Sunday, December 28, 2003
This story is almost done. I wrote 1,128 words on "The Dry Salvages" yesterday, and I believe that I will finish it by tomorrow evening. Here at the conclusion, it has become very difficult, mostly because I'm letting myself get sucked into that silly quest for originality. I look at this story and I see where it all came from, even if no one else does. I see Alien and Solaris, Event Horizon and 2001: A Space Odyssey, William Gibson's "Hinterlands" and George R. R. Martin's "Nightflyers." And a bunch of other things. And somehow -- I suppose because this is sf, which seems, to me, especially obsessed with the illusion of "originality" -- that bothers me more than looking at my dark fantasy works and seeing the "influences" lying so near the surface. It shouldn't, I know, but it does. Last night, Spooky and I were watching one of the very many little documentaries included with the Alien Quadrilogy, and Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett were talking about how, upon the film's release, people were so taken with its seeming originality, but at once began digging for "where we'd stolen it from." So, O'Bannon and Shusett list a number of places that they "stole it" from (their words): It: The Terror From Beyond Space, Planet of the Vampires, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Howard Hawks' original The Thing from Another World, and so forth. And, of course, I already knew all of this. Anyone familiar with both Alien and all the aforementioned films knows this. But it was sort of comforting to see them being so up front about it.
We do nothing new, any of us. We only struggle to make what we do seem fresh. Alien is such a stunning film because it succeeded it taking that which was very stale and making it fresh, through the genius of Ridley Scott's direction, H. R. Giger's design, the cast's acting abilities, O'Bannon and Shusett's story, Jerry Goldsmith's score, Derek Vanlit's cinematography, and so on and on and on. Of course, with "The Dry Salvages" I have only me, doing all the work, no one else to pitch and brainstorm and share the blame if it all goes to hezmana in the end (and, of course, my story will lack the wonderful visual tyranny of film). Spooky and Jenny make useful comments, sometimes, but they are small comments.
I think that it will be a while yet before I can say that I've even begun to master sf. Like "Riding the White Bull," the sf story I did for Argosy earlier this year, I want this story to be all the things that sf critics and editors like Gardner Dozois and Gordon Van Gelder look for in good stories. I want to wow you the way that Bradbury and Ellison, Gibson and Asimov and Dick and Sterling and all those people I still need to read have wowed you. I don't know that I will, but I am trying. In this story, I think my greatest success has been to keep the characters center stage, and to effectively manage the desired mood (even having tied my hands with the first-person narrative handicap). I want to love this story. I want you to love this story. I have given it more than a month of my life.
Check out PZB's latest comments ("Let's Eat Braaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiins!") on the most recent round of mad-cow hysteria. I was especially pleased with her observations on the difficulties of managing a healthy vegan diet, but then I am and shall ever more be an unrepentant carnivore.
And I suppose that's all I have for today. I have to begin to finish...