A Comment I Made About Stories

In a recent blog post to the Guardian Book blog David Barnett discussed Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the anthology he co-edited called “Stories.”

I have been thinking about this question for a little while now. About the tension between the experimental and the storytelling sides of fiction. I think that I firmly rest on the side that says experimentation and playing with form is a good and important thing as long as it is carried out with clear intent and with an understanding that it might backfire horribly.

Not that I don’t enjoy a good plot driven adventure, but I do think that speculative fiction has become over reliant on this form much to its detriment. Where are my philosophical wanderings like Olaf Stapledon’s The Star Maker? Where is the playing with form like John Brunner gone?

Here is my comment:

Might it not be best to consider it a question of intent?

There is a strong tradition within literary writing of pushing at the edges of traditional form and exploring the perceptions of characters but neglecting plot.

There is a strong tradition within genre fiction of telling a meticulously plotted story within a detailed created world at the expense of character and form.

The best fiction, the fiction we remember the most and celebrate, I would suggest manages to find a balance between the two. There is a place for good writing to not tell a story, and that is in the finding new ways to tell stories. These experiments might not always be successful, but the fact that they take place helps upen up new avenues to tell more stories better.

The place that more traditional fiction plays is to remind writers that a lot of the time people just want to read an enjoyable or thought provoking story.

“Writing is fifty years behind painting”
– Brion Gysin

Gaiman’s choice: shouldn’t good writing tell a story too? : [Guardian Book Blog]

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