Friday, August 5, 2011
A Solid Core of Alpha
Okay, so I'm going on vacation with Mate. We're leaving tomorrow, and we'll be back on Thursday, and I may manage a post or two between now and then, but in the meantime, I've got a little thing like a book opening going on without me.
And it's kind of an interesting sort of book.
You may have noticed I put out a fuck-ton of work in the last couple of months. Part of this is due to my hyperactive brain, and part of this is due to a mindset that has been particularly driven. (Some of that's lightening up, which is good, since I was about to become a raging workaholic.) Anyway, I've already posted about the really odd mindset of someone who is constantly driven, and whose inner life threatens to become more real than the actual real life that everyone talks about.
In a way, that's the root and kernel of A Solid Core of Alpha.
It starts when Anderson Rawn's world is ripped apart (and anyone who loves sci-fi is going to recognize at least ONE of the names I threw on my characters. It was an homage, and I'd hope the authors would think that as well.) Anderson is thrown on board an escape shuttle by his older sister, and remote launched from his mining colony as it is being destroyed. What follows is ten and a half years of isolation in space. Anderson is almost thirteen when the shuttle launches. When he arrives at his destination--a space station surrounded by three fertile planets--he is nearly twenty-three, and he is not alone. Utilizing the ship's basic holographic programing, he has created a family--and his family, in turn, has created a companion for Anderson.
And his companion is beating the shit out of him.
I hesitated to add that last part--but remember my post about warnings? This one is not for the faint of heart. I know some people have triggers--people who have undergone trauma of abuse, sexual or otherwise, do NOT like those elements in their fiction. I'm warning right now, there is that element in this VERY fictional work. The people on the holodeck are real to Anderson--and whether they are real or not to the world around them, I leave to the reader to decide. Real people do hideous things to each other, and sometimes for reasons that do not start out as monstrous in the least. This story looks into that, and it looks into the nature of mental illness, and the nature of what's real and what's not, and whether or not the monsters our subconscious makes for us are any less horrible than the monsters who wait behind dark alleys or hide behind a family member's eyes.
This is some very dark stuff.
My beta readers asked me two things as I was sending this to them a chapter at a time:
A. This IS going to end happily, right?
The answer to that one is Yes. I'll say that right now, for those who, for some strange reason, *cough* *Adrian* *cough* doubt my ability to do that!
B. What medication regimen are you on? You seem to know mental illness so very well. You cut to the heart of what's wrong with the family member/friend I have the hardest time talking about, and you make his/her suffering so very very personal. How do you know this?
The answer to that one is the same way anyone else who has dealt with mental illness in a family knows this. My bio mom, the one I need to go pick up during holidays and family gatherings, has suffered with mental illness since she was very young. I'm not going to go into that too much now--mostly, I just want people to know that there's nothing exploitive in Anderson's suffering, or C.J.'s response to it. Their problems are something I've seen/felt first hand. Of course that's going to come out in my writing. Where else is it going to go?
And that should be the end to question B--it was hard to answer, laid a little bit of myself bare, shouldn't that suffice? Except that alone is not completely honest.
The other reason I understand what's going on with Anderson and his torsion between reality that you touch and reality that you have going on in your head is almost the simplest one of all.
I'm a writer. When I write a scene--painful, joyous, funny, sexy--I AM all those people on the page. I laugh, cry, celebrate, get turned on--all those things, as I'm writing. Those people in my head are VERY VERY REAL TO ME--and a part of my life force really is devoted to giving them life. And sometimes, they really do win out over the people in my house. That's the nature of mental illness, and that's the nature of writing, and there's a reason so many of our best and brightest writers self-medicate and self destruct. The lines between what's real and what's not blur, and sometimes what's not real isn't even a good place--but it seems to be where we're stuck, and the people in those dark places are the people we can't escape.
It's funny--I spent eighteen years teaching, and the attitude toward science fiction/fantasy/ucf was so disdainful, so dismissive. A modern author couldn't be taken seriously if he/she was writing sci-fi. "It's not REAL. How can you address the human condition if it's not REAL." Forget that half of our curriculum was science fiction/fantasy--George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Beowulf Poet, The Gawain Poet, Homer, Mark Twain, WILLIAM FUCKING SHAKESPEARE (Hello? The Tempest? Midsummer's Night's Dream? )--yes, all sci-fi/fantasy. Yup. We teach it! And the reason we teach it in our schools is that A. It's often an excellent vehicle for satire, because satire needs a naive or ignorant hero to filter the bizarreness of human behavior through his understanding, and B. WATCHING HUMANITY DESTRUCT UNDER IT'S OWN FLAWS HURTS LESS IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD.
Anyone knows that Star Trek knows that it featured the first interracial kiss and made some of the first media generated political statements about race relations, ecology, gender issues, xenophobia, post traumatic stress syndrome and about a thousand other things PERIOD knows this. Kirk and Uhura COULD kiss on television, because HEY, it was SCI-FI, it couldn't possibly be construed as REAL. And by putting up that barrier there, that show was allowed to say all sorts of politically incorrect truths that people who had achieved abstract brain function could understand, but the politicians (who, for the most part, have the abstract operant functions of a sixth grader) could not. If we want students to be able to understand satire, predictive thinking, irony, symbolism, imagery, politics, self-actualization, THINKING FOR THEMSELVES etc. etc. etc. we need to teach them science fiction and fantasy.
And that's why it ends up in curriculum. But the people teaching it don't always get that just because it's not on the class roster doesn't mean it doesn't do the same things that stuff does.
What I'm trying to say is that yes, this is a romance. Yes. The two leads are male. Yes, there is sex. But, just like a lot of my other writing, it is not frivolous and it's not always easy. And yes, it is REALLY frickin' dark.
But, just like Anderson, it's got some redeeming features as well.
I really hope people enjoy it. I hope it makes them think. I hope they don't throw it across the room because it disgusts them.
Holy Goddess, Merciful God, PPPPUUUUUHHHLLLLLEEEEEEZZZZZZZE LET IT NOT SUCK!