Friday, February 3, 2017

"Captive Market", Philip K Dick (1955)

Over lunch I read Philip K Dick's story, "Captive Market" (Worlds of If, April 1955). I picked it almost at random from the issues at that Web site and the stories in that issue (well, it was PKD, and that caught my eye), and I found the story far better than what I'd usually get randomly picking from a modern SFF magazine at Barnes & Noble. So that supports the contention that SFF has sorely deteriorated since the coming of the SJW gatekeepers. Also, it was good without using any of the old-SFF tropes or cultural features that disturb the sensibilities of today's delicate youngsters: no swordfights, ray guns, space princesses, or monsters (not that there's anything wrong with all those things). Instead, "Captive Market" tells a story of a post-apocalyptic future meeting a present-day backwater through a marvellous time-travel phenomenon, and casts it into the mold of a dark, convincingly SF fairy-tale.

Reading it right after my post of yesterday, I'm also struck by how it exhibits the "right way" of offending, or let's say challenging, a reader's opinions: in this case, my own. I doubt that PKD set out to write a story that would depict the rapacity of a petty businessman as the ultimate death-blow for humanity, with a simple "Moral: Capitalism sucks" implied. But although you could take that from it, that's not what I get from reading it. At every point in the story, it's just telling a good tale. I presume that PKD had a jaundiced view of profit-making businesses, and that his attitudes worked their way into the story; but even though I certainly don't object to people making honest bucks, I don't get any uncomfortable feeling that the characters have to be taken as archetypes: their failings are their own.

My own story, "The Kings of the Corona", has its own stamp of its author's personality: you could, if you like, take it as a sort of libertarian allegory. But I was actually surprised myself to see the story growing this way--I didn't intentionally put those ideas into it (honest!), it just naturally filled in that way, probably since it came from materials in my mind, and there's a lot of libertarian-leaning stuff in there.

So, perhaps, the way to write a story that expresses your point of view on larger issues in life is not to try to do that at all. Focus on writing a good story, and perhaps choose a plot with a central conflict providing fertile ground for issues you have a strong point of view about, and just let it happen.

I'll let you know more when I know more. As I say, at this point I'm still getting started on my SECOND story.

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