What can I say?
That’s the big question, isn’t it? With all the words in the world at my disposal, what kind of interesting pattern can I make on the page?
I can’t begin to tell people “how to write”, when most of you are already better at it than I am. Nor can I tell people “what to write”. We write what’s in our hearts and minds, and peoples’ hearts and minds are different.
I can, however, tell you what I want to read. I’m an avid reader. Some of my peak experiences are in books – stories that stay in the mind forever, stories that make me want to jump with joy, stories that make me want to grab all my friends and say “Read this! Read this!” I want more of those stories. I want you to write those stories – many of them.
I want you to take me somewhere new. Hard SF writers: you do realise, don’t you, that I get most of my science from you? You are the people who present me with Big Ideas cut up into bite-size pieces and sugar-coated. I do read original research papers in my field of work – but there’s an awful lot of science out there; field after field, a whole landscape of knowledge. I am happy to explore – I love exploring – but I need a not-too-challenging half-day walk through new terrain before I take the 60-day trek to the summits of current understanding. You are my guides. I’m following you.
I want you to show me something interesting. Speculative writers: you are the people who ask the hard questions; what if… what if? You push at the boundaries of the possible; you’re always trying to think the unthinkable. I’m relying on you to break down my prejudices. I’m relying on you to point out to me the stuff I’m overlooking. I’m relying on you for vision; show me something I could never have found for myself. Show me something you care about, something I need to see.
I want you to introduce me to someone I don’t know. I’m looking for friends, and I know friends are found in unlikely places. Can I understand an alien? Could an alien be my friend? Maybe even the aliens who live next door? Can you help me understand why this person is thinking/feeling/doing that? This is fiction; it’s a safe zone for empathy practice. And I need the practice. Keep writing, please.
I want you to connect fantasy and reality. Show me what delights you, what fascinates you; show me all the stuff you care about. I love an enthusiast. If it’s team sports, show me why I should cheer. If it’s interstellar banking practice, show me why I need to understand the interaction of FTL and economics to get a handle on why these people do this. Show me that rocks are people, too. Grab me by the quirk and show me all your curious, fascinating thoughtways.
What will you say?
I can’t wait to find out…
Sue Thomason is a runner, climber, walker and cat-herder. She worked for the NHS until very recently, but is still surprisingly sane. Currently chairperson of Milford, she has had several short stories published.