The article first published in Focus, the BSFA’s magazine for writers, is now available on Medium.
“All fiction is of its time and science fiction holds a special place, speculating how the fears of today might play out into possible tomorrows. Within the genre there’s a difference between the near-future and the apocalyptic. Or as people are now saying, there used to be. “
There’s a vulnerability to life at the moment. I feel it and I’m sure you feel it. For some of us it’s a new kind of vulnerability: the fear of getting seriously ill, the anxiety of not knowing what to do and what not to do; and the heightened sense of mortality.
I experienced this a few years ago too when I developed a DVT and was rushed to A&E. The following months of trying to discover the cause made me mistrust my own body. The slow recovery made me extremely cautious, around traffic in particular because the drugs I was on to stop my blood clotting had no widely available antidote. “If you bleed we really can’t stop it.”
It was a lesson, a severe lesson. The constant background fear and the overwhelming sense of vulnerability gave me a visceral understanding of what it must be like to live your life feeling vulnerable, all the time.
Writers draw their experiences into their imagination and transfer them across to other people’s stories, albeit made up ones. And that’s what can make literature, poetry and plays so powerful.
The trouble is writers can only experience so much of life. They have to use their imagination, inspired by the research and the right conversations, to reflect the inner feelings and resulting motivations of their characters.
If imagination without experience is at one end of a scale and living with something every day is at the other then it’ll be interesting to see how our fiction changes and develops as a result of the current pandemic.
photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Vintage advertisement for a balet “Des Malers Traumbild” featuring Fanny Elssler (1810-1884)
via photopin (license)