Friday, July 28, 2006

Accessibility


I've been struggling all day to start the next chapter of my current novel -- which means that my fairly detailed outline of what's supposed to happen next is wrong. So, I'll blog for awhile until my subconscious figures it out.
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I've been trying to find a good description of the last few novels I've written, and I've been toying with the description "Accessible Science Fiction". If feels right, but I'll probably have to define my terms before anyone understands what I'm talking about.

A lot of people don't read science fiction. A lot of my relatives are in that category. I printed up several of my unpublished novels and gave them to my mother. She read them all and of course liked them. She's my mother, she has to. However, in a converstation a year or so after the fact, she mentioned that she liked "Pixie Dust" especially well because it was a mystery. Now, seriously, this was science fiction with antigravity, zero-point energy and all that stuff, but it was indeed a mystery.

Mysteries are accessible. An ordinary person with an ordinary life can identify with the people in mysteries. Usually, you could substitute your friends, or relatives, or yourself, into the characters of the story with no big problem. The people, the environment and the emotions are familiar. People drive cars, live in houses or apartments, and work in familiar jobs. It's not always the case, but that's the default. The exceptions are the spice, the colorful characters and the flavorful locales. It takes no great leap of the imagination to dive right into the story.

When I tell people I write science fiction, they expect spaceships. But, to be honest, not many of us have friends or relatives that live in spaceships. It's a problem. When I talked to a local school librarian, she said that frequently a kid will come in asking for a book about 'people like me'. I was happy to be able to inform her that my novels would be in that category. I'd have given her a sample if I'd had one published.

Most of my current novels start out in the current day, with real places. Of course, by the time the story wraps up, all bets are off. Here are some examples:

Emperor Dad begins in Hutto, Texas (where I'm typing this) and its main character starts out as a highschool football player.
Pixie Dust begins in Austin, Texas with a university undergrad.
Follow that Mouse takes place in a tiny rural Utah community with highschool kids.
Lighter than Air is in Munising, Michigan with highschool kids.
Extreme Makeover starts in Crescent City, California with highschool kids.
Roswell or Bust! starts in Las Vegas, New Mexico with a highschool kid that works in a family run motel.

You get the idea? I've been to all these places. I could show you pictures. They are accessible. The runway starts in familiar territory. By the time the story ends we may have spaceships or teleport gates or alternate realities, but you don't have to swallow that to get started.

I'm not saying this is the best way to write science fiction, and I've certainly written my share of spaceships, but for a great number of people who don't normally think of themselves as science fiction readers, this is an easy start.

Now all I have to do is convince a few book publishers.

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