Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I had an interesting experience this week. I was Googling myself, as you do (you do, don't you?) and I discovered a web page called Representations of Antarctica: Short Stories. And there, lo and behold, was this:

Hershman, Tania. "The White Road." Wonderwall. Route 16. Ed. Anthony Cropper and Ian Daley. Pontefract, West Yorkshire: Route, 2005. 29-37.

This is a story I wrote a few years ago, the first story I had broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and then published in Route's Wonderwall anthology. It is set in Antarctica, a place I have never been, nor did I do any research about it before I wrote the story (I don't believe in research for my fiction, it reminds me too much of journalism).

I was extremely delighted to appear on this website, and I wrote to them to find out how they'd found me. Turns out, the web page I stumbled across is the bibliography for a book called 'Fictions of the Far South' being written by Dr Elizabeth Leane, a Lecturer at the School of English, Journalism and European Languages at the University of Tasmania.

When I got in touch, Dr Leane asked me, naturally,
"why you decided to set your story in the Antarctic - did you have a pre-existing interest in the place?"

Hmm. I started feeling a little like a fraud. I replied:

The White Road was inspired by this article:

The White Road
"What's long, white, and very, very cold? The road to the South Pole is nearing completion… Almost a century after the explorers Amundsen and Scott battled their way from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, a US team is heading the same way but constructing a road as they go. Due for completion by March 2005, this road will stretch for more than 1600 kilometres across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world.
- 07 February 2004

and then tried to divert attention from my lack of knowledge back onto her book. She hasn't written back to me yet!

This is quite a strange feeling, to have my short story, set in a place I have never been to, referenced in a bibliography for a book about that place. Should I have researched more? The story isn't really about Antarctica, it's about one woman's personal tragedy and how she deals with it (if you'd like to hear the Radio 4 broadcast click here). Should I have set it somewhere nameless? What is my responsibility as a writer of fiction? How much can we really make up?


Anne Brooke said...

Congrats! And make up everything is what I say - it's fiction!!



TitaniaWrites said...

Thanks, Anne! I have now had a reply from her, actually, and apparently my story fits into the "transformative experiences in Antartica" stories - who knew??