[Copied and pasted from my external blog. Please do take a look. I'm trying to update regularly, every few days or so]
I’m currently writing a short story. That’s not altogether unusual. It’s a science-fiction story. Again, nothing strange there. The basic plot of this story revolves around a giant cloud of volcanic ash, hanging over Britain, and causing a general headache for everyone. Hang on, that sounds awfully familiar.
Yes, once more I have taken my inspiration from the news. Usually I scour the small stories of the newspaper and news websites looking for the odd, quirky stories that make me think “Hmmm, that could make good fiction”. This one isn’t a small piece of news though. In fact, it’s a rather large piece of news that has been hanging over northern Europe for a week or so, causing a lot of people to get very upset at the fact that they’re stranded in France. And as reasons for being upset go, that one’s-
(NO! Bad Matt! Xenophobic jokes are bad!)
But yeah. Basically, I thought the story through, using the bizarre process of my brain, and decided that the raw product idea that came out of the other end was worth a go. So I’m writing it. And I think it’s not too bad.
But what I wanted to do in this blog, was ask why? Why am I writing about something that is in the news at the moment? Ashleigh joked that it was cheating. Will I be able to sell it better because it’s on peoples’ minds at the moment? I think that’s part of my motivation, certainly. It’s definitely one of the reasons that it’s been bumped to the top of my ideas list, along with the facts that it’s fun to write about, and I don’t even have to expend any effort doing research. I just press the little BBC news bookmark at the top of my browser, and voila! I’m inundated with bloody ash clouds (and election news, which is probably why there’s a political angle to the story).
But if I am writing it because it will be easy to sell, why? Will it even actually be any easier to sell? Given that if I do manage to sell it, it probably won’t see print for a few months at least, by which time it will be over(ish), and everyone will have more important things to panic over. Or alternatively, my story could come true, and we’ll all be ****ed, and no one will care about the story, because they’re too busy trying not to die.
But it’s undeniable that people’s interest does follow trends. How else do you explain the sudden population boom in crappy Twilight clones (which have now been quarantined in Waterstones from the horror section[Huzzah!], into Paranormal Romance, which I can only hope is the first step to some sort of extermination program)? So if it follows that because there is an ash cloud, people will flock towards anything with an “ash cloud” label on it at the moment, then won’t that date my story?
Maybe, but I’m not so sure. The whole point of science fiction is, in my opinion, to offer analogous comment on the social situation of humanity. And also to entertain. So basically, if it still provokes thought, and gets the same message across, after the ash cloud has (hopefully) given way for some new apocalyptic news story, then it might not find itself time-locked (to borrow and misuse a phrase from Doctor Who). A cloud of volcanic ash is a rare occurence, yes, but hardly unique. Given that looking out of my window I can see only blue sky (and have been able to for the entire duration), and that only a hundred years ago the skies were comparatively empty of metal tubes with engines attached, as far as the lay person (myself included, here) knows, this could have happened every hundred years or so, and only previously left the birds stranded in France.
So after all that, I have no idea whether the current events angle will help my story. I’m not entirely bothered. All I care about is the fact that a potentially good story has landed in my lap. Now I just need to finish writing it, and not balls it up.
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