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.