Do writers dream of electric sheep?
I have been neglecting this blog (and the other one) because I have been writing, and lately proof-reading, and there never seems to be enough time for everything.
As a writer, I tend to follow themes. Obsessions or idees fixes. As I'm getting older, I'm able to get a clearer view of what these are about. They tend to be a bit solipsistic, so I can't guarantee that anyone else would be interested in my view on things.
Here's a short list:
1. Gender and sexual identity.
Partly down to all that feminist/literary theory at college, and reading books like The Female Man by Joanna Russ. And even more so, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin.
2. The underground stream.
The official version of history isn't always the correct one. (You have to very careful with this idea as you can end up believing in conspiracy theories).
Subject to that caveat, I am one of those who believe that Richard III was framed. Or certainly vilified by his successor for political reasons.
The mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. This has rather been done to death by Dan Brown, and a lot of the original history has been discredited. I still cling to the idea that there is a mystery. Reading list: Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum, Patrice Chaplin, The Citadel, just Google it.
3. Folk horror.
I discovered via Facebook that there is a whole community that loves films like The Wicker Man, or TV Dramas like Penda's Fen. These films or books are essentially British (or English?) and it seems plausible to group them together. They follow a thread that also appears in the writing of Alan Garner and Robert Holdstock - and I know of other writers I haven't read yet. Rather in the same way Tolkien set out to create an epic mythology for England, these form a corpus of work that seems to create alternative folklore.
4. The heroes asleep under the White Mountain.
You must be thinking (what?) unless you are Czech or know about this. It seems to be a common trope that certain kings or heroes never died but are asleep beneath a mountain, waiting to return in their country's hour of direst need. Alan Garner mentions this in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, but there are lots of other examples, including King Vaclav and the Hussites under the White Mountain in Bohemia, and in Russia, Prince Vladimir and the Bogatyrs, heroic warriors who achieved legendary status.
5. They went back in time and changed history.
Dr Who in all its iterations is largely to blame for this one. But the other instance is the film The Amazing Mr Blunden, based on the novel The Ghosts by Antonia Barber.
And Back to the Future no.s I-III.
This can be dangerous, unless you believe in the Many Worlds theory according to which every event creates a new timeline and a new world. Terry Pratchett writes about this with inexorable logic and great humour in Lords and Ladies, where Archchancellor Ridcully becomes annoyed because all his other selves (in other dimensions) have failed to invite him to their weddings. Ponder Stibbons is unable to explain the idea to him.
What I realise in writing these down is that several of these preoccupations have never quite made it into my writing. I love the ghost stories of M.R. James and would give anything to be able to imitate his spare elegance, dry humour and the 'pleasing terror' of his writing.
I haven't even managed to mention my fascination with The White Goddess by Robert Graves, not to mention The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison.