BlogHop: 3 Things I Don’t Write & 3 I Do

by stephenpalmersf


BlogHop: Three Things I Don’t Write (& Three Things I Do)

So… what’s this blog hop? Well, it’s one of those things where you’re part of a daisy chain of bloggers covering a theme or subject, in this case, three I Do’s and three I Don’ts.

Let’s begin with the don’ts…

1. Men With Guns. Some time ago a reader pointed out to me that a lot of my work covers “outsider themes” or “downtrodden themes” ie characters and situations where ordinary people being shafted by The Man struggle, twist, turn, and sometimes succeed in their opposition. I suppose the most obvious example of this in my work is Ugliy in The Rat & The Serpent – street beggar rises through gothic ranks of society to blow it apart from the inside. When I came up with that story I was following the form of the traditional tale whereby a lowly person struggles, ascends, then turns into a prince. Injustice always appals me, and, while I am lucky I live in a liberal Western almost-democracy where people can say what they think, I do think it’s important to look at the lives of non-male, non-white, non-Western characters; and to celebrate them, since they are just like we are. Therefore – no men with guns for me. Or, at least, very few, and then in contextually appropriate circumstances!

2. Men With Tanks. It amazes me – a little, anyway – that there is a sub-genre of SF for military science fiction; not amazed in the sense of “wow, people actually go around killing each other, heavy man,” which would be a Neil The Hippy thing to do, and which I do actually do; more amazed in the sense of the futile, ignorant, infantile, crudeness of it all. Okay, so I’ve never read any military SF, maybe I should do – then I’d have the right to criticise it. And maybe these books are explorations of how our inhumanity rises from social, genetic and cultural conditions. Or maybe they just glorify infants with big toys.

3. Men With Magic Wands. Traditional fantasy to me means Lord Of The Rings. As a teenager this was a deeply influential book for me, one I re-read with pleasure every few years. I love the films too. But I wouldn’t want to rewrite the novel, and I find it impossible to imagine the mindset of an author who would. I think the appeal to readers of LOTR copyists must be a sense of familiarity, cosiness almost, that comes from reading a book quite like another book that you really enjoyed. I suppose there is at least no harm in that, just a certain amount of brain-deadening. But books that create genres are rare, and make for interesting study. LOTR was one: Neuromancer another. With this latter work, was it a case of the right book at the right time, that just happened to capture the zeitgeist? Did it tap into all our insecurities and fantasies about technology? Or was it just a really good tale? A bit of both, I suspect. But, anyway, back to elves and dwarves – no thanks. It’s been done already.

And so to what I do write…

1. The Earth. I very rarely go into space or other planets. Most of the books I read are non-fiction: quite rarely these days do I read SF or fantasy. The reason I write it is that it allows me to head off into the future to imagine what might be in store for the planet, and for the life that lives on it. The past and the future of the Earth are a source of endless fascination for me. Many of the books I read are evolutionary biology, evolution generally, life sciences, planetary systems science, etc. One of my heroes (I have very few) is the outstanding independent scientist James Lovelock, who came up with the Gaia Theory – now an established scientific theory. The three thematically linked books that began with my Orbit debut Memory SeedMS, Glass and Flowercrash – all have our relationship with the environment at their heart, as does the more abstract and challenging Urbis Morpheos…

2. Weird environments. A recent interview at SF Signal described the mutated environments that my novels often deal with, making me think, yes, I do that quite a lot – the transmuted plants of Memory Seed, the vitreous plague of Glass, the psychedelic Westcountry of Hallucinating, the manufactured ecosystems of Urbis Morpheos, and the hirsute alternate Edwardiana of Hairy London. I’m not really sure what the appeal of these environments is to me, but it must be there! Answers on a postcard please, or by email.

3. Africa. Something about the continent keeps my interest. I do love the music, it’s true. But the landscape, the cultures, the folk tales, the deities and cultural imaginings… the music. Maybe it is the music that keeps drawing me back. My main WIP is an alternate steampunk trilogy for young adults, and in volume two the main characters are forced into a trip to West Africa. I really enjoyed revisiting it. Another WIP, Beautiful Intelligence, has many scenes set in North Africa. I’d like to do a sequel to Muezzinland. Did you know that in 20 million years time the Rift Valley will be huge and filled with the sea? Wow…

Passing it on

To keep this blog hop going, I’ve asked short story supremo and Stranglers fan Andrew Hook to tell us three things he writes about, and three he doesn’t. I’ll link to his piece here and on Facebook when it’s up.

… and here it is!


Memory Seed

Memory Seed