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Science Fiction Fan?

If you’re following me on social media (if you’re not, you really should <g>), you may have noticed that I’m doing a lot of book events.

Book events are delightful.

Yes, they can be exhausting and stressful, because, as any artist will tell you, nothing puts your ego on the line like presenting the results of your creative efforts to an audience. A novel, a song, a photograph, any artistic expression, is like sending your child to the first day of school. I love my child, but will anyone else? Will my child make friends?

But book events are delightful because people love the book. They love the front cover art; you can see it on their faces when they pick up a copy. They love the idea of the book; you can see it when they’re reading the back cover. You can tell, as we talk about the book, that they love, as I do, a good monster story that’s different. Different, because this story includes a meticulously researched imagining of a truly alien world and the creatures that might inhabit it.

Because I do love my book. I know that might sound egotistical. But it’s not delusions of grandeur (or even adequacy <g>).

It’s just that I wrote the book I have always wanted to read.

I concurrently love monster stories and hard science fiction. I’m the kind of guy that watches a movie set in southeast Asia grumbling because the rocks and plants and critters our heroes walk by are clearly from southern California.

I wanted a monster story grounded in reality. Realistic biology and realistic space travel and a realistic (albeit sobering) future history.

Daunting too, because, well, I’m shy. Those that know me may find that hard to believe; those that know me well will understand how true that is. I over compensate, sometimes, because, personally and professionally, in meetings and delivering presentations, or even writing this blog, that shyness often gets in the way. So I push it down, put on a smile, and reach out to connect with individuals and audiences.

But it’s an effort, and it can be exhausting.

Until I get to meet like minded fans of speculative fiction.

Sure, I’ve read (and re-read) a LOT of books. I’m a voracious reader. I have many, many favorite authors across a broad portfolio of genres; many you’re surely familiar with, and many that are more obscure.

I have what might seem, at first glance, to be a diverse library. Science fiction, of course, but also historical fiction, mysteries, westerns, horror, drama, and a lot of non-fiction.

What might seem an eclectic mix has one thing in common. They all create the opportunity to explore, “what if?”

What if I were a hobbit? What if I lived on the western frontier when it was still east of the Mississippi? What if I was born in feudal Japan? What if I’d been part of D-Day? What if I lived aboard a star ship? What if I were a serial killer? What if I were a shark?

What if I were a xenobiologist exploring the ecosystems of the first world discovered to have complex life? On a truly alien world, filled with diverse, truly alien life? What would it be like to explore such a world, and see what could be different, what must be the same? What if such exploration revealed, to me, subconscious biases that have constrained my thinking?

In my last blog post, I wrote about scientific revolutions. We experience the world around us through paradigms, conceptual frameworks, sets of ideas about how things work so fundamental that we don’t even realize we’re accepting them as filters for our perceptions until we’re confronted with something that breaks them.

I’m fascinated by conceptual frameworks, and I love stories, fictional or not, that let me try on a new conceptual framework.

Every story introduces characters, locations, and situations that may stretch your conceptual framework.

For me, a great story of any genre offers an opportunity to, temporarily, live a different life, adhere to a different code, experience a different conceptual framework.

A science fiction novel has a richer conceptual framework. If a novel is an exploration of human relationships and a science fiction novel explores those relationships in a speculative environment, then the conceptual framework has to include that speculative environment.

A hard science fiction novel has the additional challenge of a speculative environment that is founded on real science that may also need to be explained. In fact, as a reader of such fiction, I especially enjoy hard science fiction that imbues the story with an education about the underlying science without getting in the way of rapidly turning pages to learn what happens to the characters you’ve grown to care about.

While I do enjoy stories involving aliens that look very human except for some minor prosthetic like a pointed ear and I do enjoy stories involving fleets with phasers and blasters and photon torpedoes and light sabers and all of that, such stories, to me, feel more like fantasy than science fiction. That’s not to denigrate them; I love such stories the same way I love stories about Hobbits, Elves, and the like.

But they don’t feel like science fiction to me.

For me, science fiction has sound, solid science at the heart of the story, the ‘what if?’ of the story.

That’s what I was striving for with “Kraken of Eden” and the new novel I’m now working. I want the science at the heart of it, with the plot turning on the science as our characters figure it out with us.

I’m always happy when I’m at a book event and someone decides they want a copy of “Kraken of Eden”.

But what makes the event a delight for me is when a prospective reader’s eyes light up as I explain that it’s not just a monster story, it’s a plausible monster story, grounded in sound science, with diverse, believable alien life.

That’s when I know my ‘child’ has made a lifelong friend.

So, are you a science fiction fan?

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