Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 13 February 2011

What is Science Fiction? Part 1

As a genre, Sci-fi is as broad as any other.  I like to think of my books as being thrillers that hang off a Sci-Fi branch.  As a comparison think of the Spy genre with books ranging from those written by Ian Fleming to John Le Carre.  If you've ever read any Le Carre, especially his George Smiley novels, you will appreciate that they are truly about the craft of spying.  However, if you take the representation of the Bond books in films, they are clearly about adventure hung off a spy genre branch.

I suppose that a book is Sci-Fi when it asks the readers to accept an unproven scientific basis which could be a minor part of the story through to a full blown element - think of any Star trek episode and you have a fully immersive Sci-Fi environment where you just have to accept interstellar travel, transporter beams and alien races are an integral element of each storyline.

So, what do I ask my readers to accept, if not believe in?

In Parallel Lives the story is predicated on the concept of a multiverse.  Mathematically multiple universes are considered to be likely, especially according to superstring theory.  Taking a pragmatic view it is reasonable that there may only be one universe, the one we inhabit, two or more universes, possibly totally unlike each other, and potentially an infinite number of universes.  In the infinite model there is an unlimited scope for variety but also for similarity - infininty goes a very long way.  Where Parallel Lives asks the reader to accept an unproven truth is in the concept that two or more universes could have the same physical properties (a major leap of faith) and that some of the universes could develop from the big bang in more or less the same way to the point that planets circling relatively minor stars could develop the same geographically.  Moreover, on a subset of these planets, the human population can develop in a very similar manner to ours, for example (let's keep this personal). 

The idea is that in an infinite number of universes, if the development of one parallel uninverse down to more or less the population existing now is possible then technically there could be an awful lot of them.  Of course they wouldn't be identical - I don't know if an identical universe is more or less likely than a very similar one but an identical universe provides thin Sci-Fi pickings - so the minor differences in them is the defining element.

in Parallel Lives the premise is that a small number of people are connected in some way with their analogues in other universes such that extreme emotion is conveyed across the universes.  Typically this is when the fortunes of any given person takes a bad turn in one life or another and they suffer a terrifying, painful death.  If we buy into the concept then we can assume that  most of our analogues in parallel universes have had a life as boring and humdrum as ours, but a few will have suffered a fate we haven't, at least not yet. It could be the drunk driver that swerved the opposite way, or even the bad decision to get in his car, that has decided the fate of an analogue we've so far avoided.

So much for the Sci-Fi - Parallel Lives is based on an acceptance of this but the story is about how a govenmental agency attempts to manipulate one person, John Staples, into seeing events in other universes his analogues exist in, in an attempt to use information gained in that way to predict what might be about to happen in our universe.  John's boss and his wife find a way to spring John from the clutches of the government agency but find themselves fugitives from the secret service, with a showdown on a cliff side in Devon bring the story almost to an end.

Which is where the comparison with Fleming is more appropriate than Le Carre - The Sci Fi is the vehicle, but the characters and how they resolve the issues in the story, are the drivers.

In part two, I'll discuss the background to The Journeymen, which at least keeps within the bounds of this universe!  Beyond that, in part three I'll chat about Skin and in part four, DLF

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