When I tell people that The Assassin’s Cradle is science fiction, one of the most common reactions is, “Oh, I don’t like science fiction.”
My response is typically, “Well, it’s mostly the setting. The story is more of an adventure with elements of action, spy thriller, a touch of a love story, maybe even a little bit of mystery.”
So why do I persist with science fiction?
To me, science fiction is optimistic. Sure dystopian and flawed utopian science fiction stories are quite common, but all science fiction has one thing in common, the author created a story of how time has passed from the present to when their story takes place. For me, it was a great deal of fun creating the mythical foundation for the story. I can summarize The Assassin’s Cradle backstory like this: even though a universe controlled by galaxy-spanning conglomerates isn’t flawless, it is a mostly positive place to live.
Other than being able to create the future, why choose science fiction? Growing up, I was always a bit of a technology geek. I have always been interested in architecture and construction, and when I went to work for city government, I became interested in city planning as well. Space is the final frontier, and even though very little of The Assassin’s Cradle takes place in space, it creates a vast backdrop that expands everything’s scale.
What about technology excites me? Possibilities. One of the early fears of technological proliferation was the loss of privacy, and that is a real concern. Most cell phones have GPS locators, so your photos, videos, and posts can all contain your location when they’re made. Lost your kid? If their cell phone is turned on, you can find them. Sent a picture of your naughty bits to your ex’s new significant other? Police can track who sent it and from where. And don’t send your boss a sick email from the big game if you’re going to post a picture while reclining at the pool-side bar. Technology can be benefit or bane, and exploring those possibilities can be a lot of fun.
Architecture? Construction? City planning? Throw in geography and social engineering while we’re at it. The opportunity to create a whole new planet with continents and cities was so exciting I could hardly contain myself. I took time creating imaginary tectonic plates, continental drift, mountain ranges from volcanic and plate tectonic activity, valleys, plains, oceans, rivers, lakes. Incredible fun. Then I got to put cities onto this incredible planet, and grow them over time. Better still, I was able to put the places I created firmly into the story, creating mood and affecting the action, giving life to my static creations.
Living exclusively on Earth, the vastness of space is not much more than a concept to us. We can create mathematical representations and theorize that it is still expanding, but nothing can change how small and insignificant we are as individuals when placed in our proper context. How many people’s lives can you hope to influence in your lifetime? No matter how many it is, it is currently confined to this one planet (and its satellite to be precise). You could suggest that our influence extends throughout the solar system, but other than scattering a series of devices around, we’ve had no real impact off of our home. Science fiction gives my characters and you a first-hand (though fictional) understanding and ability to affect something much more expansive than we can currently. I find the idea a bit awe-inspiring and definitely compelling.
Ultimately, science fiction offers incredible story-telling possibilities. I don’t think it permits you to tell better stories. Compelling stories can exist in almost any genre, but science fiction gives me the ability to tap into areas of the imagination (both mine and yours) other genres do not.
I am extremely excited to announce that I’ve finished the second draft of the Assassin’s Escape.
I cleaned up some clunky passages, added a couple chapters, bolstered one of the ongoing conspiracies, and beefed up the drama and tension of the ending.
I’m not certain yet whether I’ll take a step back before breaking out the wax and polishing up the prose. But at the finish, I was (and currently am) deeply immersed in the action that had just concluded, and I’m really excited about getting the rest of the story as polished as the new and re-written chapters are.
It was definitely more fun the second time around.
It’s difficult to relate the excitement that this morning’s spontaneous scene development created (for a brief description of the event, read this post). It carried throughout breakfast and still lingers. I smile and laugh for reasons no-one watching would understand. It’s such a significant development that I have to write more about it.
What does it mean? For me, it signifies that the story is once again taking a life of its own. It’s growing in a concrete manner. Without including any spoilers (though readers who have completed The Assassin’s Cradle might have an inkling), the scene is about character development. Specifically, it is about creating a resolution to a conflict whose genesis is in The Cradle and is realized in The Escape. Resolving the conflict is a central issue to the greater story, and I had no real insights into how I would accomplish it. That scene gave me a spark of hope that I can fan into a fire.
What was the problem? I would describe The Cradle as a story of discovery. It’s quite exciting for young Idries to discover: a new planet, new friends, a new love, a new purpose, his capabilities, a new method of realizing his potential. Discovery, discovery, discovery. It’s fantastic, and therefore, was a lot of fun to write because I got to live it with him. The Escape is a really different story. It’s about struggle with change and against indistinct and uncertain opposition. It should come as no surprise that I struggled while writing it since I lived it with my characters. It was not comfortable, and surprise moments, like the one that just made me so excited, introduced new struggles, not new joys. While I should have been excited about the story becoming more concrete, I just felt more besieged.
I really want to tell you more about where the story is going, but some of my early thoughts have already been succeeded by much better ideas. And the surprises that have come along the way have added such significant depth that my vague and skeletal outlines seem ephemeral at best. Of course you could probably intuit what my ultimate story will be like by reading some of my influences, especially the Dune and Foundation series (serious hint there). Idries is going to transform into a worm that predicts the future with mathematics to save mankind from centuries of war (outrageous joke there). The biggest reason I don’t want to reveal too much about where the story is going is that I hope to entertain and surprise you along the way. I’ve already experienced that myself, and it’s a real joy.