Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Reviews of Astral Travel and Joachim Boaz on The Birth Machine

It's the first day of February, and there are snowdrops up in the garden, a bit of hope in these dreadful times!  

Astral Travel has had a couple more nice reviews. The Mole at Our Book Reviews Online says he 'couldn't stop reading' and he 'loved this story', and calls it 'highly recommended'. (Full review here.) And an appreciative review comes from Nakisha Towers on Everybody's Reviewing, a website/blog of Leicester University's Centre for Creative Writing.

And I came belatedly across this nice review of The Birth Machine by Joachim Boaz in a blog survey he recently made of medical science fiction. It amuses me when people classify The Birth Machine as science fiction - it is actually listed in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction - since, as far as I was concerned, I was writing about social reality. The 'birth machine' of the title (which also relates to the alienation of the birthing mother through medicalisation) refers to a device for inducing labour that was actually introduced into labour wards in the early 70s, when the book is set. At one time I found the assumption that it was science fiction frustrating, as it seemed like a potential negation or at least continued overlooking of the re-life social experience of women. 

I know that Margaret Atwood has said the same about the Handmaid's Tale, that in fact nothing in that novel had not already happened to women somewhere in the world by the time she wrote the novel. The Birth Machine is not even set in a speculative future, as is The Handmaid's Tale, so would seem even less prone to being pushed into the science-fiction category. I'm more relaxed about it now, though, and think that if people want take The Birth Machine as metaphorical (as surely science fiction is), a metaphor for certain dangerous ways of thinking, then that's fine - and is better than its being taken as a simple plea for natural childbirth, which at times it has been, and which as far as I'm concerned it definitely is not.

I'm happy to say that, after a long period of being unable to write - of having no creative room in my head beside preoccupation with our strange new circumstances under coronavirus - I've begun to write again. (As I've said, I found I need to know what I'm writing into, and now I do: lockdown has become normality!) I've actually got a new novel brewing (nothing written down yet) and I've completed a new story which I realised, when it was finished, was a stepping stone towards the novel in terms of theme. It wasn't exactly a flash of lightning kind of thing as writing a story so often can be for me, and I abandoned it twice. I had a basic scenario with a compelling image which seemed to resonate deeply, but which seemed somehow too big to handle, to unpick and take further, and so the story kept going nowhere. Then one day it came to me what was wrong: the scenario with which I had begun was actually not the beginning but the end of the story, its culmination. Sometimes what seems like a complete writing block can be dispelled by a simple solution, in this case structural.

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