Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Science Fiction: Not Always About the Spaceships by Corrina Lawson

      The stories I read during my formative years have had a lifelong impact on my writing, in particular, two short science fiction stories that are an obvious influence on my SF romance books. And in these stories, the SF part of the tale concerned strange new worlds here on Earth rather than among the stars.

      “To Ride Pegasus” was the first story I read that dealt with psychic powers in a SF, rather than fantasy, fashion, meaning that the psychic “Talents” all had a genetic (scientific) basis. Each Talent possessed not only a unique flavoring of mental powers but also had different strength levels. The “Talent” series, set in the contemporary world at first, is all about the discovering and harnessing these mental powers and protecting them from exploitation.

      I often describe my Phoenix Institute series, of which Ghost Phoenix is the latest, as my idea of

Marvel’s Mutant X-men. But “To Ride Pegasus,” McCaffrey’s three short Talent stories and the

novel Pegasus In Flight provided the clearest template for my own stories of introducing psychic-

powered individuals into the contemporary world.

      Later, as an adult, I read Julian May’s Galactic Milieu series. While May’s books do contain aliens and starships, the first book, Intervention, is all about people pushing back against those with just discovered mental powers here on Earth.

      Introducing a new element into the modern world isn’t the only subgroup of SF to be set on Earth. Alternate history has a long and proud SF tradition. The alternate world I loved growing up was part of a series of stories by S.P. Somtow, set in a world when the Romans conquered Native Americans. The Aquiliad stories appeared over the years in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and each had a similar structure: an officious, blustering and not-too-bright Roman official would attempt to get the better of the “barbarian” Aquila, a Lakota Sioux. Each time, the wily Aquila outwitted the Romans.

      When I started to write a fantasy novel using Roman and Native American societies as a template for the fantasy civilizations in Dinah of Seneca, I remembered Aquila and decided to toss aside the fantasy idea and write alternative history instead. I added in Vikings too because the more societies that clashed, the better the conflict. And so the Seneca books were born. The second book, Eagle of Seneca, is my own personal tribute to Somtow, as eagle is “Aquila” in Latin.

      All these stories, including mine, belong to SF. They’re about how an unknown element affects a known world. Earth is able to reach the stars because of McCaffrey’s Talents. May’s worldmind summons the rest of the galaxy to Earth’s aide and opens a new world to them. Aquila’s steely determination and skills turn the Roman idea of barbarian upside down. In similar fashion, I’m bringing the psychics/superheroes of the Phoenix Institute more in the open with each book, changing my entire storyverse from our world into something else.

     So when you think of SF, remember that SF is more than spaceships and aliens. Remember that the best SF is all about change—sociological, technical or cultural--and the human reaction to that change.

Ghost Phoenix: http://amzn.to/YHTYHK

(This is my Amazon author page, which also has links to the Seneca books.)

Aquila stories by S.P. Somtow: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/somtow_s_p

My website: corrina-lawson.com

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