Why I Write Speculative Fiction

Once upon a time, Val decided to write a romance novel. Seven months later, she had a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end that was long enough to be a Silhouette Desire. It was about a director of a commercial research lab and one of the researchers. There was a patent for a new form of bacterial gene splicing in the plot.

That was my first try at a sexy contemporary romance novel. It has been shoved into deep storage. No, it will never come out. Trust me, this is a good thing.

My second try at a sexy contemporary romance novel involved a secret method of decompiling executable files to tease a virus out of custom database software running oil production in a secular Middle East country. Sigh. Where did that come from? The heroine was supposed to be a stripper, for god’s sake. Into the drawer. No whining, get in there.

Okay, I thought, I would try a fantasy novel. High fantasy, perhaps even epic fantasy. Pseudo-Medieval, people who used to traffic with elves but hadn’t seen one in a generation or two…um, yeah. Within 50 pages it morphed on me. Big time.

“Elf” was suddenly an acronym for Engineered Life Form, “fey” meant Fully Engineered Human, elven magic was nanotech control systems, and they were colonists on a planet orbiting a blue-white star. But there was a love story. Welllll, alrighty then. I gave up on fantasy before page 100 and I still haven’t finished that story.

How about a paranormal? Yes, a ghost story, set in Seattle, about a software developer who has a new kind of project management tool that fully integrates…dammit.

Plus there’s the issue of the ghosts–do dead people get to have a point of view? My gut feeling is no, because it makes the ghost phenomena less creepy if the reader knows it’s just So-and-So trying to help.

It took me three tries, but I finished that one before shoving it into a dark corner.

At that point, I gave up and wrote the story that would eventually become Blade’s Edge, my first published book. The first draft was completed in five months.

Interestingly, it’s the only book I’ve ever written in order, from beginning to end–probably because I wrote the love story first, and then went back and added all the different points of view for the political story.

And that’s why I write the kind of fiction I do…because I can’t, apparently, write anything else. Even when I try. And believe me, I tried.

Now that I’ve admitted that, I have this idea for an urban fantasy about the sorceress who guards the Rocky Mountain power node under Yellowstone Lake. I think I can make this work, because I have to treat the magic like physics.

If you define magic as direct manipulation of energy, then it has to obey laws of physics that can be described mathematically. And if mages are those humans who have the ability to directly manipulate energy (anyone who can flip a light switch can indirectly manipulate energy), well, there’s your premise, all neatly tied up with a bow and E=mc^2. I can do that.

But first I have to get a few current projects finished. Club Bebop is tapping me on the shoulder again, whispering that it has lots of stories to tell me….

2 comments so far

  1. Charlene Teglia on

    Yeah. Every time I try to write straight contemporary, it’s pure hell. Woo-woo sneaks in. Or SF. Which is probably the problem with my current project, now that I think of it.

  2. e6n1 on

    Great post, i can so relate to it. I write both SF and Literary Fiction, but when I have to switch I have spend several minutes looking at the PC screen and reminding myself “Right now you’re writing this…!”

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