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Theme in Fiction

So all the promotional hype around The Cyborg and the Cemetery has got me thinking about theme in fiction.

Sometimes I get the feeling that aspiring writers -- and especially writers who aspire to write awards caliber fiction -- feel like they need to have a deep and meaningful premise from the very start. They agonize, they search their souls, they try to find a story that "means something". (Or at least, I know I did.)

And it can be done that way. But I've found that, like the cat who will curl up on your lap if you just ignore it long enough, theme often works its way into a story on its own. The Cyborg and the Cemetery is arguably one of my most thematic works, tackling everything from mortality to technological ethics within 3500 words -- and yet I didn't start out with a particular theme in mind.

I started out with an old guy in a graveyard, and a prosthetic leg that whirred on every other step.

Stephen King once described stories as artifacts, something which the author does not create so much as unearth. I've found that to be so. Little pieces of theme tend to emerge on their own as I write a story. I suppose I could leave them along, as little white bits of bone in an otherwise sandy landscape, but I can never manage to leave them along. I find them fascinating, so as soon as I notice one poking through the edges of my story I starting digging around it, trying to see where it goes. Usually, that ends up being pretty deep.

So... yeah. I don't so much build stories around theme as dig up the themes surrounding each story. It's more fun that way. And in my experience, the final product is at least as good.




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The Death and
Rebirth of
Anne Bonny

and other stories

amazon | kobo | barnes & noble | iTunes | Audible

a novelette

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That Undiscovered Country
Jim Baen Memorial
Award Winner

paperback | kindle | nook | PDF | Other

2011 Nebula Nominee

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, March 2011

paperback | kindle | nook | smashwords

The Breath of Heaven
Stories from Distant Worlds

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In the Halls of the Sky-Palace
Jim Baen's Universe, June 2009

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Backlash (novelette)
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 2010

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The Man Who
Murdered Himself

Phobos Award Winner

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Dead Men Don't Cry:
11 Stories by Nancy Fulda

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Nothing This Fun Could be Good for You (article)
Available at:
Clarkesworld Magazine

Like Rain From Silver Skies
Available at:
Basement Stories

Knowing Neither Kin Nor Foe
Available at:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Nancy Fulda is a 2012 Hugo and Nebula Nominee, a Phobos Award winner and a Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award recipient. She is the first (and so far only) female recipient of the Jim Baen Memorial Award. Her fiction has appeared in a number of professional venues.

Nancy Fulda is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com


January 2017
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