One Guy’s Safari Through Speculative Fiction
A novel is like a pinball game. Once the shiny new character leaps into motion, it encounters the bumpers and flippers of the plot and bounces wildly off, tracing out the unique path of tension and surprise we call a story. Done right, a novel is a thrill dispenser connected to your neural architecture. For the author, it’s an even bigger gamble.
I cut my teeth reading literary novels by women authors… Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley and Ann Patchett. The adventure novels I write these days are a cross between speculative fiction and women’s fiction. Why? Because the writer must always heap tons of trouble on their characters to build the ending’s payoff, and in our society, women as a group endure a lot just by living, let alone being cast as fictional characters.
Craig Boyack’s March 8 guest post about speculative fiction presented a misunderstood genre in a clear way, while showing off its schizophrenic personality. Speculative fiction is the center of the genre map for me, because even with all our technological choices, I feel that our most important question is: Does Humanity Have The Wisdom To Survive?
Career-wise I’ve been a creative copywriter, a software geek in Silicon Valley, a sportsman and writer of magazine articles. With five indie titles to my credit, I am serious about good fiction and take pains to polish how words trip through the mind. My background in software interface design keeps me focused on two core questions. Who is the reader, and how will I answer her central question, What’s in this for me?
I see every story as both a mystery and a learning experience. The reader is looking for a mental challenge, and won’t like it if I drop a thread somewhere. Still, I resist wrapping EVERYthing with a neat bow, because I want you to be thinking about my character’s fate long after you’ve closed the book.
My early literary heroes in speculative fiction include Larry Niven, Phillip Jose Farmer, Aldous Huxley, Clifford D. Simak, Theodore Sturgeon… I could fill the page with such people, but I’m sure you get my drift. Oh yes, R.A. Lafferty and James Tiptree, Jr.
I have a new novel coming out in May. Aliens Got My Sally ~
UFO Pulp Fiction for the Modern Mind.
In this, my 5th self-pubbed book, an archaeologist decodes from an ancient sculpture the news that Earth is the failed colony of a galactic superculture.
Humanity will not be amused.
Anna Lewis and her biologist friend Sally have studied first contact with alien cultures in depth, and wonder why we haven’t found extraterrestrial intelligence in radio signals from the stars.
Anna has a theory that if the human race is a latecomer to civilization in our galaxy, then intelligent species might have visited Earth wayyy before humans developed.
To Anna’s peril, she decides to go looking for an alien mineshaft, and that’s where things go sideways.
Ultimately her dilemma is, if she returns with revolutionary knowledge that will help humankind, will she survive the sharing of it?
An earlier novel, Halcyon Dreamworlds ~
Enslaved by the Future of Desire, tackles the question of how our society will handle a seductive online virtual fantasy when we’re all too poor to afford real-world entertainment.
Amid gritty realities of 2029 Amerika, Logan Fischer struggles to cleanse herself of cyber addiction, as millions in that virtual dreamland live their desires for exotic lovers, power, and unlimited wealth.
When an ultra-rich mastermind tries to strip away her decency, Logan must battle back with her only weapon.
Halcyon Dreamworlds is a tough book and sadly, the premise is closer to reality than you might think.
Between projects, I read novels by other authors (whole ones plus many free samples), also non-fiction topics in the sciences and philosophy.
A recent delicious find is How Consciousness Became the Universe, by Deepak Chopra, Roger Penrose and others. It’s a deeply spiritual and brain-melting tour of where reality comes from. Writers will do well to check out Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid. Besides being wonderfully entertaining, both give useful insights on the mechanics of story.
Besides my writing, I’ve been a glider pilot, a single-engine pilot, an amateur race car driver/wrecker, a sailing and sailboard enthusiast, an early-world skateboard freak and a fine artist.
I’ve written articles on such things, all of which strengthened my skills of description and my focus on letting the reader live the story.
These days I’m a full-time novelist in Ashland, Oregon, and happy to be here.