Shikasta

One of the themes of this blog is collaboration. I often have the feeling that I am collaborating with my favorite science fiction authors and I most frequently mention Asimov, Clarke and Vance.

Most of the stories I write are set in what I call the Exodemic Fictional Universe. I usually mention Arthur C. Clarke as having played an important role in orienting me towards a type of science fiction that adopts a particular solution to the Fermi Paradox. However, I was also heavily influenced by Doris Lessing‘s novel Shikasta.

Shikasta is not the kind of story that appeals to a casual reader. As influential as it was for me, Shikasta is not a fun story that I frequently go back to and read again. I’d call Shikasta “gritty” and the Nobel Committee applied a description to Lessing (“pitilessly probing social critique and a fearless ability to look inward“) that seems to be a good description of the tone in Shikasta.

Parts of Stanisław Lem’s Solaris and Shikasta are not traditional narrative. I do not believe that science fiction novels have to conform to traditional formats. I’ve been thinking about non-traditional story content in the context of fiction that exists in wiki format. I’ve been making some non-traditional story elements for The Start of Eternity, a fan fiction sequel to Asimov’s time travel novel.

In particular, I’m making a chapter for The Start of Eternity in which the protagonist, Gohrlay, has recently been subjected to disciplinary measures imposed by the police-like Overseers. As part of her punishment, Gohrlay’s memories have been scrubbed and she cannot remember her family or her close colleagues among the Observer corps. While she begins her new life, Gohrlay attempts to consolidate the fragments of her remaining memories and she begins to keep a kind of electronic diary.

I’ve been having fun trying to turn the contents of Gohrlay’s “diary” into something that resembles the kinds of online communications tools that are now blurring the boundaries between blogs, email and chat. So, I tip my hat to Doris Lessing: thanks for the inspiration.

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