samuel x. brase likes to write

Interchange

Posted in pop theory by Sam X. on 11 February 2010

I finished Dune and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep within the last few weeks.

Both are good, although the latter is by far the better book. Its scope is perhaps more narrow, which affects this judgment, but the prose is sharper and the philosophies more urgent. I never read a phrase in Dune and wished I had written it–in fact, many phrases brought me distaste. However, quite a few phrases were well written in Do Androids…. Philip Dick is the clear winner in that regard.

The difficulty comes in the fact that I write stories like Dune. More political and cultural, less philosophical. I want to write the epics of Herbert with the skill of Dick. Unfortunately, good prose is not part and parcel with SF epics. There’s too much action, too much stuff happening for it to stay fresh and good. When a series is about as long as six War and Peaces, end to end, you know some bit of quality is going to suffer.

Yet, artistry can be extended. Television shows are making the jump to movie-level quality, with shows like The Wire pushing excellence to a heady new area. Television shows are to movies what pulpier books are to literature (after a fashion), and I desire to find that intersection where the pulp becomes literature.

My current series, EE, and the one I imagine in the future, DS, are both works of multiple books, and will not possess enough of the skill of proper literature. Yet, my goal, as an artist, is to bring that level of quality to popular literature. There is the rare writer who has done it; best I can point to is Dick and Neil Gaiman. I imagine DS as The Wire of science fiction: all-encompassing, ensemble cast, darkly truthful of contemporary situations. EE is my testing ground.

This all comes from my desire to be both popular and acclaimed. It seems rather easier for people in the film industry to have this than for people in literature to have this. I want it. I’m incredibly far away from this goal, and there’s the great chance it will never be achieved. But as long as I am breathing, I will work on my craft, I will work on merging populism with artistry. Fun stories with skillful prose.

I have managed to find a bit of a groove between my interests: college basketball, reading, writing. With a couple of the sci-fi classics done, it is time to move back to good literature–The Leopard and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana–before going back to sci-fi.

And this summer, goddammit, I’m going to read Ulysses. Sandwiched between two Philip Dick books.

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