I sometimes wonder if the computer troubles I face aren't yet more fodder for my plots and characters. As one reviewer said about my Finders Keepers:
[T]he vast majority of this novel is classic space opera, the sort of story in which rough-hewn pilots of either gender chug along space lanes in rickety old ships held together with duct tape, and sinister galactic empires plot against all and sundry for power. Not for Linnea Sinclair the spiffy, cutting edge man-machine futures of Ken MacLeod, Greg Egan or Charles Stross.Maybe one of the reasons I don't do spiffy is that I've yet to meet a chunk of technology that permits me to experience spiffy. I have no faith that any universe--future or otherwise--with be trouble-free when it comes to technology. Okay, I'll 'fess up. I do have things break down on board the ships in my books because it ramps up the conflict. But I also have them break down because I'm fairly confident that's an event to which most of my readers can relate. (If you've never had a computer melt-down, please tell me where you live so I can move next door to you. Which means one of two things will then happen: either my computers will work flawlessly from that point, or yours will crash with gleeful regularity.)
This latest crash (maybe the motherboard--we're still not sure) resulted in a computer that refused to function under Windows XP but is chugging along nicely (so far) under Windows 7. I can't believe it's solely because Mr. Gates needed my $300 last week.
But I digress. I wanted to touch on settings in SFR because of a blog Heather from The Galaxy Express noted a week or so back, in which several readers commented on why they did--or didn't--read SFR. One poster noted that in reading the opening chapter of my Shades of Dark, she found technology was far too evident and took up much descriptive space.
Which, of course, made me sit back with my usual WTF? I wanted to post and ask her--I didn't, for a variety of reasons, two being bronchitis and limping computer--if she would have been equally as disconcerted by the description of the castle in a medieval romance, or the scent of leather and the snuffle of horses in a western romance? If she reads chick-lit, would an opening scene listing the character's designer shoes overflowing her closet bother her? If she reads mystery, would she prefer the details of the murder scene to be left out?
In SFR, the description of a ship's bridge or command consoles are my character's closet full of Gucci and Prada products, they are the flickering torches set into the rusty metal sconces angling out from the moss-covered stone wall.
Here's the opening paragraph from the prologue in Mary Jo Putney's Silk and Secrets:
Night was falling rapidly, and a slim crescent moon hung low in the cloudless indigo sky. In the village the muezzin called the faithful to prayers, and the haunting notes twined with the tantalizing aroma of baking bread and the more acrid scent of smoke. It was a homey, peaceful scene such as the woman had observed countless times before, yet as she paused by the window, she experienced a curious moment of dislocation, an inability to accept the strange fate that had led her to this alien land.
Now, Putney is not only one lovely and classy lady, she's one helluva fabulous and well-known author. She writes--among other genres--historical romances. If she puts in the cloudless indigo sky, the tantalizing aroma of baking bread, and the acrid scent of smoke, it's because these details are not only important, they're expected.
Why, then, the problem with:
A stream of red data on a blue-tinged screen to my left snagged my attention. We were on the outer fringes of an Imperial GA-7's signal—a data relay drone normally not accessible to renegade ships like the Karn, and definitely not at this distance. But this was the Karn, Sully's ghost ship that routinely defied government regulations and just as routinely ignored ship's specs. So I slipped into the vacant seat at communications and executed the grab filter with an ease that even Sully would have been proud of.Okay, maybe you've never seen a GA-7 beacon. But I've never seen a muezzin. So therein resides my rationale behind my usual WTF when I read comments that "SFR terms are too confusing."
Captain Chasidah Bergren. One-time pride of the Sixth Fleet and staunch defender of the Empire, illegally hacking into a GA-7 beacon.
As I've also often noted, I still haven't a clue in a bucket how to pronounce reticule. But it doesn't stop me from reading historicals and I don't ask the author to replace it with the word pocketbook.
Someone enlighten me as to why muzzein is acceptable and GA-7 beacon isn't. Please.
// Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//
Available Now from Bantam: Hope's Folly, Book 3 in the Dock Five Universe
Coming March 2010: Rebels and Lovers (Book 4)