Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Inspiration - Fiction

Well, it's been over a month now since I posted my short story. Time to come to terms with the fact that no one is going to read it. I don't think that even my immediate family is reading my blog. But, enough self-pity (though self-pity is a good writerly trait, don't you think? Some of our best writers were self-pitiful).

On to what inspires me as a fiction writer. I do actually know one published novelist. My former boss, Keith Raffel, has one novel published and one in the pipeline. Keith is nine years older than me, and just got his first novel published, so that gives us all hope. His book, dot.dead, is a straightforward contemporary murder mystery, set in Silicon Valley. It's a fun read, with an engaging protagonist and a good mysterious plot. Also, a lot of nice local color. I lived in the Palo Alto area for 12 years before moving to Tucson, so it was a lot of fun to read about my old haunts.

But murder mysteries aren't really my thing, in general. I can't see myself writing one.

So what fiction do I like to read? You'll find it odd. I like little stories about small town American life. I like Garrison Keillor, Fanny Flagg, Adriana Trigliani. These are stories where generally nothing really big happens -- no murders, car chases, sinister forces of evil, possessed saint bernards, savage bio-engineered killer gorillas, etc.

All the good stories I've written are like that. I write about road trips. I write stories that, if they were made into movies, would be made into little indie films, shot by a first-time director and featuring one big star who decided to work for scale just because he/she really believed in the story.

Now, like all good nerds, I went through the fantasy/sci-fi thing. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia. I actually read the Lord of the Rings in its entirety when I was in High School. I read just about everything Zalazney wrote. I read all those strange Fritz Leiber short stories. I read the requisite amount of Azimov and Heinlein and Crichton.

But my attempts to write fantasy have always fallen flat. It always feels forced. Because it is forced.

What I really like these days in that sort of realm are the things that Douglas Adams wrote. And I like the stuff by his variouis imitators, like Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin. I've been trying to slog through a theoretically hilarious book by Tom Holt, called Who's Afraid of Beowulf. The book has all the right ingredients but it's undercooked or overcooked or something.

If I could just decide to write a readable fantasy novel, I would love to write something like The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocolypse. Something imaginative and off-the-wall, and that makes the reader laugh out loud every couple of pages or so. I might even be capable of something like that. I don't think I'm capable of writing a great sword-and-sorcery epic.

You're still reading? That's impressive. I'd have wandered off to something more interesting by now. You must really like me. But I'm sure you're also wondering where I'm going with all of this...