I’m now well into the writing of Mother of Eden, the sequel to Dark Eden, and enjoying it very much. The book is set over a much wider part of the surface of Eden, and my main protagonist, Starlight Brooking, is encountering communities of people who live by very different rules and with very different values and beliefs, as a result of the great break-up of the original human community that occurred in the course of Dark Eden.
I’m getting a great deal of pleasure from imagining the world that she is moving through, its physical appearance, its human and non-human inhabitants, its politics and different cultures and social mores, and I’m enjoying try to see it through the eyes of a character who is different from me not only because she grew up on a different planet, but also, more prosaically, because is female, less than half my age, and (unlike me) more of a doer than a thinker.
It’s no wonder I write the kinds of books and stories that I do. I love building imaginary worlds, and have done since I was a child. It comes to me much more easily than trying to evoke or reproduce the world that actually exists. (If I were a painter, I would not be the kind that sits down in front of a landcape or a bowl of fruit, and tries to recreate it.)
I haven’t always known this about myself. When I was young, I was hugely taken by writers who, it seemed to me, were able to evoke the deep strangeness of the ordinary everyday world. I was greatly impressed by Virginia Woolf, for instance, and I remember thinking to myself, after reading Mrs Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse, and The Waves, that here was a writer who was able almost to photographically reproduce everyday human consciousness. An illusion of course but a powerful one, whose trick I longed to learn.
As it turned out though, my writing didn’t really start to work until I abandoned that ambition, and began to make my worlds up, or at least include things in them that don’t really exist.
But here’s the odd thing. When I’m making up the world of Eden, I try to do so in a way that is consistent with my understanding of how worlds actually work. I try to make my characters act in the way that real life people would act in the same situation, drawing on what I think I know about human psychology. I try to make the society of Eden function and evolve in ways that I believe a real life human society might evolve in that context, drawing on my own direct experience and on what I have read about in history books and seen or heard in the news. And I try to make the ecology of Eden consistent with what I what I believe might actually evolve in the peculiar context of a sunless world, extrapolating from what I’ve read about life in sunless portions of Earth. So, while I am certainly constructing a made-up world, I’m trying to make it work according to the rules that apply to the real world. To be sure some of the characteristics of the world of Eden, its darkness, its history of loss, were partly chosen for their emotional or symbolic resonances, but even then I’m making those choices on the basis of wanting to capture some aspect of my own experience.
And what all of this means is that, actually, in my own way, I too, am trying to reproduce, as faithfully as I can, the world that actually exists.