Sunday, September 15, 2013

What worlds are these

Neglected to write last weekend, and this weekend's chapter was a full thousand words short of the usual length. I don't feel extremely worried. There were points I wanted to hit, and the outline was resistant to letting me find somewhere to fit them in. The result was an expository chapter which I feel will help the overall story move along more smoothly.

Now, for some real words. The sci-fi setting is flawed. And I don't mean flawed the way a first team all-american's game is flawed, that is to say, almost perfect. I mean flawed in the way a bowl can be sculpted and after the kiln fires, the new shape won't hold water. I mean flawed like it might just have to be scrapped. Speaking with other writers in one of the meet up groups about ethnography had some part to play, but mostly it was the years I've lived since writing the first book, and failing to finish the second.

For reference, think of any planet you've seen in a science fiction movie. It was hot, or it was cold, there were plants, or dinosaurs, or both, or rocks or giant lakes of lava, weird gas beings and intelligent aardvarks. Whatever. The fact of the matter is that a planet could have ALL of those things. Human beings, even the smart ones, live on earth. Inexorably, any planet we think about in the future will have as its basis the place where we already keep all our baggage. And Earth has beautiful rain forests, frozen tundras, arid deserts, molten peaks, fields of noxious gas veins, and even aardvarks. I failed to realize that, and fell into the trope of having the characters planet hop because I thought that would allow for grander scenes and venues. I even went through the trouble of making the planetary relationships part of the story. The fact that I worked so hard to make it a setting piece is why fixing it will involve ripping everything out down to the molars.

When I realized this, I was stunned into a kind of complacent malaise. I wasn't really upset, but I was upended by how much work it would take to go back and do everything over again. I was at that place, where there's so much work, that even starting it feels impossible.

It rather reminded me of grad school, and the ever elusive golden ratio of training and experience, education and ability. How much of one or the other does one need to do what it is they want to do, and how much does one have to do what they have to do to get there, how much can they, before it just breaks them down? Recently, I tried asking that of a doctorate professor with degrees in education. He professionally studies education. I've yet to receive a reply. I'm hoping for an easy answer, just once.

In the meantime, I'm down in the mine, picking at my veins.