Some may have noticed, if they follow me on Facebook or Twitter, that I’ve been wandering into a few art galleries and museums lately. The blame for this can be laid squarely at the door of one Julie Ann McCartney, and she’s also to blame for a change in my usual morning reading of ten science articles. They now make way for two or three articles on art and history. I know that some are a little concerned about this change: Oh hell, is he getting all cultural and artsy? Is he going soft on us? Never fear.
Right from when I was writing my first short autobiographies or answering interview questions, I told of how I chose to be a writer. When I was a kid I had interests in all sorts of things. These included biology, painting and drawing, electronics, sculpture, chemistry, writing of course and other things besides. However, in my early 20s (if not before) I decided I had to concentrate on just one of these if I was ever to achieve anything. If I did not I would be a Jack of all trades but master of none. I chose writing because in that I could incorporate all those other subjects. In the respect of my science and technology interest this was especially the case when it came to SF.
But all is grist to the writing mill in the end. I should also add that the mill needs feeding and often with something new. If you don’t feed it yes, sure, you can still produce but ideas might be lacking. And if you feed it the same old stuff all the time what comes out may well get stale. Please excuse the extended and increasingly contorted metaphor. But what I’m getting round to here is that new experiences, ideas and perspectives can be invigorating for a writer, and they have been.
As I said in previous posts I recently turned from writing novels to writing short stories (though am now back editing the latest novel). I started out with a fairly traditional alien contact story, got into some Polity biotech stuff that produced one story and germinated an idea for a novella. I then wrote another novella that concerned my recent reading on longevity and the new biotech start-ups we are seeing. Next I started writing a story about a woman with moveable tattoos that transformed into something strange about her skin having an implanted AI, and in this I found myself in the Polity art world.
Now I was really using those gallery and museum visits. That story completed I then had a seriously weird dream about a biotech future, sat to write that down before my morning visit to the gym while still in a bit of a dream state, and glanced at a book Julie bought for me for my birthday on the artist Hieronymus Bosch. It fit at once. This start has now turned into another weird one: far future biotech and the monsters of Bosch born to exact vengeance for a crime. I’ve completed that at 20,000 words and will finish editing it later.
Glad I visited those galleries.