Saturday 24 August 2013

The Novel Is Dead - Long Live the Novel!

I've moved house since my last post, which hopefully explains the delay in updating the blog. I had planned to make my first post a very upbeat, optimistic affair about fresh starts and the inspirational influence of new surroundings. (It's the main reason I've given the blog a bit of a refresh, too.)

What I wasn't expecting was for a new start to be forced on me so soon after I'd moved. I was applying new sealant to the bath - just one of many, many DIY jobs on my list - when I heard Lauren Laverne on 6Music discussing Casey Affleck's new film with a guest from Empire magazine. Not exactly Earth-shattering news, you might think, but it caught my attention. This is the story.

The important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that the new film's an adaptation of Paul Brok's short story about a man who uses a malfunctioning teleportation machine and ends up with an unwanted copy of himself. I hadn't read the story when I started writing my novel, but I had heard Paul on the radio talking about the idea - I assume as part of the promotional effort for his book, although it was several years ago and I don't remember anything other than the basic plot he outlined.

I was fascinated by the concept, and wrote a short story inspired by the idea. Eventually, the story evolved into the first chapter of my book (for details about that, see here). I'm sure the direction I've taken the story in will be significantly different from the way the film will unfold, but the problem is, obviously, that the core idea my book is based on is shifting from appearing in a fairly obscure short story to being the basis of a major Hollywood movie. So I'm having to re-evaluate things a bit.

It might be different if it wasn't a science fiction novel. Sharing a plot that's been used in a film is going to make it much harder to pitch the finished book. Or at least, I assume it would - I don't know how many successful novels there have been about genetically reconstructed dinosaurs since Jurassic Park, for instance. I'm guessing not many.

There are plenty of well-used plots, of course, even in science fiction land: time travel, robot uprisings, alien invasions and the like all crop up fairly regularly. This just seems a bit too close for comfort, though, which I suppose is inevitable given that both my book and the new film share the same source material.

My initial gut reaction is to put my novel on hold, and start one of the other projects I've been kicking around recently. It seems a shame, as countless hours (spread over about six years) have gone into writing the book, but in the long run it might be for the best. It's kind of liberating to think I might have a legitimate reason to step away from it, even if only until the film comes out and I can see what they've done with the idea. I've always been uneasy about the "borrowed" nature of that core concept, and in some ways I feel I'd be heading down a road I wasn't keen on continuing along if my first published book was a 'pure' science fiction story. I've always seen myself as aiming for less clear-cut territory, and perhaps this is my opportunity to check my bearings and explore the kind of place I'm really interested in.

So, for the moment, the novel is dead. But something new definitely will rise to take its place; I just have to figure out what it's going to be.