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Posts Tagged ‘Lord of the Rings’

With the onset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is no longer quite so embarrassing to admit that one was reading comic books all through one’s youth and beyond.* I quit about 20 (!) years ago now, but I still follow the genre (and watch the movies). So it’s not surprising that my mind still goes down those roads on occasion (okay, all the time). And that has lead to the following question:

In that world, with superpowers, mutants, AIs, self-contained battle suits, aliens, time travel, superweapons,  and everything, how does anyone write science fiction? SF consists of stories that extrapolate from known science, or at least scientific theory. But if you know that mutants and superweapons and aliens exist because you can see them fly by your window, what is there to extrapolate? By definition, everything you’re writing is simply “fiction.”**

Does that mean that writers like me would be in Fiction & Literature at your local Barnes & Noble? Would there be a reason for a SFWA to exist–and would I not have to regret the fact that I’m not at Nebula weekend right now?

And what about the liability issues? What if some hulking green guy comes up to you and says you’re defaming him in your latest story–which just happens to have a large, green character? What if he claims you’re appropriating his image? And if you write a story about the Skrulls invading the Earth, will the real Skrulls take umbrage and actually invade the Earth out of pique?

Even if you started with the concept that none of the above existed, and then created an SF story, would anyone read it? Science fiction isn’t supposed to be about a world more boring than your own. The only choice left would be alternate history, and that field would get crowded fast.

What would happen, I think, is that all those writers would migrate to another genre, like romance, or mystery. Mystery would be a fertile field in that world, with questions like: What’s with those capes, anyway? How do those young sidekicks explain all those bruises without social services investigating? And why are there so many super-powered people in the world, anyway? How did they get that way?

Oh, wait, that veers into science fiction. And then we start all over again.

*The same thing happened to science fiction with Star Wars, and fantasy with Lord of the Rings.

**Fantasy writers would have the same problem.

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Since “Dead Guy Walking” is making make its dramatic-reading debut tonight in Portland, it seems appropriate to visit (or re-visit) the question of where writers get their ideas, with the point of view that they get them where everyone else does–from real life. I like to say that DGW, about a man who thinks he may be dead, was taken from real life. This is not to say that I have ever had any delusions on that subject; I know perfectly well. But it was based on a real-life experience, or actually, the combination of a couple of experiences.

First, I once took a bad step on a steep staircase, and by some miracle managed to run down the stairway about thirty feet to the ground, hitting probably every third step, and I landed upright and completely unhurt. Second, I lived in an apartment years later where I had to carry laundry down another steep stairway. Somehow the two melded into falling down stairs while carrying laundry, an accident that could very well prove fatal. That’s Bobby in the story. Sparky, his dog, was inspired by my own dog when I was a teenager, who, like Sparky, lived in a house with a flat roof where he could sun himself. The part where Bobby may be the living dead? I have no idea where that came from.

The point, however, is that even the most far-fetched fantasies have their roots in the writer’s own life. (Please don’t ask me how much Lovecraft’s real life intruded into this stories. I don’t want to know.) SFF authors are just like mainstream novelists, except that we sprint where they fear to tread. And yet, ironically, we cover the same ground.

Because the point of science fiction and fantasy is just like any other writing. In its simplest and purest form, it entertains. But it also illuminates the human condition. Look at how many epic fantasies explore the question of courage, for example. In fact, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter both take that examination one step further: They delve into the courage that it takes to fight Evil when you’re not the chosen one. And they inspire that courage in their readers.

Two of the three most recent finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction were genre works. (Of course, the third, that wasn’t, won.) If there were ever an argument to be made that genre labels are strictly a marketing ploy, that’s it. Even the Pulitzer committee recognizes that SFF and mainstream lit are the same. They’re just not dressed in the same clothes.

And yet they each pulled their clothes out of a closet. Just because the SFF writer’s closet leads to Narnia doesn’t make it any different from yours.

#SFWApro

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With all the storm und drang that has rained down since the Hugos, I could have ranted about the outcome and the various parties reactions for at least 400 words. But I don’t want to. I want to talk about something completely different and totally insignificant. Thus, my humble offerings of things you can say about fans (or anyone else, if you’re talking to fans) who just don’t have enough rocket fuel to quite reach the Moon.

He’s so dumb, he couldn’t find a robot on an episode of Futurama.

He’s so dumb, he likes to go jogging alone on the Nostromo.

He’s so dumb, he keeps volunteering for away missions.

He’s so dumb, he told Cyclops, “Take off those glasses so I can hit you.”

He’s so dumb, he challenged the Flash to a duel.

He’s so dumb, he thinks those really weren’t the droids he was looking for.

He’s so dumb, he bought a house in Haven.

He’s so dumb, he thinks The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is Fifty Shades of Gray with werewolves.

He’s so dumb, he sold a life insurance policy to a Stark.

He’s so dumb, he went to Mount Doom for the skiing.

And (mercifully) last but not least…

He’s so dumb, he went to Doctor Who for a physical and now he doesn’t know when he got it done.

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