Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is this the real thing? Is this a fantasy?

So, a book with often beautiful, sometimes terrifying women flying through the air must be a fantasy, right? One would surely think my Wizards Trilogy, which features dragons, wizard, gryphons and magic would get that classification. Wrong on both counts.

Astute readers of the Wizard books recognize by the end of the first one that it is actually science fiction. Even the, let’s call them ‘less astute,’ get that by the end of book two. The whole point of those books is that, as Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” What seems to be magic to the residents of Kimyra is actually poorly understood technology left behind by an advanced civilization. Your great grandparents would have thought you were magic, too, if they saw you create moving pictures at the push of a button on your remote.

Anjels is not a fantasy, either, though its central subject is a race of creatures we know from mythology. I use the word ‘mythology’ here not to imply that religion is something that is untrue. We can have a discussion about that over coffee. The first definition of myth, according to the elves at Webster, is “A usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.” The word can be used to describe something that is unfounded or untrue. That is not my intent. The intent of the book, however, is to prod readers to think about what is true and what may not be.

I digress.

I could argue that Anjels (working title) is science fiction, even though the science may not be obvious. There are no rocket ships; there is no teleportation.  The science comes in world building. The world on which the anjels live is not Earth. It may never have a name, since the tribe is quite a long way off from realizing that there are other worlds out there. Building a plausible world requires quite a lot of thought. Things must work. If an anjel is roughly the size of a human, how can they fly? Duh, wings! That seems to have been good enough for angel artists throughout history. Just stick wings on them.

If this is science fiction, or speculative fiction, that isn’t good enough. How does the musculature work? If they have arms AND wings, won’t those separate muscle systems be enormously complex, if they can work at all? And, even if you figure out the wings, how big would they have to be to get a 150 pound creature off the ground? Ostriches weigh about what a human does. They have wings. You can search the sky in ostrich land all day and not see one up there.

Next time, let’s talk about feet and hands.

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