Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Sci to the Fi

How much science should there be in science fiction? The purists claim it should permeate every scene if not every sentence. Others say the genre' is changing and that just attaining the atmosphere of science fiction is enough.

Me? I'm stuck in the middle with you—unless of course you're a purist and/or a rocket scientist. Now I've read the classic masters and popular masters of sci-fi like Bradbury, who was my first ever introduction to the genre' with the short "There Will Come Soft Rains" which, if you grew up in the "duck and cover" generation with the unholy terror of nuclear war and annihilation, was something you could relate to entirely (run on sentence).

I've also read sci-fi in which the main character is so cyborg-ish that he plugs himself into the dashboard of his ship. For me, that's a little off-putting. Oh, I don't mind a little man/machine interaction, in fact I have a WIP that has a little of it too. It's just that when people stop becoming people there really isn't any story (excepting the above Bradbury masterpiece in which an automated house is the main character), at least not for me. I mean, it's hard to give a medical droid an ethics conflict, R2 and C3PO notwithstanding.

Now, as much as I love Blade Runner—and I do—I usually don't put pleasure androids such as Pris in my work. Why? There has to be a human to have the conflict with or because of a Pris type android, and that droid usually doesn't have the wherewithal to have a conflict themselves. (And oh, shut the heck up about Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey, and "The Robot" in Lost In Space, etc., and etc.) In the case of Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) has the main moral conflict both physical in destroying the Replicants but also one because of his attraction to Rachel who believes she is human. Once again, there's that human interaction and not by plugging oneself into a dashboard, per se.

I think that book length is also a factor in science fiction. Thinking up credible engaging thorough worlds with plagues and problems takes a lot of time if you really love the genre' and therein lies a major quandary. With all the subgenre' and mashups of genre' being the trend of the times, sometimes you have to make a distinction however small, between science fiction proper and science fiction action/thriller/adventure/dark/dystopian, on and on. Dystopian is the one genre' or subgenre' that comes to mind as close to real, pure science fiction. Why? Because it's usually a setting/story of people attempting to survive in a ravaged, destroyed world/society due to advances in science whether war, plague, mutation, alien invasion/contact and what have you. One book that truly is a great work of this type is The Plague Tales by Ann Benson. Surprisingly, I love the futuristic storyline better than the historical, which I normally prefer. I think it's because that story line is so realistic I can totally see it logically happening one day.

However for writers like me who devote a lot of work to the inner conflicts of characters much of it has to do with how the characters relate to each other and how they deal with their conflicts resulting in growth of their personalities. I believe that that characterization drives the plot lines in my stories.

Yet I still have the obligation to stick to the genre' major. I do research of a sort to give credence to my books unless I'm completely making it up and I try to create a setting/world/technology that readers can picture and relate to but that isn't rocket science either. So there I am still stuck in the middle with or without you, riding the galactic fence. That's when I fall back on those subgenre' mashups. I've called my books futuristic crime thrillers, near-future thrillers, sci-fi adventure, dark science fiction and spec fiction and I think I need to do that even though it might narrow the reader audience. I don't think it does—I hope it doesn't—I'm hoping it will cross-genre' much like a virus can mutate (ooh, science talk) into various strains and perhaps reach readers who might otherwise pass it by.

Take that rocket scientists!

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