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Sunday, April 4, 2010

ON NOVELS AND WEIRDNESS

So I've just finished one novel - started Boxing Day, wrote "the end" mid-March. It's called The Severance and it's my highly original zombie novel. Quite a departure in many ways for me, since it's got quite a lot of graphic stuff in it. I enjoyed doing this one a lot.

And now I'm on to the next - a more insidious and ghostly piece called A Tale of Two. It's a novel set in both Stockholm and Seville, and deals with an idea I had in the wake of the credit crunch. It also expands on the way my shorter fiction - eg, 'Fragment of Life' - has turned rather enigmatic lately. I think it's very me. Non-derivative and governed entirely by intuition - or maybe dream-logic is a better description. Indeed, most of the ideas came to me during that strange wakeful period between sleep and being conscious.

Which raises an issue that has been bugging me more recently. I can encapsulate this in a single question: must the author be wholly aware of the meaning of the material s/he's writing about? I guess most would reply that no, it's not necessary - and I'd largely agree. But I don't just mean that. What I'm really getting at is this: I strongly suspect some authors include, say, an enigmatic image on the basis of vague intuition alone, without any understanding of what it might mean in context of the tale. For me, that's sheer obfuscation. Dishonest, if you prefer. I've been accused of being too explicit in my thematic material, of revealing too much in the text which perhaps should remain implicit and buried there. I now entirely agree with this crit'. But what's the bipolar alternative? What's a swing in the opposite direction? Weirdness without any concrete notion of where the weirdness is tending. That is, you're just making it up, old sport; you simply have no real idea about what this means. Therefore, what disquiet you achieve is accidental and not crafted. And can you thus be relied on to produce the goods time and time again? I very much doubt that.

I say all this as a rant, I guess. But I do believe all the same that it has substance. Whenever I read, say, Aickman or Campbell or Lane - the masters of enigma - I always have the impression that those guys know a thing or two about what makes their creeping scenes and imagery tick. If you asked them down the pub, they surely wouldn't give one of those pretentious winks and reply, "Gawd knows. I don't know where some of my stuff comes from. I'm a mystery to myself at times." No, I feel as if they could give you an answer. They might choose not to, of course . . . but that's quite a different thing. That's their prerogative. And anyway, by withholding such info, they're probably just being modest - probably trying to avoid appearing pretentious.

In short (and maybe I should have just kept to this anyway): I simply don't trust those authors who claim it comes entirely from a part of them inaccessible to consciousness. Fittingly enough for me, their work just doesn't linger on in my mind the way that that of certain others does. It lacks honesty. It lacks truth.