Scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people
I suppose I don’t really write books that are just one thing. Maybe this is my problem… well, besides being a silly monkey with a penchant for lost causes and taking on hell with a fire-bucket, and living so far beyond the black stump you have to crawl three more days after the last camel dies to get near to it. Society thinks it’s a good place for the likes of me, and for once I agree wholeheartedly with the dumb cow.
I don’t preach. Sermons masquerading as books pee me off and I’m damned if I’ll write one. Besides only the already converted faithful like them. A book MUST be a great story. I certainly don’t tell you what to think. BUT a great story can still have issues and conflicts that relate to other things outside and beyond just the book. One doesn’t always agree with these, but if it’s a good story, one puts up with them, maybe get interest by them, maybe disagree entirely. As a writer – a book like Rats Bats and Vats gave me a chance to explore a whole lot of ideas about military combat and the effect of equipment on the type of soldier required, about how language shapes what one CAN think of, as well as using a whole lot of different species to have a strong poke at Shavian Socialism (the Socio-politcial system of Harmony and Reason) about what our mores mean when through the eyes of a different species. About the complexity of being human. Lots of politics, philosophy, psychology. Turgid shit. Positively constipating to even think about…
-“the military SF plot is peppered with its share of Dirty Dozen-esque cliffhangers, the sharpest moments in this giddy entertainment are those where the rodents blithely skewer human mores (Publisher’s Weekly)
-“A brilliant action/adventure novel… This book is funny, funny, funny! If you appreciate the double entendre, Shakespearean backside humor, insane adventure or a touch of mystery/suspense, then you would be wise to pick this one up. (Brian Murphy, Scifi.com)
Not quite as turgid as all that. In fact it might like fig preserve have on your insides a most distressing effect. For me too it was a book in which I got to write about being a conscript in a war where I can’t say I supported the people who sent me there, or had a lot of sympathy with the people who were happy to kill us, and hey, anyone who gave them any trouble. I’m a thinking man, and it’s been in my mind a long time grinding around, and a lot of other ideas. And of course to get my own back on the Bronte sisters… But it could still be done in a story, a fast-moving funny one.
(yes the picture is a link. Yes, I wasn’t crazy about the title. Or the cover.)
Your own experience does of course come into any book – and so does relating to it (which is why I find a book by an urban cubicle IT nerd written for urban cubicle IT nerds as thrilling as watching a 5 day cricket test match in slo-mo. Yet they are loved.) But there is more to it – there is also the experience of your whole culture. And given the fact that I found myself in the same boat as tens of millions of American (and Australian, New Zealander, Canadian, Chilean, or Venezuelan for that matter emigrants (or descendents of) — Hell, go back far enough, all of us — has influenced the last few books heavily. I find myself one of those ‘scattered abroad, dispersed among the nations’ ex-South Africans. I suppose I will always be a product of the people and place and culture that gave me shape and form. I am (almost) an Australian now, and loyal to the country that gave me and my family hope, home and refuge.
It is going to be interesting to see how this resonates with readers.
And so tell me- what of the underlying matter in books – and what books – resonated with you?