Thursday, August 24, 2006

Where do you get your crazy ideas?

We began to talk about this at our meeting tonight, because Kelly gets ideas in dreams.

In some cases, I can point to an incident or idea that led to a story. In other cases, I have't got a clue where a story came from. I don't remember offhand how my first four novels began, but my fifth novel started with Jesse Helms' attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts and with a conversation between Joel Rosenberg, Steve Brust and Gordon R. Dickson. Steve, Joel and Gordie were talking about the need for sincerity in art. You have to write what you believe in, they all agreed. I thought, people say this, but do we really know it's true? What happens if you set out to write a story you don't believe in? I have a lot of trouble with military science fiction. With the exception of Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan stories, I don't like the stuff and don't believe one word of it. So I decided to write some military SF. At the same time, I was deeply angered by Jesse Helms' homophobia and decided to write about a society where gayness was natural and heterosexuality perverse. This led to Ring of Swords and the hwarhath, an alien society where all the men are soldiers, and almost everyone (male and female) is gay and heterophobic.

Do I think the novel is insincere? Not a bit. I ended writing about things I believe: prejudice is wrong; and modern war is really, really dangerous; and the best way to solve a conflict is to negotiate and hold an art festival.

5 comments:

Bill Henry said...

"prejudice is wrong; and modern war is really, really dangerous; and the best way to solve a conflict is to negotiate and hold an art festival."

This is why we all love you, Eleanor!

tate said...

That's EXACTLY what I was going to say, damn it!

Bill Henry said...

Great minds think alike, don't they?

Sean M. Murphy said...

Eleanor said: "I have a lot of trouble with military science fiction. ...I don't like the stuff and don't believe one word of it."

I'm curious about the expression "I... don't believe one word of it." In what way don't you believe in it? There are too many ways this can be taken, and I'm guessing you aren't disbelieving, for example, the caliber of bullets that are used in a Browning semi-automatic, or the effective range of a biochemical warhead--easily verifiable factoids. My assumption is that what you find disingenuous is the general tone of some of these stories, that triumphant, overcoming-the-evil-enemy-while-us-good-ole-boys-hunker-down-in-cherished-cameraderie style of story.

But what about the stories that soldiers, coming back from real wars, connect with and identify with; the ones that they turn to and say "Yeah, this is what it's like over there."

Do you not believe them?

Eleanor said...

There is real (and very good) fiction about war. I think about Joe Haldeman in science fiction, and of course there is Joseph Heller and Catch 22. In non-fiction there is Robert Graves' amazing memoir about the First World War, Goodbye to All That. But Military SF as a genre does not seem especially truthful about war or especially good. Someone somewhere in the science fiction community described the genre as "crypto-fascist military bullshit."