I’ve loved exploring ‘what ifs’ for as long as I remember. I blame my father, in a good way, for my fascination for science fiction, as he introduced it to me, being a fan of the genre himself. My own interest has since expanded to include fantasy, there being a fine line between the two, and often what I read, and write, has an interesting mix of both.
All fiction has an element of ‘what if’ to it, but science fiction and fantasy allows me, as a writer, to push the boundaries further, and to explore new worlds. One aspect I enjoy about doing this is discovering how my characters will react when thrown into a situation complicated by elements that are not the norm. It gives me an opportunity to explore this in ways I couldn’t if writing something set in another genre. I’m also a great fan of the ‘fish out of water’ scenario, and people finding themselves out of their depth, often needing to search within themselves for strength and abilities they didn’t know they possessed.
Besides, there’s more scope for hurt/comfort AKA whumping in these kinds of scenarios. My imagination is the limit, although I do sit down and work out the parameters of the world in which the science or magic operates. People and places need to be governed by rules, whether it be nature or something else, or there’s no challenge in the story. Where’s the fun of building up a cliffhanger if all the character has to do is snap their fingers and the threat is gone?
Obviously it’s not going to be as simple as that, but for every decision made, there’s a consequence. This theme is one which repeats often in both science fiction and fantasy. There are checks and balances in place, there has to be or everything would fall apart. In the same way if I give a character an ability, there has to be a limit to what he can do or there’s no ‘fun’ in it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and I prefer to write characters with flaws, who aren’t always sure of themselves, rather than someone for whom everything comes easily.
Throwing my ‘hero’ into a world which isn’t his own works well in keeping him just a little off balance. What if there are worlds out there where its inhabitants follow different rules than we do? Where the scientific advancements in our world did not happen, but instead, magic is a valuable commodity, and those who possess the abilities to wield different aspects of it are the ones in power.
There are two aspects to the genre I enjoy reading and writing in particular. The first is psi powers, or a variation on that theme. It not only ups the ante, but allows the characters to explore a part of themselves they might not otherwise. It also complicates a plot somewhat if the bad ‘guy’ finds out that if they hurt one character, his partner is going to feel that pain, literally. Or if someone is keeping a secret, and he falls for someone who is a touch telepath, but his perspective partner is someone who cannot learn the truth. Makes things more than a little complicated, doesn’t it?
As does a character who can move objects with the power of his mind, but hasn’t got the control over his powers he’d like, so he spends a lot of time trying to hide his ability rather use it because subtle really isn’t an option.
And then of course, there’s the shadowy organisation just out of sight, watching him, who has other ideas of what that ability could be used for.
But I digress with spoilers for upcoming stories…and yes I have written/am working on stories containing the elements I’ve just mentioned.
The other aspect I love exploring is that of time travel. Occasionally I like to combine the two. Time travel combines the fish out of water scenario, and the idea of checks and balances. History has already happened so it can’t be changed, right? All the research in the world cannot prepare someone for the reality of the up close and personal. It’s the little things that are going to trap a time traveller, the details that don’t always make the history books, like having no clue about common pop culture references. Or when a file with a faded photograph in the future becomes a real person in the past, someone the time traveller realises he has to save, no matter what, because that assignment is now all about the person he’s fallen in love with and who he wants to be his future.
The story possibilities and potential for exploring relationships within these scenarios are endless. People still fall in love and have to work together to triumph above adversity – with plenty of angst, romance, and whumping along the way – wherever or whenever they find themselves. These stories are still about people, and to me that’s what makes the decision as to whether I want to read or write: characters I care about and want to spend time with.
This way I get to meet new and old friends, and explore new and interesting worlds and ideas with them. After all, it’s not every day that a guy finds out that his partner is a dragon, is it?
To finish I’d like to share the blurb and an excerpt from Slow Dreaming a short novella which will be available from Dreamspinner Press from 1st June as part of their time travel theme daily doses ‘Time is Eternity’ and also as a separate release.
The Blurb: As an agent for the Tempus Institute, Jason Adams’s task is to observe the past, not change it. But when he’s sent to 21st-century Wellington, New Zealand, during the last week of aspiring songwriter Sean Henderson’s life, Jason finds he can’t just watch from a distance. He and Sean quickly become friends and then lovers, and when the song that’s haunted Jason for years connects them in a way he never anticipated, he’ll risk changing history for the chance of sharing a future with Sean.
Jason smiled, trying to put Sean at ease. “Thanks for the compliment, by the way. It’s been a while since anyone’s made the effort or shown any interest.” No one since Rex, but that was history in every sense of the word. They hadn’t spoken to each other since they’d broken up three years ago, and the last he’d heard Rex was on assignment in the mid-1940s. Very hush hush.
“I’m usually a little more subtle.” Sean sighed. “For all the good it does me.”
“I’m surprised.” Jason leaned over and placed a hand on Sean’s arm. It was warm, fine dark hairs smooth under his fingers. He thanked the powers that be that it was warmer today so that Sean’s shirtsleeves were rolled up above his elbows. “You’re a good-looking guy.” More than good-looking. Jason made a point of looking Sean up and down. “I’d even go as far as to say hot.”
“Really?” Jason could almost see the steam coming out of Sean’s ears at the idea. Sean shook his head in disbelief. “Me?” He shook his head again. “Hell no. Now you….” His voice trailed off. “Um, can we change the subject onto something else? Are you from around here? I hadn’t seen you before the other day.”
“I’m from… overseas.” Jason nodded, running through what was left of his cover story in his mind. “I’m a journalist, travel, mostly. This looked like an interesting place, so I thought I’d look around for a few days, take notes, that kind of thing.”
“Where overseas?” Sean settled back into his chair, relaxing as the conversation moved onto a safer topic. “I’ve been to Aussie once, but apart from that I haven’t been out of New Zealand. It’s on my list of things I’d like to do one day.” He laughed, but there was a self-deprecating air to it. “Perhaps once I’m rich and famous. Can’t see it happening otherwise.”
Jason thought quickly, latching onto the first country that came to mind. “Canada.” He hoped Sean wouldn’t ask for anything more specific than that. Giving the truth wasn’t an option. He couldn’t very well explain that although he was a local, the Wellington he was used to was very different from how it was now. It was better this way; there was less chance of slipping up and referring to something that didn’t exist yet.
“It’s on the list.” Sean sipped his coffee, thoughtful. “I’m a mainlander myself. Christchurch. My parents are still down there, don’t want to leave. They reckon they’ve spent their whole life there, and it’s going to take more than a few earthquakes to make that change.” He shrugged. “They’re one of the lucky ones. Their house is still relatively intact.”
“Have you been to see them recently?” Jason hoped Sean had. Closure was important. He’d seen too many families who’d missed out on that. They couldn’t be there at the end, but at least having had some contact beforehand had helped.
“Yeah. I went down as soon as I could after the first big one and spent some time.” Sean wrapped his fingers around his cup, long fingers, slender. “I offered to move back, but they wouldn’t have anything of it. My life is here now, has been for a few years. I’ve got my music, and I work in the cafe part time. Never going to be rich, but it works for me.”
“You’re a musician?” A familiar not-quite tune whispered to him. He ignored it.
“Yeah, although more of a songwriter than a performer.” Sean shrugged. “I doubt you’ve heard of me, although a couple of local bands are willing to play my stuff. I play keyboards for them on the occasional gig, too, when the usual guy is off sick or whatever.” He glanced toward his pile of papers, his mouth twisting into a half grimace, half-shy smile. “I’m working on a new one but having trouble getting it quite right. That happens sometimes, then when it’s the right time, it all falls into place. It drives me crazy until it does, though. I swear I eat, drink, and sleep the thing.”
“I’d love to hear what you’ve got so far.” Jason could have kicked himself for not taking the time to listen to the sound files attached to Sean’s dossier. However, it was Sean’s role at the cafe that was the focus of the assignment, not his music.
“That settles it.” Sean grinned. “I knew you were crazy with all your talk of hotness. Now you want to hear music composed by a guy you’ve only just met.” He schooled his face into a solemn expression. “I think that’s about the fourth sign of madness isn’t it? After all, for all you know my music could be really bad. How do you know you won’t lose your hearing and good taste for the rest of eternity?”
“And here I was thinking the fourth sign was being a true believer of the sanctity and healing properties of coffee,” Jason deadpanned.
Contact Anne Barwell:
- Dreamspinner Press author page