vassal cities. And it supposes very subtle politics as if you are too domineering, you risk revolt, and too loose, you risk to lose your influence. History thus helps me keeping my realism in check when it comes to geopolitical situations, which there are many of in my cycle. For instance, in The Invisible, which takes place precisely in New Babylon, one question arises about the possible hostile intervention of an “allied city” in the city’s internal affairs. What should it do? Denounce it? Pretend to ignore it? As you will see when you read the novel, diplomacy is a really tricky business, even in fiction.

My city-states are also constructed, internally, socially, politically on real systems, both past or contemporary, but slightly transformed. In Viborg City, for instance, in which my novel White City takes place, people are divided in three classes: Cash, Credit and NoCred. New Samarqand, in The Song Of Synth, is a traditional kingdom with intern democratic and religious struggles. Fiction is therefore both realistic, because it reminds the reader of familiar structures, but also dystopian in the fact that they are highly exaggerated, yet considered as “normal” by the protagonists.

This world of city-states is thus a world floating between reality and fiction, hanging between reminiscence and imagination – a mirror of our own reality if we could walk through a mirror without realizing it and felt that everything “made sense” although it is at the same time alien and sometimes uncanny. A world where violence and mystery are tightly connected, a maze with invisible walls one calls “fiction”.


THE INVISIBLE by Seb Doubinsky


GENRE: Speculative Fiction / Dystopian / Detective Noir



The Invisible is a masterfully written dystopian noir in Seb Doubinsky’s City-States Cycle books. It’s election time in New Babylon, and President Maggie Delgado is running for re-election but is threatened by the charismatic populist Ted Rust. Newly appointed City Commissioner Georg Ratner is given the priority task to fight the recent invasion of Synth in the streets of the capital, a powerful hallucinogen drug with a mysterious origin. When his old colleague asks him for help on another case and gets murdered, things become more and more complicated, and his official neutrality becomes a burden in the political intrigue he his gradually sucked into. Supported by Laura, his trustful life partner and the Egyptian goddess Nut, Ratner decides to fight for what he believes in, no matter the cost.

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Amazon Barnes & Noble



Ratner walked into the interrogation room, followed by Captain Eris Jordan. He had asked her permission to interrogate one of the suspects in her Synth investigation. She had called him a couple days later and given him a time and a room number at the police station. Ratner had then informed Flowers, who told him he should talk to Commissioner Thomsen too, as the dealer had been arrested on his turf. Ratner had promised, but “forgotten” to comply. F*ck Thomsen, f*ck that little incompetent pretentious *ssh*le, he had thought. It seemed that wherever he went, he ran into that nasty idiot.

The suspect was a law student, twenty-four years old, described as Caucasian in the old racist terms, pale and nondescript in Ratner’s own categories, looking both scared and dejected. The prison’s dark blue suit contrasted violently with the general feeling of weakness projected by his demeanor, but matched nicely the dark circles under his eyes.

Ratner presented himself, but Jordan didn’t. They had probably met before. The interrogation was courteous, the suspect obviously frightened and eager to cooperate. Definitely not your usual hardened dealer type, Ratner thought as he took notes of times and places. The kid explained that he got the batch of pills at a party organized by a fraternity on campus last July. He had asked around for some Synth and a girl had told him she had some. Ratner asked for a description. Tall, blonde, short hair, blue eyes, white tee, jeans, sneakers, foreign accent. She said her name was Vita. Good-looking, but not cute, he added, as if it helped. “We made a composite,” Jordan whispered in Ratner’s ear. “Doesn’t help much. I’ll show it to you later.”

They had gone to the parking lot and she had given him a pill. The price was cheap and the kid thought about buying some for his friends and ended up getting a whole bag. She had given him a phone number to call in case he wanted more.

Ratner glanced at Jordan, sitting next to him.

“We checked it. Disposable phone. Disconnected.”

The city commissioner nodded.

The kid had quickly sold his batch and made a good profit. So he called and met her again, in the parking lot of a cinema downtown. And a last time, one month ago, in another parking lot, behind another cinema. Her hair had grown, he noticed. But she still had an accent.

“What kind of accent?” Ratner asked.

“I don’t know. German, maybe.”

“We checked with the New Berlin embassy and the visa service,” Jordan said. “But no real match. Or too many, if you will. I mean, blonde, blue eyes, and an accent—seriously? And of course, no girl named Vita on their lists.”

“What about the composite?”

Captain Jordan turned on the tablet she had brought along and pressed and swiped a couple of times until a face appeared. The kid extended his neck to look at it too.

“Yeah, that’s her,” he said, although nobody had asked him.

Ratner looked at the image.

Jordan was right. Could be anybody.

Ratner’s phone suddenly vibrated. A message. He took it out and looked at the screen. It was from Valentino. He wanted a place and a time to meet. Today. Ratner typed a time and Le Robespierre as a place. What the hell. At least he would get good music and a decent beer if the info was bad or useless. And he was sure he wouldn’t run into Thomsen there.


Thinking of the devil, Ratner mused as they walked out of the interrogation room to find Commissioner Thomsen waiting for them outside. He was obviously fuming, although he couldn’t vent his anger at Ratner, as the city commissioner was his superior. His tight face was flustered, the gray eyes icy behind the small rectangular glasses. You could feel him struggling not to explode. In a way, it was a funny sight. To Ratner at least.

“Captain Jordan, there is a strict chain of command in my department (he stressed the my so much Georg had to suppress a chuckle) that I would like you to observe. I should have been informed of this interrogation, and your attitude will be duly noted in the report I shall send to DA Flowers.”

Thomsen turned around, diva-like, and left them in the long corridor. He walked fast, like a cartoon character, and let the door slam behind him.

“And hello to you too,” Ratner mumbled, winking at Jordan. “Don’t worry, Flowers is a close friend of mine. I’ll take the blame.”

The captain shook her head. “Ah, no worries. He’s just a f*cking *ssh*le. Nobody likes him. He only got where he is because he’s good at licking *sses. Certainly not because of his competence.”

Ratner nodded. Yes, he would definitely have to invite her over for dinner. They would all have plenty of things to discuss.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Seb Doubinsky

Seb Doubinsky


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Seb Doubinsky is a bilingual writer born in Paris in 1963. His novels, all set in a dystopian universe revolving around competing cities-states, have been published in the UK and in the USA. He currently lives with his family in Aarhus, Denmark, where he teaches at the university.

AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Twitter

You may also like...