|Winning with a Bold Streak|
An Interview with Gwyneth Jones
|conducted by Sandy Auden|
Rock and roll rules, literally, in Gwyneth Jones' Bold As Love. Her story of how rock stars become the political
future of England beat a strong shortlist of SF novels and won her the coveted Arthur C. Clarke Award. Perhaps
some of the reason for her success stems from her very real love of the story material.
'Writing a book is an intense experience for me,' Jones says. 'I get an immense kick out of trying to understand the science that I want to use, and trying to make these extraordinary situations seem real, emotional and complex -- for myself and for the reader. Bold As Love was fun because it's closer to my life and the scenes around me. I enjoyed it because everything I did that was recreational fun, (we won't go into all the details) was also research. Work became play, play became work. I think that's the best way to live, if you can ever get it.'
'Some people are only interested in music when they're teenagers, due to peer pressure; some people stay interested. I'm one of those, stayed with rock and roll all the way through its permutations, and dare I say it, stayed with the idealistic hedonism. Bold As Love came from there.'
The story may be classed as science fiction/fantasy but its setting of near-future Earth lends it a documentary style undertone. 'I think Earth is the place that matters,' Jones explains. 'This is where we live, this is where the adventures are going to happen. Space opera is very fine but it's not real, it's a stage for info-tainment and daydreams. I nearly always write about Earth.'
'The difference with Bold As Love is that I'm writing specifically about England, and Europe, rather than distancing the story from my own life and times. I realised there's no need to look elsewhere for ideas. Right now, right here, we're in a situation that's made for drama: with phenomenal scientific developments on one side, environmental and political meltdown on the other. Hordes of refugees on the move! Storms and floods! Huge popular festivals! Amazing hi-tech toys! In Bold As Love, I'm imagining people's lives getting blown up, crushed and distorted between the pressures. But it's not a tragedy. It's an exhilarating, scary ride.'
It's also more optimistic than any of her previous novels. For a story full of disasters, where has the positive approach come from? 'I'm getting old. However much you care about the terrible things that are wrong with the world, there comes a point when you think, hold on, this is the only life I'm going to get. Enjoy! Partly, I didn't make that decision, the music did. That's what music does, if it works, whether it's Chopin or Blink 182. It excites, raises your spirits, arouses, gets people going -- although it's not always a benign phenomenon, and you'll find the dangerous side of the wild arousal in the book too.'
'Partly, being light-hearted is a serious decision. I knew that if I wanted to make people think about positive solutions, I had to make them feel up about the challenges, not down.'
And to help her achieve this sense of optimism, her usual centre stage, female characters have been joined by a number of men. It's something Jones has no problem justifying. 'In a story about rock and roll, it would be strange if male characters didn't take centre stage. But don't be fooled. Women in rock, and R&B, put a brave face on it and tough it out because they must. The music business is very conservative, and very male-oriented. Harsh prices are paid by the women, especially when they are young, for joining this boys' club. You'll find that story in Bold As Love too. I enjoyed writing about Ax Preston and Sage Pender, very much. I like men.'
'In recent years, as you must have noticed, it has become a cliché that male writers in SF/fantasy -- like Joss Whedon -- have sexy, powerful young women for protagonists. Just take a look at the evidence. They're all doing it. I'm not complaining, but part of what's going on in Bold As Love is me saying to myself, hey, I could do that. I could have highly romanticised, sexy, cool, intelligent blokes for central characters, that would be fun. An, er, evolved kind of feminism? Discuss.'
(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.
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