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Gay Incestuous Time-travelling Mutant Quadruplets
Defining Speculative Fiction
© 2013 James LaFond
“So the super-mutant butt-raping was consensual?”
-a fellow writer bemused that I was working on a love story
‘Sci-fy’ or 'SF' is now a huge mega-genre that includes fantasy [in its many forms], space opera, ‘hard science-fiction’ [near-future science-based stories], and speculative fiction. There are such sub-genres as post-apocalyptic, role-playing based, vampire-themed, and more. The material is generally now highly derivative and there is very little cross-over by readers from one to the other, making it a big alphabetized mess in the bookstore that is best merchandized and shopped by author, not category.
Derivative and Conceptual Fiction
Before discussing my little niche in this literary catacomb, let us define derivative as opposed to conceptual writing. A good example of conceptual speculative-fiction is time-travel; an idea that many writers take a stab at. Even non ‘sci-fy’ novels deal with the idea of time-travel. Other prominent examples are ‘far-future’ and ‘post-apocalyptic’. These are broad conceptual fields that writers use to test themselves and exercise speculative concepts through a storyline.
Derivative works are primarily to be found in fantasy. However, the best fantasy is conceptual, rather than derivative. Conceptual fantasy like Tolkien’s Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings will spawn legions of derivative imitators. Most fantasy is so derivative it is difficult for me to get into. So, early on in the 1970s I veered toward ‘science-fantasy’ a niche that was shorthand for ‘a fantastical place based on a scientific premise’, with the premise pretty much an excuse for creative writing rather than the exercise of disciplined extrapolation and speculation that traditional hard science-fiction is. Science-fantasy included much of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work [John Carter was a character he created in 1911, I think.], John Norman’s Gor series, and Alan Burt Akers’ Tray Prescott series. This once occupied the shelf space now reserved for derivative vampire fantasies and role-playing based fiction.
A highly derivative collage-like fantasy like Star Wars can be hugely popular as it taps into so many cultural archetypes. Star Wars and other ‘space-operas’ are, in my opinion, more fantasy than science-fiction. The best conceptual fantasy I have read is George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. He stepped into a hopelessly derivative field of Tolkien imitators and breathed new life into the medieval fantasy. He did this largely by using the tools of the speculative writer, not the templates and tropes of the fantasist, to instill an internal logic and consistency to his mythos. He accomplished this chiefly through character development, the bedrock of the novelist’s craft.
Speculative Fiction
I am a conceptual writer that likes to work more from the character’s viewpoint than from a narrative one. That is just the selection of my tool. The concept that I must tackle with this tool is my base speculation. Let me use my novelette Organa as a discussion point; the story referred to by my fellow writer above who was horrified that I would attempt to develop a love story in a gray future of my speculative devise. First, love is not promised us; we have to look for it; work for it; and, once found, it is often lost to us. There are the lucky ones. But as a writer I like to explore the world through the eyes of the rest of us. So, when I chose a man’s attraction to a woman as the basis for a story, a happily-ever-after for the protagonist and his love interest would not be assured.
Now, the emotional yearning of the viewpoint character is just a modification of my usual fictional tool, the vested protagonist, who does not know nearly as much about his world as most fictional characters know. The protagonist in a speculative work begins, and may precede, and may even end his story, in a state of ignorance as to the forces that impact his life. This is very realistic. Think, if you will, about your computer that you are reading this on.
How much do you know about how it was built, how it was conceived?
Can you read the arcane language the text is encoded in like my super-geek webmaster?
What about your car?
Can you fix it?
Could you build it?
Can you explain to me how the fuel is combusted and how energy is transferred to the wheels?
This is the art of serving up speculative fiction, of gradually pulling a reader into a ‘what-if’ reality through a limited perspective, so that it feels ‘realistic’ to them. The speculative writer generally walks the reader through the world in the same state of relative knowledge that he enjoys about the workings of his own world. The fact is, we assume that we know a lot more about the historic underpinnings and social, ecological, technological, and economic mechanics of our world than we do. We tend to see ourselves as the expert commentator, the L’Amour gunslinger that knows all of the many details about horses, cattle, guns, Indians, tracking and local history that the author knows.
But when disaster comes into our life; when we end up in an adventure, we are suddenly brought face-to-face with the fact that we do not know as many things as we assumed.
How long will it take the cop to get here?
Is my hand broken or sprained?
Exactly how many bullets does that punk have in his handgun?
How much do I really know about the local history of this small town I am being robbed in?
In speculative fiction the reader gets, not a detailed tour, but an immersive experience of an alien world. The master of this kind of writing is Gene Wolfe. James Tiptree, Junior [Alice B. Sheldon] was a short story writer with a similar, but more abrasive, gift.
Typical fiction [westerns and crime or historical novels for instance] will generally feature a protagonist who is more knowledgeable about the world he interacts with than every other character save perhaps the main villain. This permits the author to use the narrative device to turn the protagonist into a tour guide of the Old West, or of the crime scene, or of the historical period. Louis L’ Amour is America’s favorite story teller, with over 300 million books in print [and I have read 28], because he employed this narrative style and generally provided protagonist victories over their adversaries. Upbeat and informative fiction is very popular, even among speculative writers.
The World is Greater than The Individual
This is so very obvious to the rational person. But when we read and write our novels we so want the protagonist to defeat the world; overcome all of the obstacles, and menaces, that society, nature, fate and God throw at him.
To use Organa as an example, my protagonist, Tray Sorenson, is a likable enough guy that is comfortably placed in the middle rungs of society. His world is completely known to him; or so he is told. In reality, he knows very little about the society that he was born in to. So, when Tray decides to follow his heart, it does constitute a risk of an even higher magnitude than he suspects.
Tray is the tool for exploring the world of Organa: the female advertizing icon whose picture was on the packaging of most of what he ate and drank when he was being nurtured and educated by his parent corporation.
The world itself is based on the interplay of two long-speculated aspects of the future. Many are the science-fiction writers that have predicted a ‘corporate’ as opposed to a ‘nationalistic’ future. The world of Organ is ‘post political’; a ‘corporate’ world.
A less-often postulated—though very intriguing—speculation is that, in a less political world, particularly a world where intimate relations between the genders are no longer needed for reproduction, that male births will become less desirable [as females are more socially malleable] and that social leadership will become predominantly a female province.
The idea behind the world of Organa was simple, a world with gestation-to-grave corporate oversight; where the aspirations of individuals, particularly males—with their non-compliant proclivities—will not be tolerated.
How do you follow your heart in such a world?
About the Title
I have used the world of Organa as a base for time-travelers plundering the human resources of the past in the Sunset Saga, for some very ‘far-future’ motives. It came to me then that small scale military and or exploratory operations require a very high level of unit cohesion. Two of our most famous traditional warrior societies; feudal Japan and ancient Hellas, actually developed homosexual [bisexual in our modern context] patronage networks to facilitate unit cohesion.
It was not much of a stretch to imagine human fabrication corporations, that ruled a future through a monopoly on reproduction, would apply a genetic solution for operative unit cohesion. In Organa’s world corporate ‘muscle’ is supplied by homosexual twins, triplets or quadruplets who share the same anatomical regeneration station. This conclusion and the many others are all based on modeling the interplay of the ‘corporate future’ and ‘female future’ in my mind, and then running Tray through the resulting setting.
It is not for everybody, but it is not fantasy.
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