Either way, the joke was built out of a thought that has been running through my head, and about how much I respond to fiction that does have a large thematic that connects with the world that I live in. The writing that I've really enjoyed as a reader--and which has influenced me as a writer--has always done that. Salman Rushdie's engagement with racial/cultural identity in the Satanic Verses, Lydia Millet's use of the history of atomic bombs in America in Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, the Vietnam in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, Geoff Ryman's combination of third world poverty and science in Air... the list is pretty long and cool, at least in my opinion (A Clockwork Orange, Koestler's Darkness at Noon). That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a book that has nothing of that in it. I chilled out to Koushun Takami's Battle Royale because it was full of energy--the movie, on the other hand, had a nice thematic content to it; but the book didn't--and Chandler's Marlowe books are pretty sweet as something to just sit back and get lost in. George R.R. Martin's sprawling Songs of Ice and Fire saga is a similar kind of deal. But I tend to read those books and, while I enjoy the time that I am in them, I don't remember much of them afterwards. Quite often, I don't end up going to find another book by the author. I enjoyed Christopher Brookmyre's One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night a whole fucking lot, and recommend it to anyone wanting to read a satirical action novel about a high school reunion on a oil rig, but while I've read a couple of others, they're seemed a bit same in the jokes and tone, and I don't feel a particular need to get any more.
In contrast, I bought Lydia Millet's new novel the week it was released.
This enjoyment that I take is particularly evident in my work, I think. A story only begins to work for me when it picks up from things in the world that I see, or hear about, and want to discuss in that huge bubble of the shared reader experience. I don't really have much interest in answering things, or being given them, but I do like the idea of having different opinions, takes, and being engaged with that. The engagement is what I want, of course, though there are certain areas I don't go to. I'm not interested in writing anything that would support the idea that homosexuality is a sin, or which claims that keeping immigrants floating in international water until they are tossed back to wherever they're trying to escape is the way to go. What I dislike about those opinions is about how writing about them is, at least to me, drawing lines throughout the world, putting people into artificial groups that somehow give more worth to one group, while condemning another. I'd rather create work that seeks to break down those notions.
Anyhow, that's my random thought connected to yesterday's post, and now I go off to keep working at my Octavia Butler piece, and to try and not focus on how such ideas are often deemed uncommercial.