I’ve been writing an original sci-fi thing lately.
It’s my main “project” for Camp NaNo, even if the majority of my word count for the month is coming from things like these blog posts or articles for the Odyssey. I don’t actually know what I’m doing with it, which isn’t unusual given the fact that apart from during short stories (and even sometimes then) I’m never sure what is going to happen exactly. Even when I do have a rough outline for a story, it usually takes a while to get from point A to point B and I’m not always certain I go about it in the right way. Anyway, I’ve been writing a sci-fi thing.
Right now I’m hammering away at world building and character stuff. I know that the main guy is a space pilot, I know that there’s a thing with an automaton-that’s-really-an-android, I know that there was a major war and a lot of people are still dealing with the fallout (maybe literally) of it. There are warpdrives and interplanetary travel is pretty common for a lot of folks in the same way that airtravel is pretty common for people in our world. Mars has been terraformed to look like the American Southwest (giving me an even bigger reason to go out there—it’s for research!), though a lot of the style I think I’m going for is somewhere between Dieselpunk and Atompunk.
And that’s the kind of stuff I like to write about, even if I end up cutting most of the descriptions of clothes or buildings when I do editing—as fun as it is to talk about the stitching of someone’s clothes, it’s not always fun to read about it and unless it has to do with the plot, it’s not super necessary to include it in the story. Half of the descriptions I write will end up getting deleted—but I still like writing them anyway.
Something else I’m working on is exactly how all the characters know each other, and I’m writing different scenarios with them interacting with each other so that, even if the scenario doesn’t happen in the actual story, I’ll still know what would happen. It’s the same thing I do essentially when I play around with other people’s characters: it gives me a better sense of who that character is, and while when they’re my own I don’t have to be able to back it up with the text, I still should be able to drag those specific traits out somewhere. I like writing about character interactions, even when that means I’ve got a full page of dialogue I’ll probably end up having to cut out, too. Or just not do anything with—there are plenty of stories I’ve written just to write and haven’t done anything with because I had no real reason to do so. I’m not writing for publication most of the time. I don’t have to worry about anything except improving the writing I’m doing for the day when I am.
Sci-fi is fun to play around with because in a lot of cases, it can veer into fantasy; I doubt science fiction writers from the 30’s assumed we’d have (or be capable of doing) half of the things we have today. You can always back it up with the scientific progress we’ve actually made as a species (and I try to, because I like keeping up to date on that kind of thing and also, if I ever were to publish anything, I don’t need some astrophysicist on Twitter telling me how I’m wrong), but it’s not such a bad thing if you miss a few details.
It’s also incredibly hard to play around with because you’ve got to figure out what it is you’re actually doing with it. Alternative Timeline? Far-flung future? Conspiracies? It could be anything. You can do anything. That ability to do whatever you want can be scary and, ironically enough, limiting because you’re crippled by that possibility of limitlessness.
They call the android an automaton until it—he—realizes that no, he doesn’t like that word because it’s an inaccurate way to describe him (and the others like him, which he has vague memory data about but nothing complete enough to form into meaningful shapes). Robots are sometimes the best tools we have in talking about humanity because it’s so much easier to press ourselves upon something else, like we’re creating a new man ourselves. We’re much more like Pygmalion than like Prometheus, I think, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop having these conversations about what it means to be human. It doesn’t mean we can’t use the idea of an A.I. to talk about what self-determination is.
Although, for a story that relies so much on this android, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing with him yet. There’s another problem I have while writing: I procrastinate a lot on things that I really should be expanding on. If I like the story enough, I’ll get to it, and I’m beginning to accept the fact that it’s alright that I have a lot of unfinished longer works. I get to over 30k words and usually stop—I like writing short fiction more, anyway.
Regarding Camp NaNo (since this is an update on that, kind of): I’m a little away from where I should be right now since last week, I didn’t want to write much of anything. If I can get out another 2k words today, I should be caught up; ideally, I’ll write more, but I’m not banking on it. It’s difficult to write when you’re not really sure what to say, and when you don’t think what you’re saying is meaningful or any good. Also, I don’t keep track of the amount that I’ve been writing by hand (it’s harder), so I’m also not keeping very accurate counts.