Stephen Bacon tagged me in the 3 Things blog, so here goes. 3 things I don't write + 3 things I do.
It's surprisingly difficult to sift through your own fiction to see what your unique themes (and non-themes) are. But here's what I came up with:
I DON'T WRITE ABOUT...
You won't find any propaganda or heavy-duty political machinations between my characters because politics (and more specifically, political writing) just doesn't interest me. I don't consider the back-stabbing manoeuvres of characters in Game of Thrones or Dune to be "political" as such. What I have an aversion to is either the preachy, crusader-type "agenda" writing or the everyday mundanities of committee meetings, big business, elections, etc. Fiction (writing AND reading) is an escape for me from all those things. That said, Joel Lane got me to write two stories for him with political (ish) themes: "The Death of Dreams" in Never Again and "No History of Violence" in Horror Uncut. So - hey, never say never.
Unless it's pagan or witchy or Satanic, again, I'm just not interested. I was raised by heathens and never went to church, so I'm unusually ignorant about basic Christian stuff and Bible stories that most people know about and take for granted. What the hell is Palm Sunday? Shrove Tuesday? Cults, on the other hand, both fascinate and terrify me, and that's an area I could definitely see myself exploring in fiction. But I wouldn't know where to begin writing a religious character and I suspect it would be too easy to make them a caricature of all that's bad about Christianity.
It's just too depressing for me and I don't get any pleasure out of angry stories either. For me, fiction is about losing myself in a world and I don't want to be lost in a world of grimy pubs and crime-ridden estates and filthy homes with battered wives and abused kids. There's too much of that in the real world and I don't want it in my fantasy world. I've written the occasional misery-drenched setting ("Antlers" and "Under the Skin" spring to mind) but they're not the kinds of places I want to spend time, even in my imagination. I can READ it in small doses but I wouldn't want to put myself through creating it.
I DO WRITE ABOUT...
I love the ocean and all its creatures. (See? I even capitalised it up there.) The very first time I tried diving and took my first breath underwater, it was like coming home. Only astronauts and divers have the experience of moving in three dimensions and it's a magical feeling. Probably my very favourite of all my stories is "The Curtain", which takes place almost entirely underwater. I have so many water-themed stories in me that I'm sure will come out over the years. The sea is awesome in the truest sense of the word, but it's more a Machen sense of awe than a Lovecraftian one. It's beautiful and majestic and inspiring. And while there are awful things in it like jellyfish, any place with dolphins and whales will always be home to me. I want to write about a flooded earth and I'd also love to write a far-future alternate earth novel where man returns to the ocean like the dolphins did millions of years ago. Oh - and I'd love to do a novel featuring nothing but dolphins.
It's probably just because I AM a woman but I see a lot of horror that is unique to women in my stuff. I have a real horror of the whole reproductive process (and babies!) and the thought of something growing inside me like a parasite fills me with dread and revulsion. So naturally that crops up a lot in my stories. Our bodies do a lot of weird and creepy things and it's all fodder for the fiction. (It won't surprise you to hear that David Cronenberg is one of my biggest influences.) Likewise, our female-specific vulnerability is a rich mine of inspiration. I've only touched on that worst female fear of all - rape - in one story, "Antlers". That one sprang from a nightmare I had one morning. And while I escaped by waking up, I didn't spare my protagonist. It wasn't easy to write but I wanted to push myself. "Ultrasound Shadow" deals with pregnancy horror (but in my own special way) and "A Time of Choice" is a coming-of-age story that owes a lot to Angela Carter.
Dreams and madness
They say write what you know but my own maxim is: Write what scares you. And madness is probably my worst fear. As any fellow neurotic can attest, whatever you fear most is what haunts you in your dreams. And I have a lot of nightmares along those lines. I love the Lovecraftian idea of something so immense and horrific it drives you insane and I've written a few of those scenarios. Dreams and nightmares are some of my favourite things to write and it's where I get a lot of my inspiration. My very first published story, "The Death of Dreams", concerned a futuristic device called the Dreamcatcher, which recorded your dreams in a form that could be played back. Naturally, the technology was abused by the tabloid press, who used it to ruin lives. In "The Call of the Dreaming Moon", my Cherokee heroine dreams the end of the world. And in my 1960s Lovecraftian novella Not to Touch the Earth, my hippie protagonist has the trip to end all trips the first time she drops acid.
Those are only three things I write about a lot. I could go on to include J-horror style unfair vengeance scenarios, Victorian settings and stories from a kid's POV. (I don't like kids but I remember being one and I love exploring the special vulnerability and innocence in a story from a child protagonist's perspective.) But I'll save those for the next bloghop that wants to know.
I have no idea who else to tag, since I'm quite late to the party. But if anyone reading this wants to do it, consider yourself tagged by me!