I haven’t posted much since the end of Daisy in the Dark, but I’m going to start again within the week. It’s time to take Clay and Rachel and Vera and Natasha to the far end of their journey, the one that began with The Road to Bluehorse and continued in Homeward by Night.
I think it was while writing Homeward that I figured out what I write: not why I write, which is either a much harder question or a much easier one. (I write because I can’t find stuff I want to read… okay, I love anything J.K. Rowling writes, even under another name; I’m caught up in the Dark Tower novels; a fall re-read of The Lord of the Rings will be my five bazillionth reading; I recently shot through The Forever War; I’ve read the Real Clay Gilbert’s nice sci fi novel, Annah and the Children of Evohe; and if you think H. P. Lovecraft was a crappy writer, I am here to tell you that you are wrong.)
Some writers take a fantastical concept—dragon-riders defend their world from life-devouring threads of fungus, testosteronal aristocrats maneuver and connive while ice zombies lurk just over the border and Winter is Coming, in the midst of a greedy galaxy lies a desert planet with mysterious giant worms and a super-precious Spice—and dive into it head-first. They spend a lot of time explaining what the world is like, because it’s so foreign, and they want you to see all the interesting things during your visit. Unfortunately, since explaining stuff isn’t the most riveting form of story-telling, and since these sorts of worlds lie way over the borders of what we have an intuition for, the authors, some of whom are really good writers (some not so much), wind up having to make a compromise between boredom and stereotype. So the connivers in Game of Thrones tend to connive in recognizable ways—recognizable not from your daily life but from other, older stories. They follow the worn paths of cliche, except when they branch out into stuff that takes a lot of explanation.
Contrast Tolkien. He starts both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with a chapter in a normal, familiar English village full of normally peculiar (albeit rather short and hairy of foot) English country bumpkins. When he drags his main characters out for adventures, they do so not in cliche but in myth: dwarfs (or, rather, dwarves), elves (or, rather, Elves), wizards, giant bears, talking trees and one guy who has lived for hundreds of years in a pit, obsessing about a past birthday gone wrong; reminds me of my ex. Similarly, Rowling starts in a familiar English village inhabited by little people (morally speaking) and then takes us into the weirder precincts of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, in the company of someone who has never been there and who, like us, is seeing all this for the first time. C. S. Lewis, especially in Out of the Silent Planet, does the same thing: we see the weird wonders of Mars through the eyes of someone who knows no more than we do.
So you have writers who want to drop you into a foreign universe and let you get your own bearings (with the help of the Encyclopedia Galactica or whatever), versus writers who buddy you with a protagonist who isn’t any more familiar with the new world than you are; and oddly enough, the second approach (going back to Dante and before) is the one that seems to me to actually work.
But I don’t do either of those things.
I wonder what it would be like to be in a dungeons and dragons game, to be the character and not know you’re a character. And that gives you Daisy.
I wonder what it would be like to be one of the first fighter pilots, to learn why there even need to be space fighters, and to go forth from Earth and seek planets to colonize, to get a job in a workplace that is Space and have to work with, and fall in and out of love with, other fighter pilots, kind of the way Scrubs does with hospital employees. And that gives you The Road to Bluehorse.
I wonder what it would be like to be a Dr Who, a time-traveling wizard locked in an ancient struggle for control of the multiplicity of the Many-verse. And that gives you the Jacky Clotilde stories.
I wonder what it would be like to actually have a reason to travel in Lovecraft’s Dream World. And that gives you Ryel and Arkmar.
I wonder what it would be like to be a time traveling detective—and what it would be like if magic became so powerful that someone would need to solve magical crimes. And that gives you Lilah Bay and The Dark Hug of Time.
I’m going to go on wondering what it would be like to live in the skin of someone in a weird story. In front of me, I have Clay’s vendetta against the Ngugma, which will take him and his lady friends on up the spiral arm and into the far future. I know I owe Lilah Bay at least two more novels (I’ve thought about them a lot—the next one is called Sometimes a shadow wins, thank you Sara Bareilles) and I also owe Daisy a lot more time. And then what? Who knows.
I am going to turn sixty years old in less than two weeks. I’m still finding new places and people. I believe I am just getting started.
What do you write? What are you planning to do with this, your one wild and precious life?