Spotlight Post 1: the Stories
Welcome, dear reader. Please find some explanation about this website which—right now—is still full of placeholders and unfinished links (as also explained in my FAQ). In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be working to fill up the placeholding posts with actual content, and produce e-books of my stories and subsequently make the links active. The Spotlight Story—“Connoisseurs of the Eccentric”—will show you what all the story posts should eventually look like, and will be the first to have a link to the iBook version (which is free, also to demonstrate what the iBooks versions of the other stories will look like). I'm working like crazy in my precious spare time to get this all together, and I sincerely thank you for your patience!
Stories are the be-all and end-all of this website. I started reading—vocariously—as a young kid. While my parents encouraged me to read, they didn’t allow me to read in bed, which I then did with a torch light under the blankets. It’s probably why I have glasses—contact lenses since I was seventeen—for the rest of my life.
My father travelled the world for his day job, and he read predominantly SF (although he also liked John Steinbeck). He got me into reading science fiction. On high school, my Dutch teacher Gerrit van der Linde got me into reading Dutch and Flamish literature, especially the socially engaged and more experimental writers in the late sixties and early seventies like Hugo Raes, Louis Paul Boon, Tip Marugg, Hugo Claus, Jef Geeraerts and Louis Ferron. In the end, as I started to travel a lot myself, and I had access to cheap English-language paperbacks (books were much more expensive in The Netherlands, and increasingly less SF was being translated), science fiction became my main source of reading, while my love for literature never died, either.
Then, early 2000 or so, I started to write. I had written some stories in high school that were attempts at literature, but these never took off. Other interests took over and only some seventeen years later did the writing bug truly infect me, again.
“Bridge Across Forever” was my first published story in a little anthology called In the Outposts of Beyond. In it, I immediately broke a sacred rule, as I opened and closed it with lyrics from Threshold’s “Light and Space”, albeit with explicit permission from keyboard player Richard West, who wrote them. While this is the only time I did this—getting permission for this from well-known bands is either next to impossible or [forbiddingly] expensive—I do break plenty of other writing rules, written and unwritten ones, often to the despair of friends who sometimes wished I just stuck to the story.
The latter, though, is part of what I am as a writer. I don’t like to go over the well-trodden path so am always on the lookout to do things differently, be it in content or in style (or both). Increasingly this means that my recent stories are not easy reads. To get what’s really happening in them, quite often a second read is both warranted (or so I believe), and rewarding (or so I hope).
Typically, my latest published story “The Style of Elements” is a mixture of satire about writing, metafiction and a juxtaposition of the history of the Universe, the scientific method and writing. At about six hundred words it’s as concise as it gets—considering the topics involved—and only found a home at a literature market: The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. Have I gone full circle? Who knows.
But there’s more than just experimenting with style. After I wrote “Transcendence Express”—which, with five reprints so far is one of my most successful stories—I became increasingly engaged with writing SF that was forward-looking and solution-driven. Call it optimistic SF (as I did when Shine: an anthology of optimistic science fiction was released) or call it ‘The Future Upbeat’.
That is still where my heart is. As I write new stories, foremost in my mind is the search for solutions. How do we get from where we are now—and in 2017 many people in the West tend to see things going bad, while in the rest of the world, arguably, they seem to get better—to a better future?
Don’t be afraid to get it wrong—as we will inevitably get things wrong—because this is meant to inspire future generations. If it was a blueprint that was guaranteed to work, then I’d already be looking for investors. But the current mood in written science fiction is too dark, and has been too dark since at least the nineteen eighties. It’s easy to write a story filled with doom and despair, and then, when it doesn’t happen, say something to the likes of: “See, I wrote this as a warning, so that it would not happen.” That excuse is old and lame.
Write a story where things change for the better. Then, as society inevitably progresses—believe me, it does, even if in leaps and bounds—and you got plenty of details wrong, then own up to it. Say: “I tried, and hopefully helped inspire others to try and do it better.” I get the sense that too many SF writers avoid forward-looking, solution-driven stories because they’re afraid they’ll get it wrong, and then get blamed for it. Science fiction is not about predicting the future—nobody can do that with a high degree of accuracy—but about imagining it.
Right now, the future imagined by the utmost majority of SF writers is dark, pitch dark. Let’s change that.
I hope this is one of the places were that starts.