Monday, September 22, 2008
My first series!
As soon as I stuck my head in the bar I knew I was making a mistake. The place was packed and noisy and full of happy young people, a breed of human I can do well without. I started to withdraw when the bartender caught my eye and held up his hand and waved two fingers toward himself.
I pushed my way through the crowd and the bartender gestured again, moving me further down. That’s when I saw that there was a big chunk of territory at the end of the bar that was completely vacant except for a beefy beef-colored guy in a Hawaiian shirt and a dark-green fedora. He had a tumbler of something clear and fizzy in ice, a shot glass, a sweaty silver shaker and a red plastic bucket sitting next to him on the bar and he wore an expression of exceptional mildness.
The bartender smiled at me from behind his mustache. If I get much balder I’m going to have my scalp depilated and get a tattoo of his comb-over.
“Come on, hoss,” he said. “You’ve got to meet the latest. Get him while he’s here cause he’s going away fast.”
So on Friday I was feeling well enough to work -- but I didn't want to do anything I was supposed to do. Instead, I had a short story that wanted to get out. Seven pages later it was done and I'll be thrashing it over with the writer's group tonight. (Remind me to introduce you to the writer's group some time -- nice batch of folks. We are a diverse bunch to say the least...)
It's got the same setting and a couple of characters from The Little Things (currently available both on-line and in print form, see the Swill website over in the sidebar) and I realized that I've solved a minor problem that's been bugging me for a while.
I adore science fiction. The second book I was exposed to was Red Planet by Robert Heinlein and that was it. I was hooked.
But SF hasn't been an easy thing for me to write. See, the way I look at it is that if you're gonna write SF you need to make some kind of scientific speculation part of the package -- if it's just an excuse to give us weirdness you may as well just write fantasy.
But when I've tried to do this in the past the ideas ate the story. The fiction went away. And then I wrote The Little Things and found a way to make the ideas the center of the story. Make them into bar stories make the POV character part of the audience.
No more elaborate setups, everything is explained to the POV character and thus the audience, and best of all the idea is the story.
Bar stories are great. But I hate bars -- and that was the key element that really made things congeal for me. By making these stories unpleasant experiences for the POV character and by making the bartender into mean-spirited bully-ish asshole there is conflict built into the situation from the get-go.
This is a formula. That's appropriate here -- I just want an outlet for the goofy little riffs I come up with as I graze my way through the sciences. My ambitions for these stories are quite humble.
But they're gonna be fun.
The thought that triggered this entry?
Rational thought does not come easily or naturally to humans. Our brains are great for making up mythologies -- but achieving an understanding of the world and ourselves is an uphill struggle.
It's not what our brains were made to do. They've been doing brainscans of people making decisions. It looks as though most of our thinking takes place in parts of the brain that we share with fish and lizards -- what we regard as rationality gets very little play.
So what would happen if you had a brain that was made for rational thought? Here's a hint -- it doesn't go as well as one might hope...