Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why I don't write fiction UPDATED

Since people are continuously banging down my door asking for a WWPD novel, I thought I should explain why none exists. It's not that I don't write fiction--I have, on and off, better and worse, since high school--but I am wary of inflicting it on the world. Thing is, although I don't write semi-autobiographical stories of the adventures of one Fifi Maltzman, I do tend to write about places and situations I know, and there's enough of what I know floating around in fiction today. No one cares about academic types, Manhattanites, Park Slopers, Hyde Parkers, Spence girls, or Stuyvesant nerds. A way of complimenting a work in the NYT Sunday Book Review is to exclaim, "Nothing about the Upper East Side!"

Even if against all odds I came up with something original to write about any of these worlds, any mention of Tasti-d-Lite, school uniforms, or the Six train would put anything I wrote into the pretentious-blather genre, and would leave readers (as if there would be readers) begging for "books with dragons on the cover" and stories about Kansas and Inner Mongolia within. For a time, being familiar with NYC was an advantage and meant a person could write relative crap as long as it referenced upscale 5th Avenue department stores. That time may not be over, but I've internalized the American populist idea that you are not really from America, did not really have a childhood, if it all took place where "Sex and the City" was shot.

UPDATE

Here are some more thoughts about the "real America" of which I, with my prejudiced conviction that squirrels are not food, will never be a part. I could call it a religious dietary restriction, but that wouldn't help deflect charges of membership in a coastal cabal.

10 comments:

Miss Self-Important said...

I'd read it. The last book I read about rural life was probably The Little House on the Prairie.

Withywindle said...

Some of us write fantasy. Rural, urban--it's all less interesting than dragons.

Phoebe said...

Why are dragons interesting?

Withywindle said...

This is not a matter that conduces to rational persuasion, surely? How can I convince you that dragons are interesting? ... but if you like, Tolkien writes in one of his letters that an appreciation of the fantastic breaking into the prosaic everyday reflects an appreciation of the divine breaking into the secular world. (There's an interesting genre version of this argument to be made--where prose narrative corresponds with secular conceptions of time.) My interest in dragons, if you like, is a religiously-inflected aesthetic. But I didn't think my way into an appreciation of dragons--I rather liked the idea of winged, fire-breathing lizards at a young age, with no more articulation to the preference than "Nifty! Scary! Woo!"

Andrew Stevens said...

While the brief vogue for NYC is over, nobody is interested in Kansas and nobody ever has been since The Wizard of Oz. Reality is boring. For a brief time, New York City was exciting because it was filled with crime, lots of in-your-face porn, and people snorting cocaine off the backs of male go-go dancers. Eventually people figured out that New York City was just as boring as everywhere else.

Dragons are interesting precisely because they don't exist.

Amber said...

I don't want to read books about "real Americans" either. Dragons all the way.

Phoebe said...

That's it. By popular demand, a story about dragons at elite math-science high schools in NYC. Which seems almost too realistic to count as fantasy.

Amber said...

I could read that, but someone may have beaten you to it.

http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Dragons-Daughter-Michael-Swanwick/dp/0380730464

Phoebe said...

That doesn't sound so much like the book I'd have in mind. There's work to be done...

Sarah T. said...

It's easy enough:

FLIGHT CLUB. Phoebe Kantler thinks she had enough problems already, what with the relentless academic pressure at Horace Mann, her loopy best friend who's fun but always on the verge of getting into real trouble, and her cute lab partner who messes up all her physics experiments just by being in the room (she swears!). Little does she know her life is about to get a lot harder: after she takes what she thinks is just another test, it turns out Phoebe has a special aptitude for dragon-riding! Now she must balance her new 'extracurricular' with her quest for good grades, a dad who's not flipping his lid over her personal life choices, and true love.