Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting Personal

I was reading through the proofs of my short story ‘The Thought War’, which is included in Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 3, when I received an email from Gardener Dozois, who wants to use two of my stories, ‘Incomers’ and ‘The City of the Dead’ in The Year’s Best Science Fiction 26. Gosh.

I was amused to note that the introduction to ‘The Thought War’ asserted that I was living in Scotland, a meme that’s proving rather difficult to eradicate. It’s true, I used to live in Scotland, but I moved to London when I quit my job, more than twelve years ago (the longest continuous period I’ve ever lived anywhere; I was born in Stroud and lived there for seventeen years, but spent one year in the middle of my childhood elsewhere). Again: gosh.

Author’s bios are odd little packages of information. Those of established writers generally list their bestselling novels and prizes they have won: proof of pedigree. Those of new authors often list previous jobs (the more exotic the better) to make them seem like a regular citizen of the world. Some attempt humour; a few even succeed. One of the best of the latter is Jonathan Lethem’s bio for his first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music:
Jonathan Lethem was born in the sixties, watched television in the seventies, and started writing in the eighties.
Neat, huh? Almost all bios note where the author currently lives. Often it’s the only piece of personal information - something that has no bearing on the novel in hand unless it’s actually set in the author’s home town. My current bio is unexceptional. It lists the the prizes I’ve won, and mentions that I’m a former scientist (although that in no way qualifies me to write science fiction), and that I live in London. Although only three of my novels have been set in London, and I wasn’t living in London when I wrote the first of those, Fairyland. No, at the time, I was living in Scotland.

UPDATE: 'City of the Dead' will be included in Infinivox's audiobook "year's best" anthology, The Year's Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen at least one bio of myself asserting that I live in Norway, a country I've never visited...

My enduring meme is the one that I'm still a working scientist. It's been nearly five years now, but many of my bios still list me as an astrophysicist working for ESA (wrong on two counts: I was a scientist working in what was then the astrophysics department, and I was only employed directly by ESA for three of the sixteen years I worked in Holland; the last time ESA paid my salary was 1994).

I liked Lethem's one, though. Very Mike TeeVee...

December 31, 2008 10:53 am  
Blogger PeteY said...

I suppose it's fair enough to say that a science background doesn't qualify someone to write science fiction - there's so much more to writing fiction - but I do think it's a big advantage nevertheless. Without a reasonably deep understanding of science, what you write is unlikely to be science fiction in its proper sense, just fantasy or horror. My favourite SF writers mostly do have science or tech backgrounds (as do I, although I'm not a published writer of fiction), I think because it allows them to find a matter of scientific interest with possibilities for extrapolation into fun. SF liberates the scientific imagination from the limitations of methodology and literature, the tediously mundane, as it were. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this matter Paul. (also Al - I have one of your books here but I haven't read it or anything else of yours yet.)

January 07, 2009 2:32 am  

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