Sunday, June 24, 2007
Okay, confession time--prior to this point, I cheated. Because I write Earth-based sci-fi, my world building was limited to an Earth that was almost exactly the same as the one we live in...except there are aliens openly living among us. So, I never really worried about the other differences except as they related to my aliens, the Observers, and the world and society they came from.
Now, with my current WIP, which is set on Earth twenty years in the future, I find myself questioning everything about these future humans. Language, for example. We've always had some kind of word to indicate when something was "cool" or "neat."
Remember "rad" from the mid to late 80s? How about "wicked awesome" or "def"?
But what makes a certain word stick around? Would people in 2027 still be saying "cool" or would they have moved on to some other variation, like "icy" or "chill" maybe? Or, perhaps in a society in which many freedoms have been sacrificed supposedly for the greater good and safety for everyone, "free" might take on the role "cool" plays now as something limited and intangible that everyone wants to have. Everyone wants to be cool (in theory), and in their version of our world, everyone wants to be free. But using that word in this new context, "I love your jacket. It's so free," might be weird or confusing to readers who, living in our world in 2007, have an entirely different understanding of the word "free.'
One of my favorite examples of this language thing done well is "shiny" from the Firefly television series and the movie that followed, Serenity. "Shiny" basically replaced "cool" or "good" in just about every context. When the engine is falling apart, Kaylee tells Mal, "Don't worry, Captain. It's all shiny." It can also be used sarcastically as when Mal is confronted with more bad news, "Oh, shiny." But "shiny" also works in this beat-up world where the Alliance, the bad guys, have all the new technology and Mal's ship is constantly on the verge of breaking down. "Shiny" means new and problem-free, which is something greatly desired by Mal and his intrepid crew.
My heroine in this story is tech-savvy (much to my utter dismay) and a rebel. She refers to herself, tongue in cheek, as an "information liberator," which basically means she'll get you the information you want or need, whether it's the unedited version of the Bible or your local politician's "donation" record at the local house of ill-repute, for a fee. In a world where everything, including the internet, has been sanitized for your protection, unbiased and factual information is a hot commodity. These days, she might be referred to as a hacker, but in her world, she's called a cyber terrorist by the fearful and big-brotherly government almost as often as she's referred to as an "undisclosed source" when it benefits their agenda. This girl loves gadgets and the latest tech. What word would she use for "cool"? What do you guys think? All thoughts welcome.
(My thanks to Linnea, Rowena and everyone here for letting me fill in!)
Stacey Klemstein is the author of the Zara Mitchell series, a science fiction romance trilogy. THE SILVER SPOON, Book One, is available now, and EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Book Two, will be released in February 2008. Book Three, as yet untitled, is in progress. Visit www.staceyklemstein.com to read free excerpts!
Author of THE SILVER SPOON (July 2007) and BITTER PILL (May 2008)
Visit www.staceyklemstein.com or myspace.com/staceyklemstein to read an excerpt and more!
"Don't misunderstand, it's not like I enjoyed having this happen to me. I guess it's just some kind of bizarre twist of fate, or maybe a sixth sense that only kicks in when the grim reaper is afoot. It's not like I'd wanted to find the high school swim coach floating face down in the deep end, any more than I'd wanted to find the assistant librarian hanging from the rafters in the library attic with a stack of true crime books kicked over beneath her.
It's just that whenever bodies started floating, swinging or, in this case, dropping, I happened to be there..." --BITTER PILL