Words Out: A New Hope

Most of these blog entries have been about books I’ve read recently, or crazy authors I’ve enjoyed, but my earlier-this-week blog entry “Words in, words out” said a bit about my own writing, at least the earlier stage of that.

So when we left off, I had left off my own fiction writing between the time I was almost thirty, and more recently (I’m forty-three now) when I’d decided I was interested in picking it back up.

I didn’t just grab a pen and paper, or computer word process, and get started spewing words. I spent quite a bit of time daydreaming and planning, re-reading some of my earlier work, and thinking about what kind of work I felt motivated to create. Those early stories (and novels and poems) were mostly straight “literary” fiction, that is, stories about people being serious, joking around, relating to each other, and… feeling ways about stuff. Some of them, the ones that remained interesting to me, were more experimental, or looked at reality through a different lens.

pen-paper

I thought about the books and stories I’d most enjoyed reading, simply as a reader, not as a writer comparing himself or looking for inspiration. Then I considered, aside from what I most enjoyed as a spectator of good writing, what sort of stories would it excite me to create?

I realized I wanted to create new worlds, different worlds from this real one, not only different in the sense of having imagined people in them, walking around and worrying about concerns exactly like the concerns of the people in this real world. I mean entirely different worlds, different concerns, different rules. I want to imagine wider possibilities. It excites me to imagine a future in which our world is different, things have changed in ways that are sometimes shocking, at least interesting.

In the end I decided I can write whatever I want but I also need to consider what kind of “markets” (a really seedy and overly commercial-sounding word, to most people, but one writers throw about and mean nothing worse by it than “places I might send my stories) to consider. That means slotting the work a genre and I guess I’d say we’re talking about Science Fiction here.

Dune

Now, the irritating ass-hole voice in the back of my mind complained a little bit. I mean the arrogant jerk who majored in Literature (big “L”) in college, and who, despite really loving Harlan Ellison and Frank Herbert and assorted others, still kinda felt like Science Fiction was a sort of less-serious, less-literary genre. This discussion has come up a few times before, on the Hypnos Forum (a discussion board related to my record label, Hypnos Recordings) where there are many sci-fi fans including one who’s an editor at Asimov’s. This came up before I was writing, and I was acknowledging that voice in the back of my own mind when it came to the regard of science fiction from a reader’s point of view, not as a writer. But I can’t help think back to it, and halfway try to talk myself out of getting involved in it, knowing that the little condescending, snobby voice is there in the back of my head.

Dangerous Visions

In the end, I decided the little voice can just get over itself, and I will follow what my gut tells me is right. The truth is, I get as excited about a good new science fiction movie as about any other kind of movie. Most of my favorite TV shows (Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Star Trek, etc.) are science fiction. More and more, when I think about reading a book for pure enjoyment, I think of something like Greg Bear or Gregory Benford, or more recently Robert J. Sawyer or Stephen Baxter or especially Robert Charles Wilson. I’ve recently become infatuated with Greg Egan, only to find that at times his books are infuriatingly, willfully unfriendly to the reader… but I’m as excited to explore the rest of his work as I am about any other writer I can think of.

Spin

Undoubtedly I’ll write some things that sci-fi purists may look at and say “Hmm, not enough spaceships,” and I’ll have to figure out what to do with some of my stories. But when the first subjects I want to write about include artificial intelligence and robotics and life extension and simulated reality, and the environments I want to explore include the future Earth, outer space, and other planets, I become increasingly comfortable just settling into that genre and starting to explore.

I’ve written about fifteen stories in a very short time, some just a first draft, and a couple of them nearly finished. I’ve plotted out a connected story cycle, begun to lay-out one novel, and made notes toward a few other novel ideas. I’m writing better, more quickly, and with greater pleasure than at any time before, and I feel I’ve just started again. The things I’m writing now are more considered, more mature, and certainly more geared toward a readership outside of my own brain, than what I did when I was younger. I like the idea of having stories published at some point, but I’m also enjoying the process of getting the words out and then carefully re-working and polishing them, so I won’t hurry the whole “publication chase” aspect. It seems to me that if the writing is good, then the possibility of getting things into magazines will follow. I think it is a real flaw of many writers, certainly was a flaw of mine when I was younger, to push the whole “must get published, must get published!” overdrive with much greater energy and priority than what SHOULD be one’s primary motive, “must get better, must do the best work possible.”

Before too long I’ll start to be more specific about some of the things I’m working on and planning, and may even post a little word-blurb excerpt of actual written fiction, at some point. But the above gets us up to date, as far as the whole “Words Out” side of things.

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