Friday, October 26, 2012

Commercial Fiction As Applied Neuroplasticity

My father is one of the founding members of the letter carriers union, which means he's divided his professional life between politics and the streets of Richmond, California. So I don't get to shock him that often.

When I explained the approach I was taking with the Henry stories I'm doing for the Flash Fiction Fest? He was appalled.

"You're a reptile," he said. "And you're growing a lure on the end of your tongue."

One does what one must.

Let's make one thing clear. The Henry stories are not literature. They are commercial fiction. They are intended to provide readable entertainment for an intelligent audience. While I try to write well, clarity is more important than beauty or originality of phrasing. There is use of formula. Much of the appeal lies in scientific and speculative novelties that do represent an essentially juvenile state of mind.

I am perfectly comfortable with that. I am playing a different game.

As long-time readers know, I had a fairly spectacular stress-related collapse a couple of years back. Since then, I've been consciously engaged in a process of growth, and much of it has been rooted in the growing availability of information on the physical nature of the mind.

The art I'm concerned with gains its power by stimulating neurological events. The more complicated the circuit formed, the more engaging and satisfying the artistic experience.

Art rewards the brain.

But not all rewards are the same.

I have become aware that much of the fiction I've read has used stress as a reward -- either by allowing the reader to control a stress-inducing experience, or to feel the reward of triumph or superiority.

I wanted to write something that delivered a different set of neurological rewards.

The Henry stories are intended to reward the reader with the experiences of bonding, cooperation, problem-solving, and intellectual curiosity. They are intended to inculcate a mental state of relaxed alertness combined with a mildly expanded sense of benevolence.

They are intended to be healthy. If I am writing in order to provide a public service, I want to provide a goddamned service.

Now, the formula for the stories is that of solving a problem through some speculative twist involving scientific trivia.

Which means the story of the Henry stories actually is a Henry story.

So, yeah. I am perfectly happy to call them science fiction.

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