Disappointed cat is disappointed
26 February 2010
I like revolutions. Reading about them, that is, and more recently trying to figure out how to write about them. Not living through them. I wouldn’t like that one bit. The Russian Revolution was my favourite, as a student when I didn’t have to think about the families whose lives it devastated, and how inappropriate it probably is to have a ‘favourite’ revolution at all.
It started during my A levels when a handsome young journalist from the French Revolution became my year group’s version of R-Pattz. (And when I really wanted to know about the women’s infantry battalion who’d fought for the White Russians. You weren’t going to get as much buy-in for that.) Later, it was about understanding how everything could change, and starting to wonder how on earth a person would make sense of that when changes weren’t all obvious from day to day.
As much as the politics and the upheaval and the iconography, it was about coming to terms with what History meant, the fact that Russians eighty years ago thought differently from you.
When I first heard about Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts, I expected it would do that too. It’s meant to be a satire about Stalin assembling the science fiction writers of the Soviet Union to fabricate a momentous external threat and hold the USSR together from the Great Patriotic War to the Chernobyl disaster. I can go along with that, and Roberts knew what he was doing in the Gulliver’s–Travels-meets-Temeraire department.
Luckily, Cat Valente read it before me, so that nobody else has to. The status of writers under Communism? Apparently, no idea. The slightest smidgen of awareness of the Russian language? Nowhere to be found. And what on earth are Scientologists supposed to be doing there?
No. Thrice no, and get thee gone. I complain when fantasy writers inadvertently name a Big Bad after the Italian footballer who headbutted Zinedine Zidane. This book is crying out to be hurled out of a train window at high speed, and the last thing I want to do is make it more famous by assaulting someone with it.
At the moment I’m going over a story where the point-of-view character’s first language is French, so I’m combing through to make sure every sentence of narrative harmonises. We want foyers and troupes and statuettes. We don’t want German loan-words, and when two characters can’t but speak Hungarian, the point-of-view can’t understand. I’ve never published a novel, but I know I need to do this. Someone who’s already published ten? Come on…