I published my first science fiction novel, Inside Out, last year and I am now about to publish its sequel, Making Waves, following the fates of the idiots who travelled to Triton in the first book. As before, it is primarily a book about characters and how they respond to events, but naturally it is also about the events in question. Those events happen over 200 years in the future so, of course, they are pure fictional. But maybe they have echoes in our own past. I don’t think readers would find it difficult to recognise parallels.
The thing about science fiction (and fantasy too) is that it offers an opportunity to see things we already know and take for granted from a different angle, casting different shadows. It also offers an opportunity to portray strange and novel concepts grounded in people who are recognisably like us. Tolkien created fantastical elves, dwarfs, dragons and noble champions, but showed them through the eyes of terminally parochial Cotswold hobbits.
Through the lens of the familiar, we can write about incredible heroes without human fallibility, if we choose, or about villains who are unimaginably cruel… Ah. No, it isn’t possible to write about unimaginable cruelty. That’s the problem. Humans have already imagined every possible cruelty and it put into practice, with rage, with revenge or with cold, clinical calculation. If you doubt how cold and clinical cruelty can be, read the speech made by Himmler at Poznan (find it here).
Nothing that my characters do, good or bad, has not been done before. It’s being done now. Despite being set 200 years in the future, Making Waves is equally about the present and the past.
I don’t write graphic descriptions, by the way. I assume my readers have imagination.
Since Making Waves is science fiction, there is science as well as fiction. But primarily it is fiction, so feel free to dismiss the science as total hogwash. I stick to certain rules, like the speed of light, but like light I can bend. I accept the generally acknowledged understanding of evolution but I don’t mind speeding it up a little. After all, time is relative.
I am not overly concerned with predicting technology of the future. There are cars in Making Waves. Whether they bear any resemblance at all to present-day cars is not really an interest to me. Marlowe and Shakespeare were referring to them 300 years before the internal combustion engine, so whatever means of transport we come up with in the future, we will probably still call them cars. Picture them as you will. I am really only concerned with the people in them.
I don’t have a firm idea of the technology required to build a biodome on Ganymede, the moon of Jupiter, or on Triton, the moon of Neptune, but I imagine that if we get that far, people who settle there will be much like ex-pats everywhere, bless them. They will probably have the usual sense of entitlement to claim other people’s territory too.