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Monday, October 18, 2010

Not Exactly Name This Column

by Guy Stewart

Of course, the book Bruce envisions has to have sports simply because north to south, east to west, circumnavigating the globe, spectator sports are the one thing all 6 billion of us are interested in. An argument might be made that spectator sports is Humanity’s real, actual GOD. Think Harry Potter’s Quidditch and Ender’s “game” that turns out to be reality if you doubt that spectator sports drive both our societies and our entertainment.

This science fiction novel for the 21st Century has to have computers – and cyberpunks of some sort, preferably young, old, male, female, gay, straight, bi, whatever variety – cute male and female vampire and werewolf cyberpunks might be your BEST bet.

The parameters below are derived from Bruce Bethke’s 10/10 NAME THIS COLUMN. A 21st Century science fiction hit novel almost guaranteed to be a best-seller in every language would need to rest firmly in the matrix below:

1. Families that consist of mom or dad or partners or pairs or rotating groups of the aforementioned (usually changed on weekends, every other week, or for a month during the summer).

2. Mom/dad works at a technology or service job and the kind of work she/he does determines if they eat or not. Two full-time wage earners are essential, families live far apart and grandparents alternate between Tucson and Maine.

3. The family sleeps in on Sunday. It is no different than any other day of the week except that you can go to WalMart TWICE a day rather than only once. Most people think a Vatican is a car once manufactured in Germany and now made by a government assisted auto company in Detroit. God has been dead forever – at least since John Lennon was murdered.

4. Single-child families are the norm in Liberal Democracies and Communist/Post-Communist countries. More than single-child families are common in Newly Industrialized, Less Developed Countries, Islamic Countries and Marginal States. People whisper about large families. (From the Seven Worlds Index.)

5. Families that have less than two cars are weird. Teenagers inhabit a world that Madison Avenue constantly portrays as “newer”, “totally different”, “nothing like your parents ever experienced”, “YOUNG”, “its own culture, unlike anything that has ever existed” and “responsible only to their wants”. We all believe it.

6. Families are expected to have one telephone – per living organism. Doctors and lawyers have virtual networks extending into orbit.

7. Every family is as connected 365/52/7/24/60/60/100 to things outside of their family as they can be and have nothing to do with the people who share a space that provides weather protection, some food, light, heat, laundry and cleaning service.

8. No television, cell phone service or video games are inconceivable to over half of the population. Connection to everything is a right in all First World

9. “Cities that never sleep” have become the norm. (Except for the 1953 movie – I can’t find the origin of this phrase. I guess it’s passed into antiquity.) The “city that sleeps” is the punch line to a groaner joke.

10. It’s fantastic that virtually all films are remakes of older original films. It’s even more fantastic that people rave about how original the new ones are.

11. There’s never nothing to do so no one reads.

Now let me condense this even more. The science fiction novel that should REALLY sell well today should look like this:

Our hero grew up with two dads and a mom whose relationship rotated as follows each month: Dad1 + Dad2; Dad1+Mom; Dad2+Mom; Dad1+Dad2+Mom. Dad1’s father lives on the Moon on a research colony. Dad2’s parents travel from Minnesota and Antarctica via boat. Mom’s parents died in South African food riots and she was ruthlessly raised by a-religious communism-revivalists. One of his grandparents felt sorry for him and paid for a total virtual integration – implanted direct satellite uplink, computer and communication device when he was six. He was once taken to the doctor because he appeared to be catatonic but was actually immersed in his virtual world. Dad1, Dad2 and Mom swore to create non-virtual life experiences for our hero.

Then Dad2 got breast cancer and refused conventional treatment in favor of an experimental treatment. After his death, Dad1 and Mom split. Our hero’s grandparents declined the contractual Nurture Option, which went to the State. From seven years old on, he lived in foster homes three or four of which were terrible. At the age of twelve, the State purchased a commission for him into 3M™ Academies® Minneapolis© where he lived in the dormitories and took general training in the sciences, math and discovered a new sport called Jump. Inside an immense sphere with variable gravity spots, four teams armed with hockey-stick-like lacrosse stick battle for possession of a floating puck. The puck’s color changes as well as its gravitational attractiveness. If the team grabs it when it’s THEIR color and scores, they get triple the points. Jump has taken the world by storm and teens play pryzhok, a street version of Jump.

The BOFWG (BigOldFatWhiteGuy) in me would then have our hero discover an illegal book – a book that’s been outlawed – or a library of books that if he even looks at one, he’ll be arrested (I’m pretty sure people will still like doing things that are illegal in the future). Then he steals a book, uses his in-head computer program to learn to read it and running across a lost equation of Einstein crabbed into a page margin of a little book on differential equations and saving the planet!

But that wouldn’t sell ANYTHING and the book would disappear into the vastness of meh in the blink of an eye. So…what do I do with this to make it a novel story that would catch on? What would make a science fiction story that would appeal to men and women – young, old, male, female, gay, or straight, cute male and female vampire/werewolf cyberpunks 21st Century?

The question, my friends, is what are YOU going to do with this? (I’ve already done it and I’m shopping the result around.)

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