So early! I’ve got 320 words in already and I can tell I’m going to have another good day. Everything that seemed so stale and asinine a week ago looks interesting & funny again.
I was putting together a list in the shower the other day of all the authors I want people to be reminded of when they read the novels. I have no desire to talk about the originality of the novels. They aren’t original. I haven’t read a book with the same basic premise but I refuse to believe one wasn’t written in the 50’s or earlier, since it’s so simple and easy. That wasn’t where I was going. I wanted to write novels about family, obligation, how to overcome abuse, how culture changes over time and people fight about how to ‘do culture right’ when it’s all getting to be a hopeless hodgepodge now, at least in the English speaking world, how our family structures make us and break us, about the fall of nation states, how pregnancy changes you, about how feminism plays out in real life, about how political alliances are formed, what would happen to the city manager of a city aliens came out in, how speaking a different language changes how you think and what you think is important, about love of child and love of parent and how alien contact is now part of the global narrative and how we can’t keep destroying our planet.
Some of these things are decor and some are integral to the narrative, but I am also hitting at the whole notion of plot very hard, because there isn’t much of one, and the longer I write the less worried I am about that. I want to write snappy dialogue between compelling characters, and I don’t care if I walk, ride or parachute to that place & what baling-wire I hold it together with. I don’t criticize plotlessness in other writers (although I appreciate a good plot when I see it) and now I’m okay with not being able to plot for shit, because it isn’t my strength, and most of the people beta reading the drafts don’t even care about it. They just want to know what happens next.
Dorothy Dunnett OBVIOUSLY. I don’t have her scale, precision, sweep and painterly eye, but I decided to have AN IMMENSE CAST OF CHARACTERS mostly so I could have a scalable shared universe, and also because the massive number of babies allows me to play with contemporary mores regarding pregnancy and parenting.
Zenna Henderson for having a specifically religious worldview in the story, but I’m busting up the religiosity into little chunks that are set like terrazzo chips into the narrative and then polished down so they won’t be offensive to atheists. Also for the novels being like Venn diagram sequences of stories bound together by a premise rather than a plot – occasionally the identical event will be recounted by two different people, partly to emphasize how alien the aliens are, and sometimes to reveal that somebody is being a bad bad character and an unreliable narrator.
Eric Frank Russell because even though the events are serious I make a serious effort to be funny. Yesterday when I was re-reading a chapter with a mind to tighten and clarify it, I ran across a line I’d forgotten writing and burst out laughing. That’s the reaction I want in others. Around the next bend is something lovely, something disgusting, something funny, something weird, something meltingly sad, something armwavingly science-y, something sweet, something kind, something that makes you go WHAT? Why?
Jerzy Kosinski for the violence and creepiness of some sections, cause it’s not all funny, no, not by a long shot. Laelaps’ episode and Raven’s assault and the death of George’s mother are all sequences I wrote intending to make the reader crumple up. If you ever read the Raven chapter in Sweep off those Waves, please remember I cried while writing every word until the moment Michel shows up. I think it says something about the space Michel holds in my head that I just couldn’t cry while he was around; he makes me feel absurdly cheerful, as if any fool thing could happen next. Even when he’s scary he’s still funny. I just re-read his scene with Brendan on the beach and my single favourite line from the 150K words so far is in that scene. I mentioned it to Sandra and she burst out laughing….
The writings of other sf fans about sf and all manner of other things, as mostly I’ve seen on facebook (I recently quit facebook) and Livejournal (I’m still there but rarely post.) They have a really engaged, hilarious and memorably literate way of talking about the things they love, and honest to God sometimes they DO talk as if Diablo Cody, Joss Whedon, Lauren Faust, Harlan Ellison, Dorothy Dunnett and Patrick O’Brian were collaborating on a script in real time, and anybody who’s sat in the consuite at damned near any sf convention aimed at adults knows ‘zackly what I’m talkin’ ’bout. I ain’t hiding my big words behind the door because THAT ISN’T WHO I AM WRITING FOR. I am writing for hyper-intelligent people with their loving arms ’round pop culture, who want to be challenged and entertained, who want to see themselves reflected in the intelligence and sexuality and choices of the characters.
Harlan Ellison I’ve already mentioned. For being big and brassy and opinionated and loud and unapologetic and sometimes quite deliberately contemptuous and rude. For this, my friends, is not a subtle tale I tell.
John Brunner, specifically Stand on Zanzibar. I’ve grabbed onto sections of that novel in terms of structure (the whole “Reddit AMA” section, and the initial interview with Farah.)
James H. Schmitz, specifically the Witches of Karres. There’s something about the tone of that novel that is all around wonderful, and I aim in that direction when writing about George interacting with Pharos.
I am sure there are other writers as well, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning at the last Ms. Elif Şafak. Tammy gave me her “The Forty Rules of Love” and upon finishing this amazing novel, which addresses many of the issues I think are important in fiction, I realized I could write a novel without a straight narrative line or timeline and multiple heroes and heroines, that’s when I started writing in earnest. Now I have this novel and the final novel in the trilogy to finish, and after that I’m gonna keep writing, since I think I’ve figured out how. Maybe.