Please welcome, my special guest Sci-fi Author DG Lamb to my blog for this special Friday Author Spotlight. He has prepared an awesome guest post! Hope you all enjoy :).
~ World Building ~
The Bridge between Author and Reader
In fantasy and sci fi, world building is all about answering the question: What if? It is the answers to these questions of what if that are the girders of the bridge the reader must cross to enter the author’s imagined world. If there are too few girders or if they are poorly assembled, the bridge’s roadway, the surface on which the reader walks, will be shaky or uneven. The need to sufficiently think out and consistently apply the details of how a futuristic or magical world works creates one of the greatest challenges for the fantasy/sci fi writer. Why? Because the foundational answers to these what if questions are rarely directly referenced in the writing. Or, to continue the analogy, the structure of the bridge is mostly unseen.
For me, the original what if was: What if I was creating a Skinner Box in the future, having all of that advanced technology at my disposal, what would it be like? So, harkening back to your Intro to Psychology class, recall that B F Skinner was a behavioral psychologist who created an operant conditioning chamber in which rats would learn to press a lever to receive a food reward. I began thinking of all of the ways a futuristic room could supply positive and negative responses to the occupant’s behavior: varied lighting levels, colors, temperature, smells, the firmness of the floor – all sorts of ways to shape the person’s behavior. And thus, The Womb was born! But, so what? I had a fantastic room that could do all sorts of neat stuff, but it was just a single girder. So, I needed to answer some more what if questions.
I had to know what kind of society would want to create such a room. Well, we already know it has to be set in the future. But, what if there was a secret order of assassins who kidnapped children and molded them to fill their ranks of covert operators? Hmmm, seems unlikely that people wouldn’t notice that their children were disappearing. OK, what if Earth societies continued their competitive ways and after the discovery of FTL (faster than light) space travel, they so rapidly expanded outward that the space frontier became much like the old Wild West in America? What if law enforcement and governmental oversight lagged far behind this expansion, particularly in the American Sector, where private enterprises were allowed to establish settlements to support capitalist ventures? What if some of these “company colonies” were a bit more relaxed about funding social institutions, such as orphanages, and a significant number of children were left to fend for themselves? Who would notice if a few choice candidates were plucked from this planet or that colony? Wow! Now I have the beginnings of a system of connecting girders that supports the creation of The Womb.
Most of these elements of Joshua’s world are only indirectly referenced, if at all. For example, the fact that a Swedish ex-patriot in Norway discovered FTL travel is not even hinted at until well into the Driven to the Hilt series – the fifth book, in fact. But this girder permits the placement of a tiny tasty detail in The Deepest Cut (Book 1), as the topic for a paper Joshua had to write for his mother. For me, such details are the small sprinkling of spice that brings more flavor to the world, helping the story sparkle with life. Sometimes the need for girders is obvious. I knew I had to support the idea that someone as young as Joshua could survive what was to come. So I tried to establish a strong foundation with the core values instilled by his parents, his obvious intellect, his mother’s loving but unrelenting expectations that he do his best, his greater maturity secondary to being an only child, and his physical prowess and leadership skills by way of the stickball game, among other things. However, sometimes the missing girders wake me up in a cold sweat. For example, after I first wrote about Joshua retrieving Mom’s Fang from Muldavy, I just had him continuing on his way, fighting to survive the malignant attentions of the underbelly of New Cincinnati. But then it struck me, are you serious? Some kid is seen walking into town holding a creature in his hand that is so deadly, the fear of it has kept the colony out of The Swamp since its founding. And this would not get out? This would not make the news? Of course it would. But if such an issue is not addressed, perhaps the reader will not realize exactly what is wrong, but most will hear a hollow thump to their footsteps as they cross the bridge, an untruth that echoes from beneath, causing a dissatisfaction that lingers to the end of the book. And then they will say, “Yeah, that was a pretty good book, I guess.” They will not say, “Now that was a great read! I have to tell my friends about this.”
And so, the unheralded process of writing speculative fiction is supporting the world you create with a sufficient number of properly placed girders. I did this with a wide variety of topics: the weather that produces the permanent overcast of New Cincinnati, the extensive use of lab created foods, the way in which the bottom-line priorities of the sponsoring corporation shaped the colony. And the impact of each of these elements must be taken into account when writing about the people of the settlement. If you have considered all of these things, it will come through in both obvious and subtle aspects of your writing. The logical application of the rules of your world and the glimmers of fine details that you create provides that extra dimension, that rounding of the edges, that filling out of the characters, that makes a good story great.
DG Lamb is the Clinical Director of a comprehensive neurorehabilitation program. In addition to a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, he has a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. He has also worked with law enforcement officers suffering from PTSD after critical incidents. While recovering from prostate cancer surgery, his son suggested he try his hand at creative writing.
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DRIVEN TO THE HILT
THE DEEPEST CUT
Already a social outcast because of his father’s alleged betrayal, young Joshua finds himself trapped outside the mining colony on the planet of Cypress Grove. He faces a dark rainforest infested with a creature so deadly, it has kept all humans confined inside their only settlement for decades. If he can manage to escape these alien wilds, he will then have to brave the even darker dangers of the colony’s criminal underworld.
In this original coming of age tale, debut author DG Lamb lays the foundation for the Driven to the Hilt series with plenty of action, unique style, and a richly crafted young hero.