eric brown interviews barrington bayley

This interview is available here by kind courtesy of Eric Brown. Originally published in the BSFA magazine Vector, issue 117 in December 1983. Copyright Eric Brown, 1983-1998.

How do you currently regard your fiction, and does the finished product live up to anything like your original conception?

I am asked whether the execution of my work lives up to my original conception of it. The questioner has put his finger on an agonizing issue for me. I feel qualms when I read remarks such as this one by Ian Watson: 'Any writer worth his or her salt knows if a book is to be any good at all, one has to let it grow ... as a separate entity - whatever one's prior vision of it.' I am aware that it is an advantage to write this way, but I am headstrong and often try to tackle things the other way round. At the back of my head will be a conception, an impression of something I want the reader to retain after he has forgotten the storyline or the names of the characters. I regard it as a challenge to bring this conception to realisation, and I feel bad about letting the story take a turn that departs from it, but instead will sit brooding miserably for six months. In many novels, even by writers of much greater ability than I, one can identify the point where the author has abandoned his original conception for the sake of expediency, or even appears to have forgotten it and surrendered to the mechanics of getting the damned thing finished. Usually it is in a similar mood that I read on from that point.

My greatest hero of all time is the inventor Nikola Tesla, who had the unusual faculty of controlled hallucination: whatever he thought about appeared before his eyes. This, coupled with total recall, enabled him to complete a device mentally, without plans or prototype, in full detail. He knew in advance of fashioning whether it would run: he could see it running. This is so amazing it is almost a parody of creative genius. To be able to bring a mental conception undeviated into the physical world is practically a godlike power, a successful act of the will. But, lacking this power, it is necessary to find some compromise ... and that's the problem. So no, I could not say I am satisfied with my performance so far, and who knows, may never be.

Barrington Bayley, in a interview published in _Arena SF_ 10 (1980), had to answer a similar question. His reply was shorter, but sums up the writer's dilemma exactly: "I oscillate between two immovable positions: an overwhelming belief in my own eventual worth, and a crushing feeling of incompetence."

interview copyright 1983-1999 by Eric Brown

Great many thanks to Michael J. Cross for the interview
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