My first (and so far only completed) novel is a story that I wrote, in part, to bring back the sense of wonder I felt as a boy when I first read good SF. I don’t get that from novels written today very often. They can be good stories, well written, creative, etc, etc. But where’s the wonder? Where’s that feeling of the vastness of the universe? There have been some more recent books that evoked those feelings – Verner Vinge’s On/Off star in A Deepness in the Sky is an astounding invention. The long space voyages he envisioned help the reader appreciate the distances between stars, and the strangeness of the spider creatures definitely did awake my sense of wonder.
But too many books today are like The Windup Girl. This book received tremendous accolades and sold well, so who am I to criticize it? But let’s be frank; it describes a depressing, gritty, ugly world ruined by bioengineering. Who would want to live in it? Where is the inspiration of scientific discovery? And the ending unfortunately degrades into a sort of civil war. I’m SOOO tired of war themes in SF! But Paolo Bacigalupi is a tremendously talented writer – no arguments there. He just chose to write a book that depressed and disappointed me.
So I guess, in a way, I tried to write the anti-Windup Girl. Brighter than the Stars does have conflict, it does have a bad guy and it does have tension and resolution. But there aren’t any wars, science is presented in a positive light, and the problems that arise are problems caused by the limitations of living things – their fears, prejudices, and especially, their innate instincts.
I also tried to weave in certain themes, or leitmotifs into the story. There’s the sun, a stand-in for the fusion generators that drive the plot. There’s music, misunderstood by the Cygnians (the species that invented fusion power and is now trying to sell their fusion generators on Earth) who communicate with thought waves. There’s each species’ instincts limiting them, causing them to make mistakes. Another theme is the other, the sense of being an outsider. Thus two of the main characters are African-American, and the main conflict in Cygnian civilization centers around the fact that predator species from other planets, dangerous outsiders, are visiting them in places they’ve long secured from their own predators.
The action takes place on Earth and two other planets. The reader gets introduced to the grazing, pacifist Cygnians, the vicious, wolf-like Arcturans, the bureaucratic, satyr-like Eridaneans, and my favorites – the Sirians, the source of all the little green men sitings on Earth, and a species so technologically advanced that they spend all their time pursuing pleasure – especially sexual pleasure.
I’ll outline the plot in a future post.