Saturday, 16 February 2008

Romance isn't just for the past...

Of all the Romance Spinners, I must be the luckiest. In our next project, I get to write a futuristic romance.

You got it baby, I getta write Sci-Fi!

Now, depending on your point of view, my job is either easier or harder than Judy's or Zara's.

Easy: I don't have to do a lot of research. I don't have to make sure my historical facts, fashion, language, and more are historically accurate. I don't have to worry that "contemporary-isms" that don't exist yet are gonna slip in.

Hard: I have to compile, from nigh-scratch, an entire world. I have to invent (well, speculate) future technology (and its foibles). I don't just come up with gadgets and Google's grandchildren but I've got to postulate how that technology will affect the lives of my characters. I've got to come up with future events that would change the world as we know it.

Fortunately, something exists in the Speculative Fiction universe that means I won't have to re-invent the videophone, nor will I have to waste precious wordspace explaining how it works.

It's called the supertext.

Some criticise Science Fiction (and Fantasy too, to some extent) as being self-referential. I guess, in a way, it has to be. How else are we going to define the complexities of future technology, society, races and characteristics?

The supertext works something like this:

I mention I have a vampire in one of my stories. Our Heroine sees the vampire and she reacts with fear. I don't need to go on and explain that vampires are scary un-human monsters who will lure you in with seduction then suck your blood with fangs, because the information is available in the supertext and thus available as "general knowledge".

Now, everyone doesn't have access to all of the supertext. Sometimes bits of it are limited to certain readers of some fiction.

Take, for example, the Three Laws of Robotics. Read something of Issac Asimov's, (or click on the above link) and you'll have a good idea what the laws are and how they work. But if you haven't read any Asimov (nor seen Star Trek, nor anything else that has made, at some point, reference to the Three Laws), then you might not understand why Our Heroine, when faced with a really big nasty robot armed with laser cannons, would not be afraid of him, especially if I established earlier in the story that RoboMonstro With Dual Laser ActionTM was "governed by the Three Laws".

(Counts) I have summoned the supertext with a spell, sentence, fragment of five words.

Pretty powerful stuff.

So now I am faced with a different challenge: I'm not writing for the Skiffy audience. I'm writing for the Romance audience, especially one that prefers historical romance.

Yet I think I'll be okay. The Historical Romance audience has a skill that will enable them to read something from 1016 or 1586 or 1831 or 1923 or 1945 and that will also enable them to understand something from 2172. They are able to look to the past (or the future) and see a world that is different from their own. They are able to understand that Our Heroine won't be carrying around a mobile phone. She'll have other ways to communicate. Her clothes will be different, her language use will be different, her role in society will be different, her goals will be different.

Historical Romance readers will grok this. They may not fully understand the technology that surrounds Miss 2172, but they will realise she is a human with a heart yearning for love. They'll figure her out and come to love her, the way they love the Regency Debutante, the Gibson Girl, the Flapper, the WAVE.

So yeah. I'm looking forward to having Our Heroine's implant misfunction when she moves out of signal range.

1 comment:

EJ McKenna said...

Go for it Heidi!
Can't wait to read your story.