Sunday 29 October 2017

Gestation Time

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story "Night Passage" - just out in the Infinite Stars anthology - was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn't an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

Over the next five or six years I made a number of attempts to get to grips with the story, but each abandoned draft took the plot further from the initial concept, and with (I think) steadily dwindling focus. Prompted by the need to write a fresh story for this anthology, though, I discarded these efforts, opened a fresh file, and returned to the original notes from 2009. Other than the addition of a framing device which was not present in the notes, the finished story conforms very closely to those initial ideas.

Time and again in my writing, I've had an idea for a story, but in the writing itself, found myself moving further and further away from the core, until some realisation arrives and I discard these over-wrought, over-complicated, over-embroidered drafts and pare things back down to the initial impulse. I'm either incapable of learning from experience, or the process of drift and return is a necessary one.


  1. The fact you return from drift probably means you're learning. Certainly appears to be the case as I think you're a better writer now, than when I first encountered you. And you were rather good then.

  2. Mr Reynolds, I hope you read this and I hope you don't take it the wrong way.

    First let me tell you that I have read all your novels and short stories and you are my favourite science fiction writer by far. I do care, that's why I write this. I pondered whether I should contact you for a long time and now I have.

    Modern sci-fi literature has been taken over by cultural marxists and social justice warriors who care only about injecting their political ideology into everything thus destroying any creativity and independence. The Hugo/Nebula are given based on the gender/skin colour/religion/political views of the author and the characters in the works not based on merit or literary quality. You know this.

    I have noticed an alarming creep of such sjw pandering in your recent works and interviews. From the out of place weird gender pronoun in On The Steele Breeze to your sjw agreeable "white male like me"comments in your reddit AMA not long ago.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not fall for that trap. We love your earlier work, because it did not pander to such ideology and political bullshit. Maybe you are doing it, because you feel you have to do it due to the overall social/political climate or because you want to break through the sjw barrier surrounding the various awards. Please don't. Your fans will support you no matter what. Fight the cultural marxist oppression, don't succumb to it. I refuse to accept you take any of it to heart, you are too intelligent for that.

    Your fans are loyal and want quality sci-fi without the random injections of out of place political correctness and pandering. It's on’e of the reasons Poseidon's Children under performed, your readers were kinda disgusted by the forced inclusion of a gender neutral thing. We dont want or need that, we want and need you Mr. Reynolds, to be yourself.

    With great respect and love for your work.

    1. Perhaps you should have pondered a little longer before contacting Al.

  3. Dear anonymous - please find another author; I think we will both be much happier.

    1. Dear Mr. Reynolds,
      Thank you for that response. It made me so happy.

  4. Dear Al

    This was a very interesting post (picked up on about writing process, about time from note to finished story and about how working the idea can take you away, rather than too, to the idea you want to write.

    I have been enjoying both your novels and your behind the scenes insights into your fiction in your non fiction reflections for many years (since before Arvon, in fact).

    as for the "other Anonymous" post about SJWs and you being yourself. As far as I can tell, you are being yourself and a 100% authentic. You're writing the fiction you want to write and you're exploring ideas of hard SF, characterisation and the fundamental SF question of what it means to be human.

    That's what we want and need.

    Best wishes

    Dev Agarwal

  5. Indeed. SJWs etc is of no matter. I find the changed pronouns like hz etc serve no purpose and confuse, but that's up to the writer. Momentary politics should not infest far future anyway.

  6. Well I think that freedom-loving straight white guys have good cause for concern. It is obvious that when the SJWs take over, we will be condemned to a life of grueling toil as slave laborers in the lesbian tungsten mines of iniquity. And I don't even know what tungsten looks like, so I'm going to be terrible at it. Furthermore, I am worried that the Cultural Marxist (TM) taskmasters are going to make me get a haircut.

  7. I think my favorite Cultural Marxist was Groucho.

  8. AI,

    I agree with the original Anonymous poster worried about SJW and Cultural Marxists (TM). I think every book you write should have explicitly male, white protagonists and female damsels in distress that don't really have anything to do with the story except to be rescued by aforementioned White Straight Male Protagonist (TM). Exploring gender and sexuality in the context of future civilizations will inevitably lead to anything with a penis toiling endlessly under the cruel thumb of dangerous lesbian overlords.

  9. I cited Travertine in an academic paper. Granted, the paper was titled, "Cultural Marxism and the destruction of everything we hold dear" but, ya know...

  10. Al, you are clearly a wise person with a deep and comprehensive understanding of Things. I will share my rations with you when we are in the prison mines.

  11. Whopeee another story to read.... i’ve Just re-read the prefect / Aurora Rising, and am so looking forward to the sequel. Who do we have to bribe at Gollancz to get them to accidentally publish it early :)