Bard to the future
Posted by Tom Brown
One of the weird things about writing a novel set in the near-future was watching real life catch up with the imagined world of my story. It’s probably not a problem for more outlandish visions, but since So Long, Shakespeare depicts a future just one or two steps advanced from where we are now, there was always a slight fear that reality might overtake fiction if I didn’t get a move on.
The two most susceptible strands of my plot related to the discovery that artistic creativity is a genetic absolute. As yet, of course, there is nothing but speculation as to the possibility of this, or indeed its potential implications. In my novel, however, the discovery happens pretty much at the start, before being dramatically addressed in two ways. There’s the mathematical angle, whereby a stubborn Stratfordian accidentally uncovers the numerical manifestation of the creative gene at work – a constant which occurs throughout every writer’s oeuvre, which he dubs the ‘Muse Ratio’. And then there’s the more direct approach, whereby an acclaimed geneticist not only discovers the creative gene but deduces how to transfer it from one human being to another.
In the end, by treating the ‘creative gene’ as a given, I created a firewall which prevented any present-day developments from overlapping too closely with the events of my book. Instead, those news stories which did resonate – for example Brian Vickers’ 2009 Pl@giarism analysis on the likely authorship of Edward III – spurred me on. A degree of realism, after all, was exactly what I was aiming for; as long as it didn’t make my central premise redundant, I was more than happy to embrace it.
Now the book is out in the big wide world, I can relax at last. Henceforward, whatever truths are discovered about the nature of creativity need not concern me. My story is of its time. Even if its predictions are shown to be way off the mark, it will still have merit as a historical artefact, to be filed alongside hoverboards and Judgement Day as remnants of imagined futures that never came to pass.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying I no longer experience that creeping dread when a news story touches on ideas explored in my novel. Quite the contrary. When yesterday I heard of David Reid’s report on the BBC’s ‘Click’ programme about computer programmes that replicate the styles, and arguably even souls, of great artists, I was only too happy to track down the link, take a look for myself, and simply savour the possibilities of what it had to say.
Posted on December 17, 2012, in Authorship, Books, So Long, Shakespeare and tagged creativity, david cope, david reid, DNA, futurology, genetics, So Long Shakespeare. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.