Daniel Durrant, author of Climate Change, is currently touring in support of his Steampunk Espionage novella. I turned my site over to Daniel, asking him what difficulties he faced while writing Climate Change and in writing in the realm of speculative fiction in general. What’s come out of my question is a wonderful guest post that talks about themes, Tolkien, and the muddy waters of genre. Oh, and there’s an extended excerpt and another awesome giveaway too! 🙂
It’s All Tolkien’s Fault
I love speculative fiction. I love reading it, and I love writing it. But there are two aspects that annoy me. The first is the look that appears on some faces when you use the term. I used to work in marketing consultancy, and any attempt to explain what I did would result in a confused, glazed-over look that said: “I don’t really understand what you mean”. Talking about speculative fiction produces exactly the same look, so I’ve ditched the term. Thankfully, “Steampunk” seems to be entering common use anyway.
The second is the subject of themes. I’m not saying themes don’t matter; on the contrary, spec-fic ideas usually spring from a “what-if” scenario, so a good story should be driven by that piece of speculation. No, it’s the obsession with underlying themes that irks me.
It’s unique to the genre. As if it’s not enough to build a whole world (you don’t have to do that in chick-lit), there seems to be a perception that a novel should be built on some concealed foundation. “It’s just a story” is a perfectly acceptable justification in other genres; no-one ever criticized crime drama for not providing an allegorical reference. Not so in spec-fic. Personally, I blame Tolkien.
People have spent a lot of time finding themes in Lord of the Rings and debating their merit. I once read the whole trilogy should be viewed as an allegory of the cold war. The forces of Mordor are portrayed as a vast, faceless enemy in the East. They exist behind a huge wall that divides Middle Earth. One small device has the power to unleash colossal destruction. So it doesn’t seem an unreasonable position to take.
Yet Tolkien rejected this – and indeed, every other theory, going so far as to say that he “disliked allegory in all its forms.” But he did concede that many themes were applicable, and invented a new word to describe the concept – applicability – stating it was more accurate than allegory.
I think there is a lot of truth in that. Themes are often woven into a novel unconsciously, rather than deliberately; every idea a writer has is influenced by something. The reader may spot it when the author does not. With that in mind, I asked a few friends that helped beta-read Climate Change what underlying themes they saw in the work.
Amongst the answers were: how those in power come to believe they are better rather than luckier. The dangers of religious fundamentalism. The amount of technology we have in our lives is disconnecting from us from each other. That we’re placing too much value on things rather than people. People regard science as boring but still expect it to give them everything they want. We’re only pretending to care about the environment, and not really doing anything meaningful to protect it.
Many of these points reflect my beliefs, so it appears there is more of me in the novel than I realised. Since none of it was intentional, it concerns me a little; I’m not sure I want my psyche on show.
I maintain there is no allegory in Climate Change, but the above undeniably supports the “applicability” principle. Maybe Tolkien was alright after all.
But it is just a story.
In a world driven by steam and power-hungry Industrialists, can one man change the course of history?
Edward Rankine, inventor and engineer aboard the battle-cruiser Dominator, has devised an ingenious plan to open the frozen Northwest Passage.
Believing he is performing a service for the benefit of mankind, Edward is appalled to discover there is a saboteur in his midst.
Working with a crew of ‘Jacks and Jills’, mechanically enhanced humans sentenced to a life of servitude, Edward is forced to battle on the icebound waters of the northern seas.
Not only does Edward have a mutiny on his hands, but he must also find a way to save the passengers aboard the Dominator, possibly abandoning his own noble ambition in the process.
Will Edward’s plan succeed in the face of adversity, or in failing to clear the Northwest Passage will he stumble upon something greater?
An Excerpt from Climate Change
by Daniel Durrant…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in anthologies in the UK and USA, and he is currently working on his first full-length novel. He lives on the Norfolk Coast in England.
CONNECT WITH DANIEL
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!