Saturday, April 22, 2006

Universal Themes in Trinity on Tylos

In my last post, I mentioned some themes, typically found in science fiction, which are in Trinity on Tylos. Good stories, regardless of genre, will have themes that appeal to many people. Spoiler alert— again, there might be some details in this post which you wouldn’t want to know if you have yet to read Trinity on Tylos.

Motherhood is the most important job in the world— Some in our society frown on the sacrifices that women have often made for their offspring, thinking that these keep the women from reaching their full potential. Yet, thank goodness, quite a few young women continue to bear children and devote themselves to rearing them. Venice becomes a mother in an unusual manner, one that makes some readers cringe. (Good– if the book didn’t challenge the reader’s thinking just a bit, then it would be boring.) Never-the-less, once she joins the mom club, she doesn’t shirk her duty, and that is one definition of character.

Duty trumps personal desire— That theme isn’t popular in our culture at the moment, but it has been part and parcel of heroism through out history and will be again. If man is to succeed in the future, he will have to reverse this trend toward egocentric selfish behavior. Both Venice and Alathea make decisions which might seem unrealistic for today’s audience, especially sacrificing their personal safety for that of their shipmates, and that is one reason I set this story in the future.

Human beings can be both fallible and honorable— Superheroes were invented within the past hundred years, and popular fiction and film have embraced the idea that to be heroic is to be invulnerable. Yet, history is filled with examples of people who were far from perfect, yet were held in great esteem. From Moses, who became the spokesperson for the Israelites, despite being tongue-tied and inarticulate, to Patton who was a great general, despite a gruff personality, many great men who wouldn’t fit too well into Superman’s tights have been heroes. In Trinity, Captain McPherson believes he is doing the right thing, even when Venice makes it plain he is not. Despite this flaw, he is an honorable man who continues to lead the crew of the Excalibur effectively. Captain Mac is human, with all the foibles associated with that label.

Love can last through many trials— We tend to throw in the towel rather quickly when it comes to relationships nowadays. Venice loses her spouse early in the story, but she never lets go in her heart. Although he is separated from his wife, Steve quietly continues being the executive officer of the Excalibur, but he doesn’t seek a new lover, for the same reason. In a serially monogamous society, readers may have trouble empathizing with their steadfast love, but real love can last long and overcome incredible odds.

A fan of The Gift Horse asked why I chose a futuristic setting for Trinity, and I did so because some of the themes might not work as well in a contemporary story. But Trinity is a relationship book and an action/adventure story at the same time. Some of my readers have said they didn’t expect to enjoy a science fiction yarn, but they did like it, and I believe that is because Trinity is much more than a space opera.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Science Fiction Themes in Trinity on Tylos

Recently, a reader asked what influences were at work in my mind when I wrote Trinity on Tylos. Writing a novel takes quite a bit of time, so I usually have several themes which become interwoven as the story comes together. Several years ago, I read some literary criticism of serious sci-fi, as well as Brian Aldiss’ excellent history of science fiction, Billion Year Spree. Some of the themes I used come from those readings, while others came from various stories and visual media which I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Spoiler alert— skip this post if you haven’t yet read Trinity on Tylos and don’t want to be tipped off regarding plot elements.

Military— In reality, machines are doing more to conquer space than man is doing right now, but military force has historically been necessary to keep order and hold territories won by peaceful means as well as by force. Therefore, many writers have postulated that the military will be central to the conquest of space when that finally occurs. Having Venice be a Marine helps build her character, of course, but it’s quite logical to have military people, with their training and discipline, at the forefront of exploration.

Man vs. Machine— For the most part, this oft used theme is dispensed with in a single scene in Trinity. Venice stands before the triumphant Azareel, who informs his captives of their new status as concubines, or simply breeders. Having learned that many of the Archeons are android servants, Venice asks why he doesn’t use them as parents, and Azareel explains that she and her companion, despite being aliens, will make better mothers than any android. Thus, in my novel, man wins over machine.

Utopia/Dystopia— This is a rather depressing theme, but one which is often found in speculative fiction, especially in the more serious tomes. Basically, while attempting to create a perfect society, mankind has a tendency to create just the opposite, a society lacking in individual freedoms. Although it isn’t the main theme, in order to re-create the Archeons, Azareel must first dupe the humans, and then he deprives his captives of much of the self-determination which is so important to happiness.

Galactic Empires— Space operas usually depend on some aspect of this theme. An empire can be viewed in a positive light, but more often than not, the large entity oppresses the smaller, and rebellion or some sort of warfare ensues. The Praxians are the empire in Trinity on Tylos, and Venice must resort to subterfuge to win battles against them, for their superior numbers make them a formidable enemy.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Con- ventions

When I rode motorcycles, which I did from roughly age ten when I got a used minibike, until age thirty-three, when I parked my Honda 650, many people got the wrong idea about my personality. I never owned a leather jacket, have no tattoos, and never smoked anything. I don’t even curse often. However, the bias against my favorite mode of transportation followed me despite a total lack of interest in Hell’s Angels, Harleys and especially choppers. I preferred bikes with more zip, actually.

Hopefully, reading and watching science fiction are not always associated with being terminally weird, either. Oh, some people will always associate sci-fi with nerds. My interest in science fiction began in childhood, as I watched Star Trek along side the early efforts of NASA, but I’m not obsessed with the genre nor as weird as the stereotypical sci-fi fan.

I attended a science-fiction convention once, some years ago, because one in Atlanta was hosting James Doohan and Michael Dorn, and my long term love of Star Trek won out over any concerns I had about Alanta traffic or the attendees. Both of these gentlemen made excellent speeches, and I loved getting their autographs. The con, as these are now called, was quite an experience. The dealer’s room— a huge place filled with vendors hawking overpriced pins, comics, magazines, and 8x10 glossy pics of TV and film stars— was amazing. Even more amazing were the costumes, both in number and variety. As I stood in line behind a woman who was trying to look like Uhura, the communications officer on the original Star Trek, she informed me that her young son had made her costume. I had no trouble believing that. Many of the other costumes were quite professional, however. Being dressed in business casual, which I always deemed appropriate for a weekend trip to Atlanta, somehow felt downright odd.

One of my very best friends has a son who publishes sequential art— that’s comic books in layman’s terms— who says I should try hawking Trinity on Tylos at science fiction conventions. A really up and coming science fiction writer from this area, a guy who has published fourteen books, is speaking at Liberty.con in Chattanooga and at Dragon.con in Atlanta later this year. So, perhaps that is good advice. Maybe I should dress up, too. Not as a Trek character, of course, but I could dress up as a biker, since I never did that when I rode the various motorcycles that I owned during my youth.

BTW, I still have my motorcyclist’s license, but I haven’t ridden anything on the street larger than my daughter’s scooter for a number of years. Motherhood is a great responsibility, not to be taken lightly. But I could get a black tee shirt and a leather jacket with star shaped studs, I suppose, and try the con-vention. What do you think?

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Will Write for Food— Not!

I’ve had some interesting comments regarding my new novel, and fortunately, those who have read it seemed to really enjoy the story. One person commented on the ethics and convictions of the characters. Another mentioned the commitment to motherhood.

However, I’ve been a bit disappointed by the number of people who have said they won’t even look at it because they “don’t care for science-fiction.” Marketing people have this comment for such a situation, “There’s no market for it.” Going with that idea, either I switch genres or find something else to do. At this point, I’m tempted to find something else to do.

A “hack writer” is someone who writes for hire, which is the opposite of an artist. Yes, I’d like to get paid for my work, but if there is no market for that writing, and I simply try to write what is salable to the masses, without any creative spark from me, then I will descend into being a hack, sorta like standing on the side of the road with a “will write for food” sign.

Ironically, only about seven percent of books sold are science-fiction, yet five of the top ten movies of all time are science-fiction (Star Wars, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, SpiderMan 2, Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, and Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace.) I’m not quite sure why this dichotomy exists. Perhaps science fiction is best in a more visual medium. But there is also this troubling statistic: an estimated 44 million Americans are not literate enough to read a book intended for an adult audience. Maybe I should try movie scripts.

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