Today, I am proud to present Speculative Assessment’s very first guest post by Peter Liney, as part of his The Detainee blog tour – so take it away, sir!
STORY by Peter Liney
I saw J.J. Abrams being interviewed on TV about, not just being the director of the latest episode of Star Trek, but soon, Star Wars as well. The assumption being that he must be a real SF aficionado. However, apparently it’s not true, what he really loves is ‘story’, no matter what the genre.
I can relate to that. The story might not be everything, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the overwhelming majority. I have friends who get excited by the rhythm of music, the ‘atmosphere’, but for me it’s all about the melody. ‘I like a good tune,’ as I’m sure one of my aged relatives must’ve said to me at some time. Me, too. And I like a good story, too. I remember the sheer thrill of reading Leon Uris as a fifteen-year-old. Coming to the end, the climax of the story, and giving out with cries of frustration because I couldn’t turn the page quickly enough. That’s a story. Of course, I hadn’t learnt about ‘literature’ then, the pretentiousness that often seems to come with being a teenager, the need to be cool. I didn’t realise I was reading commercial pap, that there was no style, little subtext, all I cared about was that it was making my heart beat faster than the new girl who’d moved in with her family across the street. The thing is, readers will fill in the spaces lacking in description for you, they’ll even colour in your characters, but they can’t make up your story.
Well, perhaps a little. Perfume by Patrick Suskind is one of my favourite books of all time. I remember talking to someone who knew the author quite well and saying how much I loved the part where he backs himself deeper and deeper into a cave. What a profound and disturbing image that was: him all alone down there, backed up against the wall, as far as he can go, surrounded by nothing but darkness. Turns out – or at least according to her – that he actually didn’t know what to do next and was indulging in a little stalling. Oh well, it worked for me.
But story, of course, does need character, because without it we don’t truly understand motivation. What a lesson that is to learn. It doesn’t matter what it is (SF, shopping-lit, murder mystery, even pornography) if we don’t ‘feel’ why someone’s doing something, if there’s no ‘reason’, we don’t get involved.
Where SF and fantasy score over all other types of fiction – at least for me – is that they seem to naturally lend themselves to when you ask that golden question of all writers ‘what if?’ For me, it’s not ‘what if we could travel to other planets, or had supernatural powers’, but more sociological change. ‘What if we couldn’t afford to look after the weaker members of our society any longer? The sick, the old, the young, the poor – what would happen to them?’ Or ‘how invasive or brutal would the state be prepared to be to protect itself?’ Put those together, add in love and a dozen lesser ingredients, a handful of spices, and you have THE DETAINEE.
I do hope that the effort of turning those pages has its occasional moments of frustration.
Peter Liney was born in Wiltshire but has spent a large part of his life overseas . He has written sitcoms for ABC and Channel 4, and drama for the BBC and South African radio. He lives in London.
Peter Liney’s The Detainee will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in the UK on July 4th 2013. The Detainee blog-tour can be found at the following sites…
July 9th – J For Jetpack
July 11th – GavReads
July 12th – Ranting Dragon
A review of the book will be following in due course!