Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spec-Fic in Disguise

Both The Deathday Letter and FML have been referred to as contemporary books. Even the book I used to snag my awesome agent Amy (who I will now refer to as AAA forever and ever) is considered contemporary.

They all take place in the present. There are no demons, angels, vampire, or ghosts.  There is no magic, no knights, no secret government conspiracies to imbue teenagers with superpowers.  For the most part, the stories I tell could happen in the real world.

But let me tell you a secret: underneath it all, I'm really a speculative fiction writer in disguise.

I'm sure that if you Google spec fiction, you'll find a ton of various definitions. I've seen arguments erupt over what is and isn't spec-fic.  But my definition of speculative fiction is fiction that falls outside the normal boundaries of the real.

Does that make sense? A better way to look at it may be for me to describe my books not as speculative fiction but as what-if? fiction.  Because that's where all my premises begin.  What if everyone got a letter 24 hours before they died? What if one choice could allow us to see two paths in a young man's life? What if a young man never left the hospital his parents died in?

With a concept like Deathday, I really could have taken it into a more genre typical direction. I even considered it. I thought about taking deathday into a more sci-fi realm. Maybe one day I will.  When I was writing FML, even though there is absolutely no talk of science in the book, I still considered how Simon's life split into these two paths, and what the consequences were.

But instead of focusing on the concept, I focus on the characters, because to me, they're the most important parts of my books.

Around the beginning of the third season of Lost, I remember telling my mom that the writers were brilliant in that they'd managed to sucker millions of people into watching a science fiction show.  It's no secret that genre shows don't do well, but Lost began with a premise and then slowly worked the science fiction into it, so that by the time most people knew what was happening, they were already engrossed.

Of course, they blew it with the ending, but if you stick with me, I'll try hard not to.

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