Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Post by Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion

I am thrilled to have two phenomenal writers stop by to share some writing insight with us today! Please welcome Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion....

Write Faster! The World is Catching Up!

The problem with writing near-future science fiction is that the future keeps becoming the present. We’ll hear about some technological marvel and think, “That would be fun to put into our novel.” A month later, we’re happily writing along, putting all this innovative technology into our novel, only to find out that the cool new toy is in production, and will hit shelves before our book does.

This happens to contemporary writers too, of course. We’ve all read fifteen-year old murder mysteries where the detective could have solved the case on page two if he had a cell phone. Many writers of modern books—especially thrillers—solve this by giving their characters the latest cutting edge tools, knowing that those tools will be mainstream by the time their books are published.  But for science fiction writers, who are not only trying to portray the world but predict it, it’s a perpetual problem.

The hero of FATE’S MIRROR, Morris Payne, is an elite hacker known as a viker. As his creators, we not only had to know everything the world’s best hacker would know, but we had to think about how that same hacker would interact with computers several decades in the future. Every time we thought we had it, our research would slip away from us, and we’d have to push our ideas harder.

So we gave Morris a ship.

With computer chip capacity doubling every 18 months (Moore’s Law) it would be nonsensical for Morris to type on a keyboard, or use a mouse, or interact with the global computer system in the same way we do today. Immersion into virtual reality will become the norm. Morris can engage the electronic universe in any vessel he wants to use, just like people personalize their desktops with unique wallpaper and settings today. Morris thinks of himself as a pirate, so a sailing ship is the perfect metaphor for his electronic raids.

Then the fun began.

Let’s face it. We not only thought it was realistic for Morris Payne, super hacker, to plunder the electronic universe in a pirate ship, we wanted him to. The scenes on the ship were a joy to write and we think they are some of the most exhilarating scenes in the book. More importantly, we found it to be a completely plausible way for the future to work. Everyone interacts with computers, and we all do it our own way. Of course, someone, somewhere, would do it in a pirate ship. Why not Morris?

We won’t always get the future exactly right. No one can. Society often leaps sideways, and everything from economic collapse to war to religious uprisings can change things overnight. Even technology can evolve in surprising ways. (How many SF writers predicted the internet? Very few.) So we will research, we will extrapolate, we will speculate, but we will never accurately predict. And you know what? That’s okay. We’ve all read examples of futures-that-never-were. Everyone from Philip K. Dick to Larry Niven gets something wrong. But we’ve also enjoyed those stories immensely. Even an outdated story can still work, as long as the characters are interesting and the themes are still relevant.

We can research everything, take our imaginations to the limit, and try to create the most realistic future we can, but the most important thing we can do is create compelling characters with vital stories to tell. Morris Payne is real to us. We hope that he becomes real to our readers too.

And someday, in the future, we might have a virtual pirate ship of our very own.

We can’t wait.

Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion have been writing partners ever since a huge idea hit them both at the same time. The partnership works, mostly because they share a brain, and finish each other's sentences even when not writing together. They have published numerous short stories and novellas. FATE'S MIRROR is their first novel. When not writing together, they spend time with their families, and read as much as possible.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow, Margaret and Harry will be giving away a copy (ebook) of Fate's Mirror to two lucky readers!


Margaret Yang said...

Thank you for inviting us to your blog today, Stacey!

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