May 8th, 2008

ozarque figure

Writing science fiction; the Abban universe...

From the questions that are being asked, I can tell that I haven't been making myself clear, and I'd like to fix that if I can. There are three things that seem to me to need clarifying....

I didn't write an enormous notebookful of backstory and background for the fictional universe of Abba. I did write a sketchy outline of basic factoids, but I didn't do what I later adopted as a standard method for writing novels. I didn't write a biography of all the characters, and a detailed description of every setting, and a complete outline of the history of Abba, and a detailed account of the culture .... and so on. When I wrote At the Seventh Level in 1971, I was a linguistics graduate student and a graduate teaching assistant and a "working mother" and a person with a teaching job at night and a person writing novels "on the side," and I was so desperately busy every single minute of the day and half of the night that I scarcely had time to breathe. I genuinely didn't have time to do the Abban backstory; I wrote only as much of it as I had to have for the actual text of the novel and the short stories, and I let it go at that. Which means that most of the questions you're asking me about Abba are questions I don't know the answer to.

For the record, it's perfectly all right with me if you want to write in the fictional universe of Abba yourself, which would let you answer all the questions you might have.

I understand why many of you perceive the Abban fiction as "horror." I understand it now. But I didn't perceive it that way when I was writing in it myself. I really -- truly -- perceived the Abban culture as a metaphor for the culture of the United States in 1971, and I thought it would be clear to every reader that that was what it was. [Novelists, especially inexperienced novelists, tend to suffer from that sort of illusion.] I took the characteristics of the culture that I was living in myself, as I perceived it, and I exaggerated those characteristics to the point of parody, and the result was Abba.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who have said that you'd like to see more of my fiction set in that fictional universe; that's high praise, and I'm grateful for it.

Nonfiction online: "How Verbal Self-Defense Works" at ; "Why Are Old Women Older Than Old Men And How Can We Fix That?" at ; Religious Language Newsletter archive at ; Fiction online: "We Have Always Spoken Panglish" at ; "What The EPA Don't Know Won't Hurt Them" at ; "Weather Bulletin" at ; "A Quorum Of Grandmothers" at ; The Communipaths at . More stuff at ; LiveJournal blog index at .