Hi, gang. Craig with you again. This is going to be the wrap up of the special items series. The rules are mostly the same, but there are some differences across the genres. Today’s topic is science fiction items.
In paranormal, or fantasy, you’re generally dealing with magical/holy items. Science Fiction is a bit different, because they’re supposed to be advanced technology. No magic involved. Sure, there are some titles that mash it all together, but let’s keep it clean for the purposes of this post.
All genres seem to have a rift among their fans. Science fiction probably has the biggest rift of all. You can interpolate for your own genre, but in this one it involves the science.
Some fans believe the only worthy science fiction is all about the science. They want explanations about how things work, and you’d better do your homework about the latest physics theories and such or they’ll know. Some of them can get pretty absurd, but they have a right to enjoy what they enjoy. I don’t particularly care how the robot’s joints are lubricated. (At my age, I’m more worried about my own.)
The type of science fiction I write is more about people who live in an advanced society. I believe stories are about people, no matter the setting. (People is an all encompassing word that does not always mean human in my vernacular. Don’t worry, there’s not going to be a test.)
If you’re writing a story about the creation of a faster-than-light engine, you’d better do the research. If you’re writing about people who take a cruise on a ship with FTL engines it isn’t so important. To me a cell phone is miracle technology. I use one every day; don’t need to know how it works.
You get to decide which protest group you’ll stand with. After that, we get to consider the rules once more. Here they are as a refresher:
• Enhancing the world you are building.
• Balancing the scale between ultimate power and limitations on usage.
• Resale Value.
Special items can really enhance the world building in science fiction. Take something as basic as a gun. If you style it after something from old Buck Rogers comics, it may have curves, even a fin, some rings around the barrel. It gives a sense of style that you should carry through your environment. In steampunk it might have a lot of cogs and gears and even attach to a battery you carry on your back. If the story takes place aboard a clean shiny spaceship, maybe the gun looks more like an acrylic remote control.
Science fiction is huge, so you’ll have to do some interpretation for exactly what you’re writing. Consider these tales: I Robot, Jurassic Park, Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine, Star Trek, Terminator, Frankenstein. All forms of science fiction.
If you’re writing about an alien invasion, don’t overlook regular weapons and how you can make them look pitiful against what the invaders brought with them.
Put some thought into the power of your special items. We’re all familiar with a blaster from Star Wars. It shoots pulses of light that destroy your enemies. Change that to one solid beam and all you have to do is sweep it across the field to destroy a whole army. Might take a lot of tension out of your story.
Resale value matters here, too. The question is, if this item existed right now, would I want one? Give me a teleporter that would eliminate a 40 mile commute every day and I’m in line with my credit card. Fans are like that. They buy in and get invested if you can pull it off.
I published a cyberpunk story early this year. One of the things I projected into the future was Alexa and systems like home security. What might this look like in a hundred years? My stories included both holographic companions with all those capabilities and robotic pets that could also complete the grocery orders. I got a lot of nice comments about a robotic cat. (No links, this isn’t a promo post.)
We should also consider costuming when writing science fiction. It won’t work for all stories, like in Frankenstein you kind of have to go with the era. In the future, it’s possible that textiles will have advanced to some degree. I wrote a character with a programmable purse one time. She could download and install any skin she wanted on it.
That brings me to one of the big points. Double duty. That purse involved costuming, some resale value, and world building. A single item can do multiple things for the environment you’re creating, and should if possible.
There you have it, a broad brush look at the bulk of the speculative genres with special items as the focus. I didn’t get into sub-genres, or even cover horror. I think at this point you can interpolate and apply what we’ve done here to your own spec fiction.
Give me some feedback. Did you enjoy this small series? Was it too broad for your tastes? Are you inclined to write your own spec story with this primer as a game plan?
Halloween is getting close and you could still create some fun blog stories. Maybe a one sheet, or a two-fer where you have to visit twice to get the whole story. A bit of science fiction/horror like Alien? Maybe a science fiction backpack like those in Ghost Busters? Take up the holy crossbow of St. Wafflebender and chase the bog beast across the moors at night.
Have fun, and don’t cut yourself with that laser razor.