Sunday, June 01, 2008

Why I write... alien romance

George Orwell is one of my literary heroes, along with Shakespeare, Tolkien, Asimov and Georgette Heyer.

George Orwell is best known for Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm but the rest of his works include essays, such as Why I Write, and Politics and the English Language, and his documentaries/social commentaries The Road To Wigan Pier, and Down and Out in Paris and London.

While I don't claim to share his politics or his extreme sense of adventure, I admire George Orwell for his commitment to accurate research; his integrity; and his ethics as a writer, commentator, and master of the English language.

In his essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell lists six rules for writers:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

My personal favorite is Rule 6.

It is in part due to George Orwell's essays that I write about aliens instead of imaginary aristocrats and real historical figures.

The allowed fool is a concept from literature that harks back to the middle ages. The Court Jester was one of the only people who was able to speak his mind without risking his life, because he was usually considered a Fool or mad, or of such low status that his opinions were laughable.

Nevertheless, because he was entertaining and occasionally funny, his views were widely heard. I think the traditional traveling musician was more of a carrier of news
and might have been under more social pressure to deliver a popular message.

The character in my Romances who most resembles the archetypical Fool (and occasionally a Greek chorus of one) is Grievous, a very useful fellow!

If George Orwell were alive and writing today, I wonder whether he'd be writing Futuristics (Nineteen Eighty-Four was a futuristic. Or was it SF?) Or would he write Fantasy? ( Animal Farm was subtitled a fairy story).

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry


  1. Hear, hear. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four I don't know how many times. Amazing work, and relevant no matter the decade.

  2. George Orwell is a great thinker.
    His views shown in "Animal Farm" are applicable to any social order in the past and in the present.
    BTW,listen to "Animals" by Pink Floyd.The album of the famous rock band was inspired by the writing by George Orwell.

  3. I adore Orwell.

    I think that if he was writing today he'd be considered a genre, rather than a literary, writer.

    It's amazing how many of his ideas and words have become part of the language:

    "Some are more equal than others"
    "Big Brother is watching you"

    One of my personal favorites is "Burmese Days,' a semi-autobiographical account of his time spent as a policeman in Burma.