Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Building of Worlds and Realities

I'm nearly finished with my first complete SF novel and I've learned a thing or three about what makes good SF.

Believable Characters. Convincing World. Good Science.

My work in progress (henceforth wip for those of you who aren't writers) has believable characters (I hope) in this Zero Draft. The world is less convincing and the science in several cases is bad because it's made up. As I go back to begin revising said wip (we're talking about Juggy & the Duchess, mind you; henceforth abbreviated JtD) I'm going to have to think about what will make the world of my story convincing. I've got a kind of police force, a nominally mentioned intergalactic government and the story itself sprawls across half a dozen new worlds that are only vaguely defined but essential to the settings in which the action occurs.

This means that I will have to go back and research the environments of each world so that they are convincingly different and comfortingly real enough to not shake the reader out of the story. Same for the people of each world. That doesn't sound too hard and that certainly takes the book into the realm of Real First Draft. The hardest research will be making the science good.

There are all sorts of fringey scientific notions out there and some of them even have some traction. Remember how Quantum Mechanics blew everyone's minds, even Einstein's? (He famously said, "God does not play with dice.") Then in the 80s when they started calling it String Theory and some very knowledgeable folk started calling for the notion that there were more than the universally acknowledged four dimensions? (I'm including Time as a dimension for those keeping score at home.) And maybe there were MANY more dimensions with some models positing as many as eleven or fifteen or more and we couldn't see them but they HAD to be there?

You don't?

Well, you must not be reading the same books I am. Or watching the same shows on PBS. No one's saying there aren't fifteen dimensions, but they are saying that there are more than the conventional four. Everyone used to think that faster than light travel was impossible. It may not be. Neither might teleportation. It's Way Beyond what we can conceive at this point, maybe, but it may not be impossible.

So whatever science I've made up for this story might turn out to be true some day. Am I comparing myself to Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke or William Gibson? Good lord, no. I'm hoping that the science I've chosen through my admittedly lackadaisical reading habits can be justified with only a little research and some heavy duty re-writing. It's all in service to the story, after all, and the story is what matters most. A good tale well told is more believable than a story super-accurate and told badly.

Am I right?

Now there are brilliant theoretical physicists saying that there may actually be Parallel Universes and that String Theory supports this idea. Of course I knew all about this because I grew up reading about such things in comic books, the ultimate simple science fiction for boys variety. But now it's on the verge of being something that might be accepted by the masses of people who believe in Science. Some folks will never believe and I'm fine with that. I hope they're entertained by my stories as much as the folks who are deep into the science parts of fiction.

The really hard part of writing good SF (and this is the point of this post) and even Fantasy, is that one has to create mostly from the ground up whereas someone who writes in any sort of urban setting can set things in very familiar places very easily. There's no Chicago in my story, there's not even Earth. It's only mentioned as Old Earth because my story takes place ten thousand years into the future. Talk about having to jump some hurdles, right?

But I wouldn't have it any other way. This story is near and dear to me now and I'm looking forward to fleshing out the skeleton that I've built.

I guess that puts me in the same league as Victor Frankenstein. Sooner or later, you'll hear me shouting "It's ALIVE!"

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