Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on Ideas

The conversation about ideas continued for a bit on the Wurdsmiths blog. I have not posted other people's remarks, though maybe I should have. Anyway, here is my next post...

I keep feeling, without having much evidence, that ideas are not easy. I wrote a story titled "Big Red Mama in Time and Morris, Minnesota," which was a time travel story. These are hard to write, because time travel is supposed to be impossible; and I felt -- if the story didn't have something new to say about time and time travel, it was going to be about nothing. I struggled with the story for months and years, collecting copies of Science News and New Scientist with articles about time travel and odd quantum effects. The problem with time travel is mostly one of causality. Physics says that effects cannot precede causes; or maybe it doesn't say this. There are theoretical physicists who think time travel is possible.

Anyway, in the end I did some hand waving. But the story actually does say something about time and history, though nothing based on physics theory.

Sometimes the ideas are less difficult than the working out of the ideas.

The idea that is the basis of my hwarhath stories is simple: what if there was a society where homosexuality was normal and heterosexuality was perverted? I then had to figure out in detail how this kind of society might come to be and what it would be like. In the end, I wrote two novels and ten + stories about the hwarhath and their society, mostly to explore the consequences of my original "what if."

Plot ideas come fairly easily for me. I never worry about my ability to work my way out of plot problem.

But saying something new and original is not easy; and I'm not claiming that I always manage to do this. But I do abandon stories, if they are becoming familiar -- hey, I've already said this, and I don't have to say it again; and I do stop and rethink stories, if I feel they are becoming ordinary or inevitable.


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