I’d planned something entirely different for today.
Then on the way home from installing my daughter into a college dorm for the remainder of the school year, I had a revelation.
My writing is about leaving.
Among the first two stories I sold to big markets – “A Pig Tale” (ANALOG May 2000) and “Mystery on Space Station Courage” (CRICKET 1997) – both were about leaving. The ANALOG story was about a biochemist who has discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s whose father tries to kill himself because he’s losing the family farm. She rewrites his memories because she doesn’t want to leave her past any messier than it is. In the CRICKET story, the protagonist recently lost her father in a space accident and she’s been grounded because she’s not dealing well. She can’t leave her room and must devise a way to rescue a trapped space worker.
A story I just finished “Invoking Fire” involves a young man whose adoptive father has just passed away, their home has deliberately been burned down and his adoptive brother has been kidnapped – and he must leave his past to deliver a message to the Library of the Information Apocalypse…
VICTORY OF FISTS, a novel I have been shopping around for some time, is about a young man who turns eighteen and must leave his past behavior behind – or else lose his future.
HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES, another novel is about a girl who has lost her parents and now must leave Earth for twelve years to travel among the planets of the Solar System with her great aunt – while pursued by an alien from prehistory that cannot leave its programming behind.
See? I write about “leaving”.
What? Most people don’t write “about things”, you say? They just write to entertain!
George Lucas didn’t write about his search for faith and religion, he just wrote cool spacey stuff so I (and others) could spend gazillions of dollars to see STAR WARS EPISODE I: The Phantom Menace in 3D!
Franz Kafka didn’t write about family love and isolation – he just wanted to entertain us with a freaky horror story!
David Brin doesn’t write about our responsibility to do everything in our power to become stewards of this planet we live on rather than parasites; he just wrote fun books about freaky aliens!
CJ Cherryh refuses to write about people finding their place in society and the universe or about how individuals interact with the Other. Instead, she just randomly writes coolish stories with aliens killing each other and stuff.
Julie Czerneda (another one of my favorites) surely doesn’t write about the overcoming alienation and the interaction of an alien’s biology and how far an intelligent species would go to promote an inheritable advantage in its population, given that the final cost could be their own extinction! She’s just a biologist who has nothing better to do with her time than invent fake aliens and write stories about how they interact…
As a writer do you think it’s better to just let yourself write and give the responsibility of discovering your theme over to others; or should you find out what you’re writing about and then work to sharpen both your focus on those issues and their integration into your characters?
Le’me know what you think!