This entry was posted on Aug 02 2010 by

(un)scripted: Two Approaches to Sci-fi

When I began writing The Surrogates, my thought was to make the future world of the story as much like the present as possible. I wanted only one thing to be different from the here and now: the existence of surrogate technology. By changing a single thing and keeping everything else the same, I figured it would allow me to zero in on the effect that a single change would have on society at large—on personal relationships, public health, race and gender relations, etc. I didn’t want to introduce flying cars and teleportation and interstellar travel for fear that surrogates would get lost amidst all of the other sci-fi noise. So the cars in the story are pretty much still cars, and transportation hasn’t evolved much beyond an elaborate conveyor-belt system in the skywalks above the streets (Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta has a similar system, though it’s at ground level). Maybe I’m as tidy on the page as I am in life, and I was worried about dealing with too much narrative clutter. Whatever the reason, the one-note approach seems to serve The Surrogates well.

Then I read something like Fluorescent Black by MF Wilson and Nathan Fox, and I wonder what I was so afraid of.

Set in the year 2085, Fluorescent Black is about a future where genetic engineering has been taken to the extreme. When I say everything in the future setting of the story is different from the present, I mean everything: the people (there are two separate species of human), the places, the culture . . . heck, even the plants and mosquitoes are different. Still no teleportation or interstellar travel, but pretty much everything else is changed. It’s handled so expertly by Wilson and Fox, however, that the cacophony of sci-fi bells and whistles I was worried about when writing The Surrogates never comes to pass. Instead, the book is like an orchestra of speculative storytelling. Which is to say that none of the elements feel out of place. At no time did I encounter something different and think that it was changed merely for shock value or solely because the creators thought it would be cool. I can’t recommend it enough (though it’s pretty graphic, so it’s not for kiddies).

Do I have a Fluorescent Black in my future? It’s hard to say. After all, as a kid I once washed my basketball in the tub because I didn’t want it to be dirty, so to say that I like things orderly is an understatement. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Fluorescent Black so much, because I see something in it that I find lacking in my own writing.

One Response to “(un)scripted: Two Approaches to Sci-fi”

  1. duane ballenger
    9:41 am on August 3rd, 2010

    I re-watched Blade Runner the other day. I had forgotten that it is set in 2019, about nine years away from our own time. I have heard it said before, and I’ll ask again “where are all the flying cars?”. If you think about it, however, how unpractical would that be. Thinking about some of the “idiots” I’ve seen driving, including myself from time to time, it would be spectacularly unsafe. So, having no flying cars in the Surrogates is probably more prophetic than one might think! Sci-fi trapping or no, I personally do not see that aspect (flying cars) in our future.

Post a Comment

Percy Jackson & The Olympians © Rick Riordan. Images from Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Graphic Novels © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Powered by WordPress with a little help from Blog Oh! Blog
Site Design by Andy Runton