Six months before my mother died, she turned to me and said bluntly, “I’m never going to read your novels.” Naturally I was horrified and protested vociferously but of course she was right: I’d failed utterly to get myself published though I had tried and tried for years ~ nay, decades. While I was protesting, I knew she was right. My heart sank as disappointment bloomed. Like most insecure only-children, I wanted my mother to be proud of me and I failed, just as I had failed to turn myself into a published author.
I used to say that she wanted me to write like Jilly Cooper but really, what she wanted was for me to write commercial fiction that would actually sell: books that people would actually read. “Don’t write about past lives,” she said. No one wants to read about that. Don’t they? It’s very probable that Jilly Cooper fans wouldn’t want to read about past lives but what about everyone else? And anyway, I don’t write about past lives. I write about immortality. It’s not the same thing.
It must take a particular talent to write commercially. How do people write such successful crap? How does it flow from their fingertips? How do they manage to produce so many clichés on every page? I was told once that my novel “Ultra” contains no clichés, which I took ~ obviously ~ as an enormous compliment. But I suspect that I don’t write in clichés because I don’t know any. My view of the world is slightly odd and because it’s odd, I don’t know how to write acceptably commercial fiction. I certainly could never write a novel that my mother would actually like, so perhaps it’s just as well that she didn’t see me published ~ what would she have made of Sistia Scarpora, heroine of “Flesh for Sale”?
So: while not a writer of blatantly commercial clichéd fiction, what am I a writer of? Literary science fiction? I’m not sure what that would entail. What is literary fiction? Whenever I have a go at reading it, it just seems more miserable than anything else. There’s no happy ending and endless bad luck. It’s rather like Oscar-winning movies: it’s always the Issue Movie that wins, the grim one, the serious one. I could say the same for literary fiction in which case, I remain outside its classification. I don’t write about issues. I write about recognisable people in unrecognisable situations and nothing could be less recognisable than the fate that awaits Sistia Scarpora, the reluctant heroine of “Flesh for Sale.”
Not literary, not commercial, not strictly sci-fi: what genre is left for me? Perhaps ~ when someone has read the entire Fleet Quintet ~ they can tell me. Or make up a new one.
Writer of bloody weird stuff.