Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 06, 2006


One of the reasons I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction is because I can't stand a lot of references to pop culture. Six months after any work is published, they sound cringeingly out of date. I like the story to transcend its circumstance, not get buried in a myriad of brand names and celebrities. As a result I read a lot of fantasy set in indistinct "medieval" times or imaginary worlds. I like sci-fi because it reinvents reality. I like actual period drama, or novels from the distant past.

To explain what I mean: think of an Agatha Christie novel. Huge, global events like the wars are mentioned. But generally there are no real people referenced, no fashions, no brands, no car names. Except in rare instances, you couldn't easily pinpoint a work to 1933, or 1948, or 1964.

It's very hard trying to write about Dubai and make it somewhat timeless, because things are changing so fast. As a result, I'm avoiding a lot of details of construction, and there are no named projects such as Dubailand, or The Palm. Established icons such as the Burj Al Arab and the Creek get a mention (and possibly a nasty fate!) but generally only older place names get a look in. The aim is so when someone reads it, they can't fix a time, it could have taken place pretty much any time since the Burj was built. The characters don't work in named zones like Tecom, I deliberately situated them in Satwa and Karama.

I'm trying to do it in such a way that someone who left Dubai ten years ago could read it and not find a completely alien city, but also so that a new arrival in Dubai could read it, and not assume that I left ten years ago. It's tricky to do. I have to focus on things that were here when I arrived, are distinctively Dubai, and aren't likely to change or be destroyed in the next few years. So Jumeirah is in, National Paints roundabout is out. The Bastikiya gets a mention, the Madinat does not. Etc.


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