Wither SF Writing Styles?

O.K. I’ve been rather quiet of late… tradition tends to take over my life for a few weeks September… you know things like the local village flower show with the continuing saga of the lemon curd wars (but rather chuffed my coloured potatoes won third prize…) and trying to getting the garden back into some semblance of order. September is also the month when other deadlines appear. Writing-wise I have one coming up at the end of this month that I must meet… or a chain reaction of plans going out of kilter will make my life for the next year or so bedlam!

I had the pleasure of going to the ‘official Bristol’ book launch for Daughter by Jane Shemlit. She was on the same MA Creative Writing course as me, and indeed we were in some of the same workshops. So it’s given me great pleasure to see her novel come to fruition and being published.


But reading the first few pages of her book made me realise something very interesting… there is a definite split in style developing. There is what I call the semi-poetic graceful style where you can absorb what is going on. And then there is the fast interwoven multiple ways to read the manuscript style. Both are difficult to get right.

But why the split now? I suspect it is to do with the way we are getting used to dealing with computers. We’re dealing with several thought threads at once. We’ve already seen the impact this can have on TV programmes like Sherlock. I’ve heard quite a few people complain that it is too fast at times. And yet if you concentrate on the programme you enjoy the way it dances from one thing to another to weave an intricate and complete picture with all lose threads tied up.

In a sense Jane accomplishes this by having two interwoven time threads. This is nothing new in literature, but a closer ‘lateral’ interconnectedness between the two or more threads has been making its mark. Needless to say, Jane’s are very closely connected.

But the multiple layers seems to be proving divisive amongst readers. My guess is the simpler stories are being published as YA (providing the material is suitable of course), and the more complicated at adult level.

Science Fiction is a natural home for such multiple layers, because of the subjects it covers. What bothers me is that I’ve seen very little of it published in science fiction. There is some e.g. Quantum Thief. Will we see more? The answer has to be yes. But I’d like to take this further… for instance why not make a story structure somewhat representative of a Moebius Strip? Or could not a novel be a series of short stories where each universe is linked to another, and you end up affecting the first universe before the start of the first story. [I hope someone has had a go at this…].

As for me… well I’ve started the C.A.T. novel with the two-thread structure in mind. I sure can tell you it’s hard to get the tempo, pacing and plot all lined up. So Jane’s achievement with her novel is really quite something. Congratulations, Jane.

PS There was a rumour that the warehouse had sold out of Jane’s paperback books doing the rounds at the launch last night… and it’s a Judy and Richard recommended book… and it’s in the Sunday Times bestseller list (I’m not surprised). My view is Daughter deserves this success.




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