Fiction is like food. I usually gobble it up. But I haven’t been writing it, and am often bored with reading it—been here, read this. Sometimes I wonder why The New Big novel got published. I know this is heresy. How can a reader and writer of literary fiction have such thoughts? But I do. Aging? Learning more and more about writing—how it works, or doesn’t? There is another possibility, introduced with these quotes—
“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison
“I sort of wrote the book that I wished I'd read in my late 20s."
I want to write/read about possibility, the possibility that humans could treat each other better. That we can somehow get out of the mindset we’re in, the one of treating some as more worthy than others. Is that humanly possible? I’ve read that humans will cease to exist in this century. We wouldn’t become extinct, we’d just become something other than what we are, due to technological augmentation. Robots can—allegedly—be programmed to not harm humans. Could we be programmed for that? Would we be in even more danger than we are now? What about self-defense if attacked by animal or rogue cyborg? Is there hope for us, as humans or cyborgs, or will we continue to mistreat each other and battle on until only a few are left? I can imagine the few left having a feast and then committing suicide. There’s a story in that.
Perhaps I’m looking for something literary fiction can’t give me right now. I’m looking for stories of revolution that point toward better possibilities. It’s time to look ahead rather than wallow in a memoirish past and/or focus on a not-sunny present. I’m not looking for utopia. Utopias never work. Margaret Atwood writes of ustopia, “… a world I made up by combining utopia and dystopia–the imagined perfect society and its opposite–because, in my view, each contains a latent version of the other.”
I guess it’s time for me to try to write toward a ustopia, a place with more possibilities for decency than we have now. But also a place where bad things happen. The tale will be messy, perhaps involving violence at times, but I’ll give it a shot. My writing mentor Robert Ready, Dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University (NJ) said of my forthcoming Inanna novel, In the Land of Two-Legged Women, “I hope someone has the guts to publish it.” Someone did. Thank you, Inanna. If I can get one intimidating novel published maybe I can get another one. At least get it written.
- Huey Helene Alcaro, author of In the Land of Two-Legged Women (Inanna, fall 2015)