On being a promising mature writer

Fifteen years ago, I was a regular in the British science-fiction magazine Interzone. I was, according to the “About the author” slot that appeared after each of my stories, a promising young writer.

Fifteen years ago, I turned 30 and so I asked the editor, David Pringle, to stop calling me that – it just didn’t seem appropriate any more. So next time he published one of my stories I was labelled, I think, a “promising mature writer”.

I guess that’s what I still am.

I’d never thought of 45 as a particularly significant age, but on Tuesday this week it was an age I hit and I realised I’d started to think about my writing in different terms.

It seems incredibly morbid to start thinking about how many books I might have left in me, and that’s not quite what I was thinking, but still…

Each book you write counts. Whether it’s a pseudonymous piece of spinoffery or a big weighty novel (and I’m not dissing either of these – I love writing most things), the author invests so much of him- or herself in it that each book is a significant achievement. For most writers, at least!

But now? Now each piece somehow seems more significant.

I’ve been an SF author for over 20 years, but I realise there are one or two of the big tropes I’ve steered clear of, in particular time travel and aliens. I’ve touched on these with a few short stories over the years, but nothing more.

Time travel seems to have been done to death in so many ways that it just didn’t grab me. And I can’t take most aliens seriously, and certainly not for long enough to write a credible novel. Both of these are failings on my part, I’ll readily acknowledge.

But now I find myself in the position where my two current projects are… a time travel novel for teenagers and an alien novel for grown-ups. This isn’t deliberate, but I’m sure there’s a part of my mind that realised the clock is ticking and it’s really time I took on these big challenges.

If I keep on trying new things, does that mean I’m still a promising writer? Or just a writer?

Yes, each book is significant to me, but shouldn’t that be the case anyway? I think it’s more a perception thing: of course the books have always been significant, it’s just that right now I’m particularly aware of that. Yes, I’m feeling old. But old and promising, at least.

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About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

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