I know I’ve mentioned this before but there was a definitive moment in my life when I made the decision to try writing fiction. A moment, a place, a time. A story.
I remember it with absolute clarity.
It was 1990-91 and I was living in Shepperton. Sharing a house next to the film studios and working in R&D for the arms industry. It was all still quite new, but I’d been there long enough as well. My weekends were spent exploring London alone, rattling along the Picadilly line into the West End, trawling the bookshops, hanging out in the old FP and the basement of Murder One. Sometimes I’d buy books. Sometimes I’d buy some magazines. I started collecting recent back issues of Interzone, and it was in one of them that I read the story.
Back in those days Interzone was regularly publishing early stories by the writers that are now considered the establishment in British SF circles. Every issue you could look forward to something new by Stephen Baxter or Paul McAuley, or Kim Newman, Alastair Reynolds, Eric Brown, Keith Brooke, Nicola Griffith, Liz Williams, Ian McDonald… the list goes on. Among their number was Ian R MacLeod–author of the Arthur C Clarke award winning Song Of Time and the equally inventive Wake Up And Dream–and the story that captivated me so much was a tale called: “Well Loved”.
This was the story that caused me to sit up at my old Amstrad PC one night and retype the piece, word for word, in order to work out how it was done. As if repeating the act of typing could somehow give me an insight into the creative process. Something about the sense of futility, the grasping for hope within hopelessness really chimed with me (well, I didn’t say the London years were particularly happy ones). But more than that it was the subtle use of a potentially powerful but absurdly simple SF mcguffin, and the choice to focus on the humanity over the gimmickry that got to me. That one story pretty much shaped how I would write fiction once I got around to thinking up some ideas of my own.
I lost that issue of Interzone somewhere along the years, so it was brilliant news when PS Publishing brought it out in a new collection of MacLeod’s work a few years ago. And even better news for those of you that (I hope) are now dying to read the story, there’s now also a free audio version, read in suitably downbeat style by the author himself.
Go and love it. Love it well.