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.
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