Living Safely in a Science Fiction Novel

SaturnI grew up reading science fiction, inspired by my father’s love of the genre and my own burning fascination with other planets. I couldn’t wait for commercial space travel (Hello 2001 A Space Oydessy), convenient time travel (even if it required a DeLorean), and, yes, Jetson style flying cars. The future looked good!

ETAs I aged and my tastes matured, I wandered into the darker corners of the speculative fiction world. First contact stories ranged from the benign E.T. to the terrifying Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Artificial intelligence helped the human race  (I, Robot) or destroyed it (Terminator movies.)

An odd thing occurred to me this morning. If you live long enough (and I have) you are going to eventually end up living in a science fiction novel. You just don’t get to choose which one.

Ah, it could have been cloning (Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.) Or we could have spontaneously developed telepathy (More Than Human.) It could have been an ecological disaster. (Actually, it still might be.)  There were so many options.

Which one did we get?

The global pandemic one. Sheeesh. It would not have been my first choice.

last shipThe nice thing about novels is all the boring stuff happens fast or behind the scenes. Most time is taken up by people doing something about the situation. There is a nice story arc, and whether all ends well, or a few key heroes survive, or we all get wiped out  — something happens.

The problem with living through the real-life version is that it is incredibly slow and confusing and no one has much faith anything is changing. It’s not nearly as exciting to live in a time of crisis as one would think.

But here we are, each writing our own story every day.  It’s no action-packed thriller, that’s for sure, and we have to face the fact that months may get condensed into a single sentence.

“She ate a disgusting number of cookies for dinner each night.”

But there will be an end, because the only thing we can count on is change, even when it is slow and we don’t see it coming.

Get ready for the next book in the series. The possibilities are endless.

safely insong new day(Yes, the title of this post was inspired by “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and I recommend the novel. It will give you something new to do while you eat those cookies for dinner. You might also want to check out this year’s Nebula-award-winning best novel “A Song for a New Day,” about a culture designed to survive an onslaught of new viruses. It was written just before covid-19 hit.)

 

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (1 of 3)

I suck at social obligations.

Three Myers Briggs tests have found me to be an off-the-chart introvert, and my abilities as an empath once made me fear I was secretly from Deanna Troi’s home planet. It’s not a great combination. If I have to go somewhere, I soak up everything around me and it leaves me drained.

This doesn’t mean I can’t function around people. I’m practiced at faking normality. (Aren’t we all?) What it does mean is if I have to deal with people for very much or for very long, I can’t write.

The first time I heard the phrase Good Literary Citizen, my heart sank.

You see, I agree with the principals behind the idea, but I’m horribly suited to putting them in practice. Over the years, I’ve found three avenues that work for me, at least in limited quantities. I’ve found corollaries of these that have the capability to be my kryptonite. This post covers one set. (Read the second one. Read the third one.)

A Problem:

I’m from the US. Put me and a handful of other Americans in a room full of Brits and I’ll be the first one to start talking with a slightly British accent and I won’t even notice it. Yes, I have my own voice, but it’s as mutable as everything else about me. If I’m not careful, I write like the last person I read.

A Solution:

Read short things by different people, and read lots of them.

I’ve become a great fan of flash fiction. My genre is speculative, so I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. Most days they send me a story of 1000 words or less. Some are brilliant. Occasionally one is sort of dumb. Every few days I read several of them at once. This keeps me current on themes and word choices floating around in my chosen genre, without any one author getting too deeply into my head.

Sometimes, DSF lets readers vote for stories they like. I do this to support authors who impress me. I also seek them out elsewhere and follow them or list their works as “want to read.” It’s my way of giving them a quick thumbs up before I move on to my own writing. (I also save their stories to reread and inspire me to write better.)

What to Avoid:

I avoid long novels by others, and I will not let myself get involved in a series. Not now. Not me. I can read all those great series out there when I retire from writing. I’m looking forward to it.

I also avoid authors with too distinctive of a voice. There’s nothing wrong with them; in fact some of them are great. They just aren’t for me right now. Again, someday …

As a result (1) I’m generally writing, (2) I generally sound like me, whatever that is, (3) I’m not completely out of touch with what is happening in my genre and (4) I’m doing at least something to support other authors.

I think it’s a win-win-not lose situation. Given my constraints, I’ll take it.

An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

A year ago today, I set off on a four week cross-country trip alone, visiting the high plains town I grew up in, the mountain cabin I wrote my first short story in and spending days at Burning Man. It was an amazing trip. Now, probably because I just finished season 3 of The Good Place, I’m fascinated with unintended and even unexpected consequences. It’s no surprise, that trip had many.

One of them was meeting someone who’s mother lived in my hometown in North Carolina. Months later, the mom and I met to share a glass of wine. We discovered we both loved science fiction, and by the end of the conversation (and the bottle of wine) we were talking about attending Worldcon 2019 together in Dublin. I’m still not sure how our conversation got there.

And yet, here we are. You gotta love how things sometimes work out.

This is my first worldcon, and hers, and we’ve both selected a non-stop itinerary for five days of panels and workshops and readings by author’s we like and, well, we’ll see just how much of this actually works out…

I’ve also volunteered for a few things, and it looks like that will keep this all interesting. I’ll be helping out at the Science Fiction Writers Association reception on Thursday and their table on Friday. I’ll be handing out worldcon volunteer assignments in the staff lounge three of the days. Most exciting of all, I’ve signed up to help with the stage crew of the opening ceremony and the Hugo awards which will be given out Sunday night.

My specific assignment? I’m going to get to run one of the spotlights! For some bizarre reason, I find this very exciting.

I’ll be posting more as the week goes on …

Read more at And the winner, she is …., at Feeling at home , at Forward into the Past and at A New Irish Experience.