Susan Watkins
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The voice of authority?
in Doris Lessing
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In 1979, Doris Lessing published Shikasta, the first novel in her Canopus in Argos: Archives quintet (1979–1983) and her first novel written entirely in the speculative mode. Science fiction (SF) has always involved extrapolation, so in what ways is writing about new worlds a way of writing about our own? Does SF require a different voice or narration? If it does, how might that make a writer such as Lessing rethink her authorial and narrative voice when she returns to realism? How might it impact on her attempt to write about a subject like terrorism? In the Canopus in Argos: Archives series, and in The Diaries of Jane Somers (1984) and The Good Terrorist (1985), questions of voice are central. Lessing suggests here that style and voice cannot be separated from content, and that there is no such thing as a characteristic authorial style or voice. Her work in the early to mid-1980s, despite its apparently vast differences in mode, genre and subject, can be viewed as a self-conscious experimentation with the authority of voice.

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