Thursday, April 18, 2013
What Kind of Books Can You Expect Me to Write?
My last post on this blog concerned writers who suffer from lack of confidence. Today I want to talk about the type of book that I write. When you buy one of my books, what can you expect?
First, I'll tell you want not to expect. Don't expect anything trendy. You won't find vampires, zombies, or werewolves here. You won't find paranormal elements or tales of horror. You won't find Young Adult themes, with teenage characters. You won't find superheroes, shoot-'em-up space wars, or bone-crunching car chases. You won't find superficial, easily understood characters, either. You won't be spoon-fed simplistic events and personalities. You will have to exercise your brain.
Here's what you will find: psychological treatments of real people who have been placed in difficult situations. You'll see the characters react to these situations and struggle to solve the problems that arise. These principles apply to all my characters whether they are Earthers or extraterrestrials, humans or isopteroids or avians. After all, Mythmaker Precept No. 17 says: There are creatures in the universe who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human. This is the way I view all my characters. Intelligent termites are not immune to inner turmoil any more than human beings are.
So a lot of the action in my stories is internal, inside the characters. That doesn't mean that I don't write about physical actions and adventure, but those action parts should be in support of -- or the outgrowth of -- what's going on inside the characters' psyches.
It all boils down to the fact that I write literary science fiction, not commercial fiction. I wouldn't know how to go about writing a piece of pulp, something likely to end up as a mass market paperback in the supermarket. What I want to do is appeal to other people who like literary fiction. A lot of those people don't read science fiction, but I think many of them would like my books if they got into them. These are the people who read Ursula K. LeGuin, Mary Doria Russell, and others who write with a deeper purpose. I would expect many of these people to criticize elements of my writing, but I would bet that they would also find something to intrigue them and to bring them back.
As an example of my statement that the adventure is internal as well as external, I'd like to speak a moment of The Storm-Wing, v.2 of the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. In v.1 we met Ki'shto'ba's twin, A'zhu'lo. They hatched from the same egg, but obviously they are fraternal twins -- it seems two eggs somehow got crunched together (of course, the intervention of the Sky-King may have had something to do with it!) A'zhu'lo has always been smaller and less aggressive than its sibling and there is a classic little brother-big brother rivalry. A'zhu'lo is frustrated because it knows it will never be equal in strength or fighting ability to Ki'shto'ba -- it will never be a major hero in the tales of the Remembrancers. In v.2 A'zhu'lo keeps getting into difficulties and being rescued by Ki'shto'ba. A'zhu'lo would give anything to be able to rescue Ki'shto'ba at least once in its life, but it knows that's pretty unlikely. So when A'zhu'lo gets a chance to rescue another Champion, Zhu'zi'a'ro'a of the Marcher Shshi, and is successful, it and Zhu'zi'a'ro'a become close friends. Then a Seer makes a dire pronouncement: "One of the Twelve will bring about the death of the Champion." Nobody knows which Champion this refers to, since each has twelve Companions, but A'zhu'lo, with its feelings of inferiority, is convinced it will be that one who causes Ki'shto'ba's death. Therefore, A'zhu'lo leaves the quest and throws its lot in with Zhu'zi'a'ro'a and the Marchers. This act will produce the direst of consequences in v.3. So you can see that the outer action of the story is linked intimately with the inner state of mind of the characters.
Now a word about the piece I'm preparing for publication right now. I've mentioned my interest in Judaism and how I took what I learned a few years back and incorporated it into my WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars. If I ever fix MWFB, that chunk (about 100,000 words) will have to be cut, so I'm turning it into a book in its own right, because it has material in it that is too good to be lost. However, it will definitely be classed as a work of literary fiction, because it can't really be called either science fiction or a novel. It's part of my future history -- what happened to the Jewish people during and after the Second Dark Age? -- and it's SF in that the events happen just prior to the launch of the first interstellar mission and follow on a major space disaster -- but outside of that, it's totally laid on Earth, among real human beings (no extraterrestrials -- no termites here!)
Finally the second part of the book details the psychological situation of the Engineer who will help fly the new spaceship to the stars. This again forms an absorbing story and will probably appeal more to the general reader than the Jewish parts. The Engineer has seen a demon -- the "god in the pod" -- which he believes was responsible for the earlier space disaster, and he needs to figure out how to protect the ship. His feelings are mixed up with his feelings for his domineering father, and in the Jewish part there is also much talk of fathers and sons, of gods and fathers -- hence the title, Of Fathers and Demons. (I would have liked to use the title of Of Gods and Fathers, but I think a book with this title was just published.) Anyway, this theme links the two sections. And there is no real end to the book, either -- it remains hanging, right before the launch of the Big Mission.
So I can't really call it a novel, with a defined beginning, middle, and end; a carefully constructed plot; a nice flow from incident to related incident -- it's really a collection of parts (almost essays) woven together by a theme; and it's a treatise on Judaism -- you can learn a lot from reading it. The one novelistic thing about it is that it includes some great characters, and that alone makes it worth publishing. I just hope I can find somebody who will want to read it.
People bring their own experiences, preferences, and personalities to the books they read, so a writer can't hope to please everybody or be all things to all people. Therefore I write the way I want to write. Slowly but surely I'm picking up readers and reviews. Please give some of my books a try! The references are all in the sidebar.