How far is it acceptable to tread the well-worn path? Is there anything truly original left in literature? Do I really have anything worthwhile to add?
These questions torment me like griffons, which are an infamous pest here in Brighton. Their fearsome cries awaken me each morning and one of them once stole a bread roll right from my hand! Some people call them seagulls, or so I’ve heard. But whatever you call them, they’re always at my bloody bins. And those questions about originality remain. I truly do not have the answers.
Xenoform, my first novel, trod the familiar dark alleys and data-channels of the cyberpunk genre. I gave it my own twist, of course, filling the story with binary code and gene-invading alien AIs. Did it really do anything new? Probably not, excepting the use of that binary code to convey the artificial intelligence’s point-of-view (and yes, that code does ‘say something’). But was the novel still a worthwhile addition to the world of literature? I think so, but then I suppose I would. More encouragingly, the book’s reviewers on Amazon seem to think so, too. People have enjoyed the novel, and continue to do so. I like to think that’s justification enough for its existence.
Macao Station, my second full novel, also revolves around some familiar themes. I think that this segment from one of the book’s reviews says it better than I could myself:
“The story will feel familiar, taking elements of the Alien movies, the 1950s sci-fi movie The Thing, and probably some others you could name. Take a mix of people and give them sufficient identity and personality that you are actually interested in what happens to them, put them in an isolated situation where they have to rely on themselves and their limited resources, and match them against an evil entity. Tell the story very well and add enough that is new so you don’t feel like you are watching a rerun, and you have Macao Station.”
Is Macao a worthy addition to the literary field? I hope so . . . the story turned out as I originally wanted, but sometimes one does have to wonder.
My current project, Corp Wars, recently got me somewhat worried vis-a-vis the “Haven’t we been here before” issue. Do we really need another brooding male lead, tormented by the loss of females in his life? Do we need another reminder of the potential horrors of war, or the greed of human beings? I hope so, because I’m doing it now. I’m also hoping to get away with the ‘haunted male soldier’ lead, having had strong female main characters in my last works. And I guess I’ll have to inject enough of my own personality and style into the finished project to mark it as my own.
You can help me decide how that’s going by reading the following short excerpt, from near the beginning of the book. The main character, Dane Haley, has just awoken after an attack on his homeworld by ReverCorp-funded ‘unionists’. Hope you like it!
AN IDEAL OF SELF-DESTRUCTION
Do you think it possible to fall in love with the romantic ideal of your own destruction? A rhetorical question, really. That means don’t bother to answer, because it is entirely possible, I know. For a while, in the aftermath of Sarran, that’s what I did.
When I next awoke, I did so to a ravaged world, an inhospitable ruin, a negative image of the place I knew, a twisted nightmare parody of home. Everything was broken and the dead lay all around me, friend and foe become one tangled mass.
I looked upon the blood and gore and desecration and I hoped to find the enemy still there. I wanted to wreak revenge, even if I myself must die to do so. But conflicting thoughts of my family also swirled inside my head. I must return to them, but I was afraid of what I’d find. I didn’t know how long I’d been unconscious. The time was right there on my helmet’s HUD, but I never looked at it and I don’t think I could have interpreted it even if I had.
I staggered through the sand-blasted streets of Millicent, tripping through craters with my hands clutched to my helmeted head. It felt as if a fire raged within. I had lost my gun; for a while, I’d searched around where I had woken, hoping to find it. I wondered vaguely if the drone I’d seen was still around, or if there were others. I strained to hear the buzzing of their rotors, but all I could hear was the howl of the wind. No sun, no stars shone above me; only the occasional street light pierced the gloom at all and visibility couldn’t have been more than ten metres in any direction. My feet carried me mindlessly towards my home.
My street was mere wreckage. Tree trunks and pieces of wall littered the road and I had to clamber over many obstacles. Once I stumbled and fell over the surprised-looking head of a man I’d known, a schoolteacher who had taught my eldest girl.
My house had mostly remained intact, all but the telling hole in the front wall where the Unionists had blasted the door out. When I saw this, I broke into an agonized, staggering run, crying out words I can’t remember. I crossed the burnt grass of my front lawn and burst into the house. I searched frantically, rushing from room to room, kicking doors open and furniture aside, cursing and slamming my fists against the walls. The lights were broken, strobing on and off in random bursts. Dust had drifted against every wall, every chair, on the kitchen counter. And the inescapable fact remained: they were not there.
They were not there.
Thanks for reading! Here is a link to my own site, if you’d like to find out more about my work: