Saturday, September 11, 2010
My latest time-sink on the internet is Joe McMichael's Globe Genie. It's a clever and simple idea: click on the shuffle button, and it transports you to one of the millions of locations stored in Google Earth. While jumping around the USA, wondering if I'll come across a road I've driven down, it occurred to me that its randomness is a story generator. Where are those people going? Who lives in that house? What's he building, in there? You're on an empty road in Gilt Edge, Tennessee. Why? And happens next? What links Jumonville Road, Hopwood, PA and Los Robles Boulevard, Sacramento, CA? Also, why do so many people own RVs?
Thursday, September 09, 2010
The Return Of The Living Dead
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Now I'm working on the third draft of the ongoing, I have to keep in mind the cardinal rule of world-building: details are useful only if they have some kind of interaction or intersection with the protagonist, which is to say, something to do with the narrative. In science fiction novels, as in fantasy and historical fiction, nothing should be taken for granted, of course. Otherwise the novel will suffer from the flattening effect of genre: of sharing too much stock furniture with other, similar fictions. So there’s a temptation to tip in explanations for everything, to show that you’ve built your world from the ground up. But good world building always implies more than’s on the page. You want to make your protagonist's world as vivid as possible, to highlight all that's strange and unique; but you don't want to bury the story in endless detail and explanation. So unless it's something the protagonist notices, something he has to deal with, something he wants or needs or something that can help him get what he needs, and so on, it's extraneous. It's plumbing. You know it’s there, but unless it goes wrong you don’t need to worry about it.