Friday, June 20, 2008

Off the leash

I've often wondered if I'm too polite when I write - perhaps it's the curse of my middle-class upbringing. Certainly, it's something one reviewer accused one of my characters of being for his impeccable behaviour during a scene set on the NY subway.

But it was reading The New Weird that really got me thinking that I needed to throw out at least one baby and its bathwater. The book is great on the history of the New Weird and why it came into being. One of the main motivations is dissatisfaction with Tolkienesque type fantasy and the limitations of that form.

I've said before I have problems with elves but my wish to write something different always felt like I was breaking the rules and, to be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable doing it. This is despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of China Mieville (Perdido Street Station is a breath of fresh air) and many other alumni of this field. I just didn't get why they did it and the anthology clued me in.

I'm aware that many books/stories have appeared before now that had a whiff of New Weird about them but it's the extreme nature of the form that defines it - to my mind. The heady mix of insanity, bodily awareness, cityscapes, Dickensian character-building and love of language is hard to mistake once its salient features are pointed out. It is also utterly convinced by its settings - no clever, clever post-modern awareness of the story as a story here.

Reading the anthology also chimed with comments from other writers about their development. Many speak of the moment when they found their voice and started creating the stories they were put here to write.

I certainly feel that a big change has taken place in what I write - I'm no longer ameliorating what I write to fit the conventions. Away with them. Give me liberty or give me daeth. The story I'm working on at the moment has flowed out of me so quickly that at times I feel like a witness more than a writer. It feels more honest. I have no idea about whether it is any good - though the strength of its voice will be a plus.

The changes means that some of my fears about writing have gone in that I feel so much happier about the stories I'm producing. Writing was starting to feel a little formulaic prior to this realisation. And one story very much of the old school keeps getting bumped as I work on these others. But those fears have been replaced by others which centre around whether it is any good at all. There is a lot more at stake too as they are far more personal. Time will tell whether the change means I get more published. But I'm happier than ever about doing this.

No comments: