‘No you haven’t,’ said Peter Hamilton the moment I told him about it. ‘It’s science fiction.’
Imagine my horror. Me, a fantasy writer being outed as the author of a…a science fiction book. All right, I jest. I love science fiction. Brian Aldiss was the next author my brother gave me to read after Tolkien. Let’s face it, I’ve been a sci-fi and fantasy fan since I was eight when I devoured The Hobbit. Tasty.
When I began to write Heart of Granite I wasn’t deliberately writing a science fiction book or a future fantasy, I was writing a book about the best idea I’d ever had. And yes, there’s a message there for new writers. Just write the book. It’ll find its place in the great pantheon. Don’t force it into any specific area of your genre because that’s the way of the straitjacket.
But then there’s that comfort zone thing. I’d written twelve fantasy novels before embarking on Heart of Granite and now here I was without my arsenal of Elves, magic, swords and, well, almost all the fantasy epic-ness stuff. I did retain dragons, mind you. Sort of.
How was it? Did fear paralyse your mind and defeat your fingers as they tripped up on the keyboard? I hear you ask. And if you didn’t ask I’m going to tell you anyway.
It was wonderful. Comfort Zone? I never left it, well, I peeked out of the door and took a step down the path every now and then, I suppose. And ain’t that the beauty of characters? It doesn’t matter if they’re wielding a sword or an automatic weapon; have leaf-shaped ears or combat armour; have carrier pigeons or tight beam communications… they use the tools you give them and live life where you put them.
Most of the time, it was a liberating experience. Language, technology, the language of technology…contemporary politics, futuristic warfare. No bloody horses. It’s a new box of toys. And I urge all those who write hi-tech sci-fi to go the other way. After all, fantasy is awesome.
But no draft runs completely smoothly and I had to deal with science and technology, not things I’ve had much truck with beyond understanding how a sword cuts and an arrow flies. Shudder. And even though there’s alien DNA involved to help me make huge things that are both immensely strong and relatively very light, there are still imperatives of physics that I could not ignore. As well as stuff like guns and missiles and gravity (very pesky, is gravity when you don’t have magic). In the end, though, it does rather boil down to a different set of things to sense-check and that’s where any lack of comfort rests. No big deal.
There’s another book in the series and beyond that who knows? Will I ever write another fantasy novel? Depends. The idea will dictate that. I can calm some worries though; it isn’t going to be a romance. Or is that violins I hear?