AN INTERVIEW WITH THE UNKNOWN SCIENCE FICTION WRITER
A couple nights ago I dreamt I interviewed The Unknown Science Fiction Writer. Face fully bandaged up like a Fritz Bogott mummy. He was American, 'of course'.
He was telling me about the shit you needed to do to get on in this world. Heinous PR bollocks and such. I was curious about Method, 'of course'. He said: "Man, I didn't even start getting half-decent 'til, uhhhrm, the third book." This all in a timestretched Mid-Western drawl. "There's no Method; you jus' gotta do, is all..."
I was curiously bemused by this pearl o'wisdom; well, slightly irritated, actually. "You jus' gotta do, is all" sounded, I dunno, kinda facile, like some vague n vacuous Jedi homily: "Do, or do not. There is no try."
I remember dream-thinking: "What? Is that it? Is that all there is? Fuck, even I knew that..."
It seemed so hollow, so bleeding blinking obvious. I mean, 'everyone' knows there's more to it than that. But, no, when The Unknown Science Fiction Writer saw the disappointed expression on my face he just did a dreamtime *shrug* which was shorthand for well, there it is; just take it or leave it, pal.
And, 'of course', that isn't quite the end of it: if all that was required was effort then any fucker on the planet who could hold a pen or bash the keys of a typewriter would/could be a prize-winning author. It's also about distilling a certain form type of magic - and that magic varies from person to person - but the act of creation is a form of magic and of that I have no doubt, but it requires the use of certain arcane muscles in your head and for those muscles to do their stuff properly you have to put in some hours at the gym.
Did I say hours?
Sorry, I meant decades.
Digression: my favourite bestest ever piece of advice to a budding writer comes from Warren Ellis - who wheels this routine/skit out in various, ever-mutating forms whenever he's had a whiskey or two, usually when he's asked a question about writer's block or what do professional writers do when they don't feel like writing; tho sometimes he just says it for the sheer fun of saying it - just like Alan Moore likes to occasionally scare kiddies with the tale of having plotted Big Numbers in a grid of minute panels on a single sheet of A2 sized paper (or A1 or A0 - depending on where you read the story).
Basically Warren will sip his whiskey or draw on his cig and suggest that if you don't feel like writing, then you're not a writer, that you're something else: a plumber, a milkman, a fucking pub landlord. Whatever.
But you're not a writer.
Because what writers do is they fucking write.
Back in dreamtime I said to The Unknown Science Fiction Writer - and there was a weird kinda semi-sob in my voice as I said it: "Lately I've finally started to learn some useful stuff, but - but for each single thing I learn I suddenly realise there's another ten things - a hundred - that I don't know about."
He nodded slowly, his bandages creasing slightly where his mouth should've been, as if to say: ah, now you're getting it, kid...
I was feeling pretty emotional by now, so I took a deep breath. I was about to say to him: have you read anything by Tom Bradley...? but he slowly crumbled into Fritz Bogott mummy-dust - grey powder that blew around the room and the scene dissolved into black-and-white and I found myself on the Faux-Noir monochrome streets of some hemi-familar mindtown that was a composite of half-a-dozen places I've visited or films I've seen, because that's the deal, man, when your short-term memory-buffers flush themselves out into archival storage.
The interview was over.