superhero

Why I Don’t Write Science Fiction

My first major in college was astronomy, believe it or not. If you’re happy that I’m a writer, you can thank calculus. My poor relationship with higher math wasn’t the only reason for the change of majors, though. The truth is, I’ve always loved science and found it beautiful, but I really never wanted to be an actual scientist.

In truth, I just wanted to look at heavenly bodies.

Most of the books I read as a teen and through my twenties were science fiction, and the more a story relied on actual science, the more I seemed to like it. So, one would imagine that, when I started writing, that’s what I’d do.

My only science fiction efforts were in high school, in the form of short stories that were published in our school’s monthly “newspaper.” And wow, were they terrible. Seriously. Just awful. And not even “real” science fiction, as the science involved was pretty vague, to put it mildly.

Okay, calling it “real” science fiction is a poor choice of words. Sci-Fi can be broken down into lots of categories, of course, but the two biggies are “hard” and “soft.” (Kinda like porn… but not.) The difference between the two is that “hard” science fiction is that very sort I mentioned, where the science is accurate and a crucial facet of the story. “Soft” science fiction would be where the science is basically just given a nod, whether accurate or not, and often just incidental to the story.

At any rate, when I finally found my voice and started writing novel-length stories, I didn’t go for science fiction. I’ve done fantasy. I’ve done “social science fiction,” in the form of a dystopian future story, but that’s not the same. And I’m currently in the middle of a superhero memoir trilogy.

See previous caption.

Now, the Dynamistress books actually do say “science fiction” on the covers. It’s not accurate, of course. Stories about super-powered individuals technically qualify as fantasy. But because I indulged myself and really got detailed with the science behind Dyna’s abilities, I labeled it science fiction. (Besides, most people think of fantasy as being along the lines of Tolkein and such.)

The question remains, though, if I love hard science fiction so much, not to mention science itself, why don’t I write it? And I have to admit that the answer is that I feel intimidated by the very idea. And there’s the fact that I don’t even have any solid ideas for such a story. I have a notes file with a few concepts I’d want to include in a Sci-Fi tale – some of which did make their way into the Dynamistress books – but nothing more than that.

Truth is, I’ve always had a particular gripe about hard science fiction. In my experience, the more focus there is on the science, the less memorable the characters are. Arthur C. Clarke was good at incorporating hard science. But the most memorable character he ever came up with was made of silicon, wires, and plastic.

Previous captions do not apply.

One of the most brilliant series of books I’ve read, science-wise, was Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy, Red MarsGreen MarsBlue Mars. I can’t think of anything else I’ve read that incorporated so many fields of science so thoroughly or so well. But again… his characters don’t stand out in memory. Robert A. Heinlein, on the other hand, created plenty of memorable characters, but the science content of his stories was never close to being equal to Clarke or Robinson.

Heinlein, though, has certainly been the writer whose work most affected my own story-telling. So if I ever write a “real” science fiction novel, I think it’s safe to say that it’ll have memorable characters. Whether that happens or not… just wait and see.

Posted by vmwales in Genre, Other Writers, 0 comments

Leaving the City

It’s spring of 2006. I’m living on my own for the first time in two decades, a divorce pending, struggling to remember how to be single and live alone. I have a job, but lots of bills, and virtually no social outlets. My depression is kicking into high gear.

I need an escape… an outlet… something in which I can invest my time to take my mind off things.

Seriously? Who picks these pics?

I know what you’re thinking. I should be working on that next novel. And that’s true. I should be. But I’m just not inspired. I know that inspiration isn’t particularly necessary, but it would be nice, I think. I do try to write. I work a little bit on the sequel to Wish You Were Here, but my heart isn’t in it. I try, once again, to pull my first novel back from the dead… but it keeps falling back into the same ruts that doomed it before. I have other pieces of books in the works, but none are speaking to me.

No, my escape needs to be something different. Something social. But I have few friends here. And it should be something I can do at all hours, not dependent upon others. And it should be fun. Lots of fun. So that meant…

I said SOCIAL!

Video games.

The ex (fittingly) kept the Xbox. That’s fine, since she also kept the TV. But I had a computer. We don’t need no stinking console.

World of Warcraft? Highly recommended by some friends. Everquest 2? Highly recommended by other friends. But no… My brain reminded me of one I’d seen on a shelf some time ago. A superhero game. What was it called?

City of Heroes.

See… it’s a city… of… Oh, you get the idea.

Yeah, gimme superheroes over sword and sorcery any day. I bought the game. I created a character. Just one, to start, though many more would follow over the next six years. And none of those would ever come close to matching that first character.

For six years, I developed her, with the help of plenty of great (and some not-so-great) role-players online, many of whom I have since met in person and consider dear friends. This character… easily the most complex character I’ve ever created… has a life of her own. She’s on Facebook. She has a Twitter account. Her MySpace page is probably still there, too. For a while, she had a personal website, but I took it down recently in preparation for a major remodel.

Why? Because this character is the protagonist of my next novel.

Oh, I removed her from the game world and planted her firmly in “our” universe. I wasn’t about to steal any intellectual property of the game company. Not that I had any inclination to stop playing the character in the game. In fact, I looked forward to the book becoming popular and readers coming to City of Heroes to “meet” her.

Sadly, that will now never happen.

Today, it was announced that City of Heroes will be defunct by the end of November.

I learned this perhaps two hours ago. And it’s a surreal feeling. Yes, it’s a game. But it’s far more than that. It’s a community in which I made some great friends. It’s a creative milieu in which I created an amazing character. And even after six years, it was still a welcome relief from the daily grind. In fact, ninety percent of my time in the game for the past few years has been role-playing, not really playing “the game” part of it.

And in three months, that will all be history.

Of course, it already is, really. The past six years are history for this character. The book is her memoir, you see. And while it will not be about the world of that game, the stories I came up with for her on the screen certainly served as inspiration for her story on the page.

The next three months will be bittersweet. They will hold the final days of her life in the game, but usher in the first days of her life in a new form. I expect the final chapters to be done by the end of the year, with the book making its appearance almost exactly seven years after its protagonist first took form on my computer.

I’m excited as heck about that. But today, my heart is heavy.

Posted by vmwales in Inspiration, 0 comments