When I ask other writers if they've read certain 'canonical' books, the chances are great that not only have they not read them, they have not even heard of them. The authors in question were true groundbreakers in their respective categories.
Take the example of fantasy writers. Robert Heinlein, C.S. Lewis, William Burroughs, Mervyn Peake, Douglas Noel Adams, Jules Verne, Jack London, and Wilkie Collins are names barely recognised by fantasy writers these days. Only J.R.R. Tolkien seems to have survived the Great Cultural Purge.
This enormity is equivalent to writers of locked-room mysteries never having read John Dickson Carr. And the outrage is that all these core writers, and many others too numerous to mention, are held prisoners in locked rooms where modern readers can smugly and sanctimoniously ignore them.
THE END — HEA??
Does anyone have a nomination for the best ending of a novel? Most often I am somewhat disappointed that things did not quite work out the way I had expected in the end, rather than actually feeling let down by the author.
I would imagine we all have novels or stories on hold because we just don't know what to do with the ending, or, even worse, we know the ending, but not how to get there. Our plots resemble IKEA jigsaw puzzles, and we are not sure if all the pieces are there in the box or if there might even be too many pieces – spare screws or characters. And WTF is a PoziDriv screw (and why does it cam out at lower torque levels)? [Answer appears at the end of the blog.]
Dickens (remember him?) wrote two endings for Great Expectations – one sad ending and one ambiguous ending. Things were definitely NOT to work out HEA for Pip and Estella. And Deus ex machina was going to solve only just so many difficult endings before someone came up with a name for it and spoilt it for the rest of us. Even interactive endings seem contrived these days. Audience, or reader, participation might work in theory but, like democracy, leads to revolt in practice.
Perhaps the best solution is to leave your masterpiece unfinished and allow a future writer, who recognises your genius, to finish it for you. Or, as in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, end your tale with "And it was all just a dream."
Whatever happened to Fuzzy Logic? It was meant to account for and correct human error by making certain assumptions about, amongst other things, the uncertainty in the operation of various gadgets, such as cameras. Possibly we are so used to fuzzy logic that we not only don't notice it, but we also need it to function in ever-increasing areas of our lives.
Spell checks, autocorrect, predictive text, grammar checks – either you love them or you've disabled them. For instance, I do most of my typing on a German keyboard, which is slightly different from the English one. I do not have QWERTY – no, I have QWERTZ. So when I tzpe the word fuyyz, I end up with what zou just saw. The language change does not change the external kezboard, zou see. Fuzzy logic would do it for me.
GENRE — No thank you. Earlier I avoided the use of the word 'genre' – for several reasons. It is quite easily replaced by another word, such as kind or sort or category or type or area. It is also equally as vague as those other words. It sounds too 'gourmet', if you will. I like fusion foods, and I write in a fusion of styles. One novel I am working on is a dystopian fantasy murder spy science fiction mystery with one of the main characters being a talking dog who has won the Nobel prize in Physics. Meta-genre seems a weak word for that combination.
In any case, the word in French carries rather more weight. It means gender and race, as well. And when one says, "Il a mauvais genre", it means "He looks disreputable", so it implies an entire demeanour. Genre is also used to mean 'airs' - the kind of airs you put on when you are acting more important than you really are.
WAUGH is ME — In my list of favourite books, Scoop by Evelyn Waugh was one. In fact, to judge by my writing style, he could easily be my main influence of all the authors on that list. He is famous, of course, for his 'sardonic wit' – a phrase which belongs to him alone. He also commands the phrases 'dark humour' and 'biting satire'. It is impossible to overestimate his contribution to English literature.
A new author who has learnt a lesson in the strict economy of language is the young Englishman Simon Elson, whose début novel, Hades Forest, I read extensively in its early stages. It appears now on the Amazon list, a bestial topiary trimmed of unnecessary adverbs and dialogue tags, sparse and direct, buoyant and free.
In an all too imaginable dystopia which would control its citizens' every facial expression, some manage to escape. Yet, after his rescue to the anarchy of Hades Forest, the main character, Perry Benson, wishes himself back in the dystopia he had so despised.
The author sets his traps adroitly, as the reader is confronted with the inhabitant tribes of the forest. Whom dare Perry, or the reader, trust to resolve the conflict between two equally evil worlds?
I recommend Hades Forest, not just as a reader's book, but also as a writer's book. That is to say, don't just read it as a reader, read it as a writer, as well.
As a final clue to the IKEA puzzle of life, I offer to all those who have read DNA's H2G2 the juicy titbit of a fact that John Bunyan (1628-1688) received with his first wife's dowry the book 'The Plain Man's Path-Way to Heaven' by Arthur Dent (died 1607).
PoziDriv screws and their drivers were designed originally for aircraft construction and cannot be over-tightened, thus ensuring a proper and safe fit. Roger Wilco Over and Out.