Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bottom Seal, Earth Day Irony, and Ripping Sci-Fi

Can an ambitious writer rip stories from the headlines, and still be a person of good taste and discretion?

That question bothers me very much, and I'm sure it is one reason why a lot of really terrific tales go unwritten. There's also the fact that I write Romance and Humor (speculative romantic facetiae). It doesn't seem right to embark on a light weight, alien rom-hum project for commercial gain based on the real life misery and suffering of so many people and animals.

Conspiracy theories can be fun to read and write, but when does The Allowed Fool (a medieval concept best known in Shakespeare's plays involving European aristocracy) become a dangerous fool?
'That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool - that he is no fool at all.'
Isaac Asimov, Guide to Shakespeare.[4]

Having established that I don't plan to write hum-rom or rom-hum for profit and gain any time in the near future about political events of the last three years, I should like to comment on "Bottom Seal".

Who thinks of these names? I suppose we should be grateful that it did not occur to anyone to use "Plug" instead! (Until I came along, but I don't count. I don't have nuclear scientific chops.)

OK. An unfinished foreign war. An embattled President. A global company with a bullseye on its back. An accident waiting to happen (or be set off). Nuclear bombs. Suicide bombers. Secret swat teams. International Treaty violations. The worst environmental pollution catastrophe to date...

It all sounds like the ingredients for a novel by either Clive Cussler, Clive Cussler or Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer. (That is two Clive Cussler links).

All one needs is a mad scientist, a way to tie in  Eyjafjallajokull, and some sex....

Here are links to some of the fascinating potential story-starters: Message Forums - Oil rig attack?(C&P)

Is this what the "relief well" is for?
It's due to be ready in August, but will the decision be so momentous that the bomb isn't detonated until 2012 and the world as we know it will end? Could end. You cannot write science fiction in which some hero doesn't save the day/Gulf/world.

Or maybe you could. I wonder what gender mix is on the International Space Station at the moment. "They" should put some young women astronauts up there, along with a desirable selection of the worlds' best deep frozen semen donations.

Gosh! If you were planning for 2012 and beyond, whose junk would you want to preserve for potential posterity? Who would you nominate for the "Adam 2" award?

Imagine the squabbles in high places. Would the current President of every nation insist that "some of his" should be sent up? (Too much, I think!) Sportsmen? Musicians? Famous investors and business genuises?

Would the frozen vials be labelled? If so, the female astronauts might be able to pick and choose. Morally, should they have that right?

Should we "flag"the vials by age of donor? By race? By blood type?

There might be practical reasons why they should. Genetics. The probability of a healthy outcome for both mother and child, remembering that medical intervention might not be possible.

One of the women astronauts needs a crash course in mid-wifery.

At this point, it becomes irrelevant whether North Korea, or Bin Laden, or BP, or an unfortunate planetary alignment, or a UFO caused the Deepwater Horizon to blow up. I've written off the Earth and found a way to offend everyone of importance anywhere on our planet.

I probably should not write this book. What do you think?


  1. Sometimes we as F/SF writers go to the headlines for inspiration, and sometimes they come to us. I have a book set for release by Tor next year set in...(drum roll)... Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, and the LA wetlands and paranormal critters who live in the waters there. Urg.

    Now, I'm getting ready to start revisions and pondering how BP and the oil spill and the ruination of those wetlands should be treated. Would I have chosen to write an paranormal book set in that location if I were starting the book today? Probably not, or at least not until the fallout is known. On the other hand, I have a chance to maybe...I hope...say something with how I treat the subject.

    Interesting post!

  2. I don't see any harm in including recent or current catastrophes in fiction if they're treated authentically and respectfully. Some of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter novels are set in New Orleans, and those written after Katrina make mention of the devastation. It could be argued that it would be disrespectful to ignore the event while continuing to write fiction in that setting.

    Of course, genre does make a difference. After 9-11, TV sitcoms set in New York, e.g. SEINFELD, didn't mention the attacks (as far as I know); many TV comedies (not all -- serious issues were inserted into later seasons of ALL IN THE FAMILY) are set in an alternate universe where the intrusion of seriousness would upset the balance. OTOH, the producers of THIRD WATCH, centering on a cast of New York City police officers and firefighters, felt they had to address the events of 9-11. The 2001 season incorporated an extended 9-11 aftermath storyline. Likewise, JAG and later NCIS have included Middle Eastern terrorist plotlines since 2001. WEST WING, however, made it clear from the beginning that it was set in an alternate universe, and while some post-9-11 episodes included terrorist plots, the only direct treatment of the attacks was an outtake sort of episode declared to be not part of the show's canonical timeline.

    Sure you can write SF without having the hero save the world -- the whole postapocalyptic subgenre. Last night I happened to watch a DVD of THE ROAD. Talk about depressing. (In fact, the word "depressing" is one of the subject tags in our public library's entry for the book the movie is based on!) In the final scene, there's a glimmer of hope for "The Boy." There is none offered for the world as a whole.

  3. Oh, another question: How much time has to pass before a catastrophe becomes legitimate material for unrestrained fictionalization? Pearl Harbor has been fair game for romantic movies for decades. Jokes are allowed about the assassination of Lincoln ("Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"), but a similar reference to the Kennedy assassination would still be considered unpardonably tasteless.