Monday, May 11, 2009

How Much is Too Much (World Buliding & Balance)?

Since I'm essentially brain dead after completing a twenty-five+ page "author questionnaire" for Random House (and it could have gone more than twenty-five pages...I just gave up out of exhaustion)... I'm going to piggyback a post that's going on today at The Galaxy Express about world building, or as Heather delightfully puts it: The 7 Unnecessary Science Fiction Worldbuilding Details.

Jacqueline's done some great posts on info dumping before:

But Heather neatly broke down those things that irk her and to a great extent, rightly so. There are certain 'givens' in genre fiction. The trouble to me come when you're dealing with cross-genre fiction. How much does an author do to bring a new reader "up to speed?" What kind of assumptions can we make about our readers coming from two different camps?

Just to torture myself, I have a Google-search on my name that brings to my inbox daily a list of blogs that mention me. I've found some pretty neat reviews that way and met lots of new fans. But I've also read a number of "back fence" conversations by both SF and Romance readers who find huge fault with SFR--and usually for the opposite reason (or the other side of the same coin...bear with me, I'm really tired.)
The SF readers for the most part don't get the 'required HEA' in SFR and express distaste to displeasure on the amount of time spent on the romantic relationship. To them, going into the hero's or heroine's thoughts about the other is rather like noting that chairs are decklocked. That's something they simply don't want to know. Yet if it's left out, the romance readers riot.

The SF readers don't particularly care that much about things romance readers look for: descriptions of anything from clothing to the hero's apartment/cabin/house. Where to romance readers, setting can "set the mood" to SF readers, setting is...setting.
On the other hand (are four fingers and a thumb...oh, wait, I'm blogging) I recently read an interesting post on Goodreads where a romance reader decried SFR for it's use of "futuristic names" (what's wrong with Jack, she asked?). I knew what she was getting at but I wondered if it wasn't more a stereotype than actual occurrence. My characters aren't named Jack but they are named Philip, Mack, Branden, Sully and Theo. For starters. I think the day of the main characters in SFR or futuristics being T'Kwee'gre'sha and Perr'k'ray-roo are long gone, if they ever were. But because "alien sounding names" are often used for worlds or items, I think there's a general belief that SFR is chock full of T'Kwee'gre'shas. (And by the way, as a Yank originally from New Jersey, names like Padraig, Siohban, Ceallach and Sinéad confuse the heck out of me and they're all names from right here on this planet.)
So the question becomes, how much is too much--to which part of your readership? What assumptions can you make about SFR readers? How do you keep one half entertained without insulting the other? Can we assume everyone knows what an airlock looks like and does? That's like assuming I know how to pronounce reticule, a word often found in historical romances. It's part of my history, I should know that, eh?

I don't. Even when I'm not totally tired. ~Linnea
HOPE’S FOLLY, Book 3 in the Gabriel’s Ghost universe, Feb. 2009 from RITA award-winning author, Linnea Sinclair, and Bantam Books:

But, yeah, get shot by a Surger, and it still hurt like a bitch and could put you flat out dead if someone’s aim was good. Not center mass, as they were taught. That only worked on the good guys, but it wasn’t the good guys who needed shooting. It was the bad guys, and they were smart enough to wear body armor. Good luck getting a standard Surger to penetrate that.

Okay, maybe at point-blank.

But at point blank, the bad guys had already shot you dead with their nice powerful Carver-12s.


  1. Great post, and thanks for the linkage, Linnea!

    I had some fun responding to your questions!(Jacqueline is next, hehehe....!)

  2. This is an issue I've dealt with a lot recently since some of my critique partners never read SF. Their comments and questions are usually different from others who are used to the genre. They don't have these expectations in World Building.

    I've found it a good barometer to get a read from a non SF reader.

    Great post!