Adventures in Sci-Fi (Or, Is This Making Sense?)

Okay. You may remember my rant about the genre fiction writing book freakout of 2012. If so, you’re already aware that this semester I’m taking a (very exciting) class in which I’m doing intensive work in different popular forms of genre fiction. First up? Science Fiction.

I’ve dabbled with sci-fi before. The first novel I finished a draft of is about an alien invasion, after all. One of my favorite short stories features a futuristic society. But there’s something about sitting down in front of an empty word document and saying to myself “Okay, write a science fiction story,” that is absolutely TERRIFYING.

I like to pick some characters, a basic premise, some idea of what I want to say and then just let them take me where they will. So DEMANDING that they live in some kind of universe that allows me to label that story as science fiction was not exactly “my style.” I had to sit and think “what will the sciency element be?” instead of just letting it come naturally.

What did I choose? I chose cloning. CLONING of all things. I don’t know anything about human cloning, never mind the fact that it’s essentially impossible and terribly unethical. Of course, the attractive thing about sci-fi is being able to make your characters do impossible, ethically questionable things to draw attention to the problems in THIS society. That, of course, is probably a large reason why most of the stuff we’ve been reading for class has made me want to curl up in a ball and sob uncontrollably about how much we all suck and how we’re just going to keep getting worse (for an idea of what I mean, read “Sandkings.” It’s disgusting and horrible and involves dead puppies and kittens.)

This story and I have spent a lot of time together. And while I think it’s ready for workshopping (although I’m sure I’ll look it over a thousand and one times before I ever turn it in) I still spend most of my “read-and-revise” time thinking to myself (in my social psychology professor’s voice because it’s one of her catch phrases) “Is this making sense?”

My cat. Because the character in my story has a cat ha ha.

The trouble with a story like this one is that I HAVE a message built in there. I have a few, actually. But unless I want to smack people in the face with a blinking neon sign that says “LEARN THIS THING RIGHT HERE FROM MY STORY” I have to let the thing speak for itself. I can’t know if it’s getting across because I already know what I’m trying to say. That is one of the most maddening things about being a writer.

Experiences like this always make me wonder when I’m sitting in a lit class discussing Swift or Pope or anyone else whether they’re rolling around in their graves saying, just as T.S. Eliot wrote, “That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all.”

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