Saturday, 19 July 2008

Story springboards

Since I wrote about Richard Lupoff’s story collection Quintet, we have been in touch by email and I’ve learned quite a lot more about the varied and interesting career of a writer I’m happy to have encountered – even if only very belatedly.

Here’s a story Dick Lupoff told me about his writing, which I find rather appealing:

'When I come across a story springboard I have to decide which way to spring. Science fiction? Mystery? I guess it depends on my mood of the moment. Or maybe on what some editor has offered my shekels to create. Let me give you an example.
In this era of the ubiquitous cell phone, old-fashioned telephone booths are rapidly disappearing, but there’s still one in my neighborhood, on the corner near the Japanese restaurant and the local pharmacy. I happened to walk past it as a person in a shapeless coat and turned-down fedora completed a call. He hung up the phone, reached in his pocket, extracted a small, rectangular package, laid it on the shelf, and walked away.

Thinking he might have meant to take the package with him, I picked it up and started after him. And suddenly, I felt a chill. I started fantasizing about what might be in the package, and why the man had left it. Was he a spy? Did the package contain some secret data? Do spies still use microfilm, or was there an electronic memory stick in there? Was the man a jewel thief? Had he been paid off to arrange the return of some fabulously valuable gems, and were they in the package? If so, someone else was about to pick up the memory sticks – or the emeralds – and I had inadvertently plunged myself into a potentially fatal situation. I was about to find myself stuck in the middle of a gangster epic or a spy thriller.

Or was the man the earthly contact for aliens? Was he the agent of Earth’s pending conquest, a judas ram communicating with his monstrous masters? Maybe he was an alien himself, his frightening appendages and superscientific apparatus concealed beneath that coat, his nine eyes and magenta visage shaded by that hat-brim. Was he a time-traveler? Did the box contain a superdimensional transporter? Was I about to be whisked into the Ninety-Ninth Century, or perhaps taken to a weird planet in the Zorch Dimension?

Wherever my mood took me. Or the requirements of the marketplace. I’m not a science fiction writer or a mystery writer or a horror writer or a mainstream writer. I’m just a writer. I write what pleases me, or what an editor will pay me to write. On a good day, those two things coincide.

By the way, it turned out that the telephone-booth user was a member of another disappearing tribe, cigarette smokers. The mysterious package was an empty box that had previously contained his smokes. I didn’t bother to chase him. I tossed the package in the recycle bin and went home and started writing a Western.'

1 comment:

harriet said...

Great story! he sounds like an interesting man.