So you can read my books

Saturday, March 13, 2010


How does a writer make science fiction {or fantasy for that matter} real? This does not preclude movies or TV, for without the script all you would have are good-looking actors gazing at one another -- or into mirrors. More likely the last.

Well, for one thing, you have to make the science plausible. And let's face it, some writers are better sellers of the impossible than others. It's why we have gotten the presidents we have in the past. Let's nail those dastardly speech-writers with rotten tomatoes, shall we?

But all joking aside, the science in the tales has to be internally consistent, not change from page to page. Still more importantly, life must be seen taking its toll. Heads must rock back by the thrust of the rockets. Nausea must make stomachs feel like high-tide in zero gravity spins.

Life must hurt. It does for all of us. It must for the characters we watch or we will not believe in them.

We will not buy a story where there is cause without effect. That is why STAR WARS seems more real {despite its space opera elements} than STAR TREK. The blast doors have scorch marks. The Millenium Falcon has dings and dents. Solo must whallop the door facing of the cockpit to jar the tangled wiring loose enough to fire up the engines. The good guys lose, die, and the survivors feel it in their guts. A father cuts off the right hand of his son. Children, a whole school of them, are cut down by one evil man with a light saber. The evil emperor wipes out the Jedi and rules the galaxy for a generation of terror and oppression.

In life, the bad guys sometimes win. If science fiction or fantasy is to be experienced as "real," then night must fall as it does in the day of each of us. Isn't the true thrill of the dawn based on the depth of darkness to the night preceeding it?

That is why, in a strange way, science fiction can be more "real" than literary fiction. Gene Roddenberry tackled subjects like prejudice, duplicity in war with its betrayed trust of innocents, pacifism in the face of threat, and religious intolerance at a time in the sixties that no other TV show could have done. And because Gene tackled those subjects that were all too real to his audience, the crew of the Enterprise became real to the viewers as well.

VOYAGER lost sight of that fact. One episode whole shuttles would be destroyed, the ship itself broadsided by raking lasers. And the next week, the ship would be spotless and a new shuttle would be gleaming in the bay. BATTLESTAR GALATICA showed us wires hanging from the ceiling of the battered starship episode after episode. Mistakes of crewmen would hound them from show to show. Just like our own mistakes follow at our heels for years. Even more, it showed Mankind's arrogance and callousness coming back in the form of his children, the Cylons, to teach humanity that payback is a terrible thing to waste.

Each of us are heading to that last great Exit. Some of us are closer than we realize. As we walk, are we awake or asleep? THE MATRIX and TOTAL RECALL, to mention two Sci-Fi movies, ask that question of us. It is a question that only we can answer. Good science fiction can broaden our perspective to answer it more truthfully.

Again, I am musing in preparation for my two talks at the CON DU LAC Sci-Fi convention here in Lake Charles in June. Come check out its website, will you?

And there was one excellent fantasy movie that connected to viewers because it paid attention to the details of life : its losses, its loves, and its enduring hope that the next dawn would be brighter if only you would not give up.

And readers, never give up. Never. Your dream may be waiting for you just around the corner if you will only take those next few steps. Keep walking. Keep trying. I'll be pulling for you that your dream clasps your hand in the darkness, pulling you into the light, Roland

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