Monday, January 10, 2011

Things I like #3: writing for the sheer joy of it.

I just got through reading a short story called "Zeppelin City", by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn*, and it was very timely. I've been thinking about the purpose of genre fiction recently, worrying over questions of worth (if you can't write a worthy story, should you write one at all? What about a clever story?). "Zeppelin City" crossed my path at exactly the right moment because it didn't fret itself over any of that. It was just plain good fun.

It felt to me like the authors were having a grand time writing it. It was full of things that are cliched enough to be dangerous (brains in jars! Rhetoric-spouting revolutionaries! Daring girl pilots and grubby-but-cute engineers!), but written with such affection that you had to forgive them. Or perhaps congratulate them. Because brains in jars are cool, right?

I feel like I don't read this sort of story very often. Probably because it is a tricky thing to pull off successfully. I remember feeling the same way after "The Hero", by Karl Schroeder, and it was enough to send me chasing off after some of his books. I seem to recall it happening during parts of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series, too. The sense that the author wrote something because they thought it was cool, and that I was having fun reading it for exactly the same reason.

So there you go, another thing I like: writing for the sheer joy of it.

* "Zeppelin City" was originally published on, where you can still read it. I read it in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

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