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Monday, July 23, 2012

Terrance Dicks: Don’t Let the Screen Go Dark

One journey ends.  Another begins.

Saturday proved an unusual day for me.  It had been a hard week, and my wife and I were feeling, well, “narky.”   Like the collar of a favorite shirt, we were afraid if we did much more, our emotions would start to fray.  So, after breakfast, we abandoned plans to “make Saturday count” and did something we’ve done with decreasing regularity in recent years: we spent most of the day relaxing, and a good portion of it reading. 

This proved a happy and healing process for us.  I finished Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh, a novel I’ve been chipping away at for some time.  My wife finished The Stainless Steel Rat Returns by Harry Harrison.  I also started Time of the Great Freeze by Robert Silverberg, a 1964 novel written for young readers.  (Believe it or not, J. K. Rowling didn’t invent the Young Adult market).  But more on those books later.

In his story “The Great Slow Kings,” Roger Zelazny introduces us to two aliens, Drax and Dran, who plan to build a society around two examples of a lesser species whom their robot Zindrome brings to their planet Glan.  While Drax and Dran reenact their version of the conversation between Socrates and others in Plato’s Republic, these newcomers live life at a frantic pace, and populate Glan.  Lacking direction from the Slow Kings, they build their own societies.  Thus, by their inaction, Drax and Dran become irrelevant.

In “Roger Zelazny is in My Head,” I discussed the battle I wage every day in my writing.  My Slow Kings are named Procrastination and Perfectionism.  Like Zindrome, I’m often caught in the crossfire between these two.  Sometimes I’ve listened to Procrastination, and opted not to write because I “wasn’t in the mood.”  Or I’ve listened to Perfectionism and abandoned promising stories because they “weren’t good enough.”  I may never dethrone my Slow Kings, but each time I complete a new post, I’m publishing a message that may prove meaningful to someone.  Writing this blog comes with a price tag, however.  During the week, I can’t write this blog until I’ve first met my daily target for my novel.  On the weekend, other priorities make themselves known.

After yesterday’s rest, I found myself with no blog post prepared.  So my thoughts returned to Drax and Dran, but they also returned to Terrance Dicks, who worked as the Script Editor for the TV series “Doctor Who” from 1970 to ’75.  In 1977, producer Graham Williams needed a script yesterday.  So, working at a frantic pace, Terrance Dicks created a four-part story called “Horror of Fang Rock.”  On his DVD commentary, Dicks shared this insight: his goal wasn’t to write a great (or perfect) story, it was about not having the TV screens in Britain go dark those four nights.

Terrance Dicks' legacy is well-guarded.

I know most who stumble across The Dragon’s Cache won’t return.  But if I am to make this blog a dependable source of encouragement and inspiration, I must provide something new on a regular basis.  Otherwise, those who look to me for some thoughts to power their day will grow disenchanted, and search out more dependable sources. 

In Roger Zelazny’s story, Drax and Dran contribute nothing to their world.  Certainly Procrastination has never contributed a single thing to mine.  Ironically, the blog posts I thought most perfect often attract little interest, while those that have proven most popular almost always took me by surprise.  This suggests that Perfectionism isn’t a perfect guide either.  (This realization also suggests that when I finish my dragon novel, I should revisit my older manuscripts.  Perhaps Perfectionism judged some of those stories too harshly).

Yes, I need time to work on my novels.  Yes, I need time to relax and recharge.  But now I recognize the truth: Procrastination and Perfectionism’s arguments cannot be trusted.  With my apologizes to the great Roger Zelazny, I must model myself on Terrance Dicks, and do my best to never, ever, let your screen go dark.

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