Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Other Life

I was getting up this morning when something hit the curtains still closed over the bedroom window and a fearsome scrabbling and twitching and thumping commenced - it was a swift that had flown through the open window and, like a fly or a bee, was consistently hitting glass instead of the gap through which it had come. Because it was partly entangled with the curtain it took only a moment to grasp its dry frantic body and drop it into the air outside; it tumbled briefly and then caught itself in midair and winged away.

A writer of 'mundane' or 'literary' fiction might use this incident as the beginning or end of a conventionally epiphanic short story. But what use is this sudden random intrusion of otherness to a science fiction writer? How to fit the inexplicable into the cosy metric frame of conventional sf stories, in which everything has its place, and all is transparent? It's something I've been wrestling with ever since I started writing my second novel, Secret Harmonies (Of The Fall, in the US), in which the tensions in an interstellar colony were laid bare by an inexplicable disappearance. I'm still wrestling with it more than twenty years later.

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