Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Planning Updates #1

Now Playing: Marcin Przybyłowicz and Percival - Sword of Destiny (Witcher 3 OST)

These are just a few updates related to some writing ideas and recent reads. (I had to divide this post up because it got gigantic, so more will follow Thursday.)

Over this past year, I've read a couple of interesting series: The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence. I love all the books so far, not just because they're beautifully written and/or have amazing characters, but also because of the worlds. Or specifically, the genre. All three seem to be very unique variations of science fantasy, a genre that's seldom explored in today's market outside of film or video games. Books stay in their individual speculative fiction corners a lot more than other mediums, but it can get difficult when you're dealing with very imaginative universes. In The Reckoners, for example, it's sometimes categorized as science fiction because it involves human beings that acquired powers after the sudden appearance of a celestial object named Calamity. It's the comic-book superhero feel to it that makes it feel like science fantasy--Epics are known to be able to violate known laws of physics and Calamity, despite being a celestial object close to our planet, hasn't altered Earth in any way except with its granting of supernatural powers. That's a more fantasy-ish approach than a science-fiction one.

The Lunar Chronicles might have androids, cyborgs, satellites, space ships, and solar radiation that causes powers, but the set up of the monarchies and nods to the fairy tale inspirations keep the tone in the fantasy side. There's an explanation given for why Lunars harbor bioelectrical powers, but said powers are sometimes treated like dangerous magic. Plus there's princesses, evil step mothers, and damsels in towers, emperors and arranged marriages, elaborate dances, that kind of thing.

The Broken Empire is difficult to explain without giving away a very awesome reveal of the world, so I'm not going to into it that much. But let's just say, this is the hardest book to categorize by far.

So all this combined, this is what I've been thinking about:

I said a few weeks ago that sometimes when I encounter a story that fully utilizes its concept, I automatically find it impossible to ever do something like it. In my example, I cited Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra and The Lunar Chronicles as being the kind of story I admire but could never imitate for fear of taking too much from them. With ATLA and LOK, my mind has cemented an  image of elemental manipulation as being closely tied to martial arts and its philosophies; I cannot even imagine a different approach by now. And so I'll probably never write a story that involves the "four" elements (fire, water, earth, and air), even if I do a variation of it. (More on this on Thursday).

As for The Lunar Chronicles, even before I started reading the books, I've been pretty apathetic toward fairy tale retellings. I don't think they work very well a good chunk of the time. There's only so many times I can hear a variation of Cinderella before I want to rush through, wanting the fairy tale plot points to happen already. Because Lunar Chronicles is a unique genre blend, however, it works. I don't want to hear a fantasy variation of Beauty and the Beast because the original is already fantasy. I don't want to hear a contemporary variation of it either because it's been done so many times before and mostly will end up borrowing just plot elements and not add anything to the atmosphere of the story.

So I've been interested in the way Marissa Meyer wrote The Lunar Chronicles.

About a month ago or so, I got an email from her newsletter saying there was a fanfiction contest for the release of Winter. I hadn't planned on writing anything until I remembered an old Russian fairy tale I've always liked, Vasilisa the Beautiful. I didn't know how I'd implement it but I was bouncing ideas around my head until I got a second look at the contest rules: the fanfic has to be based off a Grimm fairy tale.

So that attempt died before it got started, but I really like the idea of taking Vasilisa's story and reimagining it in a science fantasy novel.

I'm left with a big problem. One of being wayyy too inspired by Marissa Meyer.

See, in the fairy tale, Vasilisa receives a doll that advises her on things. For about three years now, I've been wanting to base a character off the doll my mother made me when I was little. I've taken a dozen photographs of her--the doll of pink hair, different eyes, one arm, plaid dress. I've been jokingly referring to her as having a cybernetic eye before I got the idea of an android that looked like her--short pink hair, plaid dress, sensor eye, one arm, inhuman white skin. I had the image but I never had a story. And now it feels like I do.

But...science fantasy, fairy tale retelling with robots as principal characters?

Seems like a dangerous line to dangle over. I wouldn't be basing anything from The Lunar Chronicles, but I wouldn't want anyone to think I'd taken her concept and then pretended it was all my own doing. The rest of the world would have to be radically different for the story to stand apart, to be an inspiration rather than a, well, blatant rip-off.

I'm bouncing that idea around in my head. I haven't decided anything, but it's something I'm considering.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.