Recently, as I was explaining to a friend the plot of one of my novels, the question of why I write speculative works came up. It is one I’ve been tossing around for a while as I face the scary unknown of Graduate school, a place not generally known for its tolerance of the pulpier lit. I think my desire to write science fiction and fantasy stems from a few different reasons. And I’m not sure I’ve figured all of them out as yet, thus this is only the first attempt to answer the question of why I like to tell the stories I tell.
First, and most obviously, I tend to read science fiction and fantasy by preference. I like exploring vast worlds and finding out about things I will never encounter outside of vague dreams and dusty mindscapes. I also look for strong, character driven work and have found that good speculative fiction delves deeply into what it means to be human or alive in ways that ‘reality’ tries to prevent in lit fic. I like to read it, therefore why shouldn’t I want to write what I enjoy reading?
On another level, I write speculative fiction because I am not a subtle person. The very best of literary fiction, in my opinion, either has speculative elements to it or else has very subtle explorations of character and place. My writing is, like its creator, not a subtle thing. I paint with a wide brush and have learned to let the details present themselves to the readers as needed. Perhaps this is a weakness, I’m not sure. I like to make broad strokes of character and to leap into the vastly strange landscapes of my mind without having to worry overly much about whether or not something is real as opposed to just plausible. Fantasy, especially, gives me that freedom. I don’t have to over think the details, instead I’m free to wander and dream.
And finally, well, I’m a bit nuts. I have a very visual/sensory brain. Everything in my head is either conceptual or else runs like a constant incoherent movie completely with smells, touch, tastes, sight, and sound. This constantly bleeds out into the real world around me in the form of hallucinations. My existence is a constant filtering of real vs not real. So my writing becomes an outlet, a way to slow down and stop having to run at doublespeed. This is why I need so much time and space physically and mentally to write. I have to be able to cut off from the constant and instant decisions of real/not real and turn the senses loose to channel my inner/outer world into something others can share. Speculative fiction lets me be free to delve into the sometimes alien landscapes of my brain so I can express the oddness of my second senses. I have no stats for this, so it is a random guess based on author’s blogs I’ve read, but I think that probably highly visual people would be more attracted to science fiction and fantasy (and horror too) than to straight lit fic or something more literal like crime/mystery. If I had an ounce of artistic talent/ability in me, I’d probably mostly give up writing novels and just write/draw graphic novels. Or if I were rich, I’d make movies. But I’m not rich, and I can’t draw well at all. So I write. And I write the fantastic in all its familiar and imperfect forms as they come to me out of the writhing, crying dark.