I’ve known about Michael Tinker Pearce for years — as a sword maker. His swords are world-class and I used to sell them when I owned my sword company. So it’s funny that I’ve encountered him again as a fellow 47Norther. Michael was one of the writers in the fabulously successful Mongoliad series, and is fast becoming as popular a writer as he is a swordsmith. He and his wife, Linda, wrote the Diaries of a Dwarven Riflemen series, and their new release, Rage of Angels has just hit the bookshelves. He’s honored me by guest-posting on my blog today, to talk about the science fiction genre.
Most of the things that pass for Science Fiction aren’t. They are Space Opera or Space Fantasy. Some of my favorite books are Space Opera. The Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMasters Bujold has fast-paced, compelling stories with excellent character development and interesting things to say about what it means to be human and to be a ‘hero.’ Wonderful stuff, can’t recommend it enough. But it is Space Opera, not science fiction… and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. The Star Wars cycle is space opera or space fantasy- basically it has magic that looks like technology but behaves in ways contrary to science as we currently understand it. Again, nothing wrong with that.
So what is my definition of Science Fiction? It is fiction that has a plot based on a futuristic technology and/or emerging scientific theory. It can be set in the past, present or future but the plot could not happen without the science. Hard-Science Science Fiction has technology that would work based on current theories. This is a fairly old-school definition but it’s what I grew up with and I’m stuck with it. It’s also what I am stuck writing, Lord help me.
Believe me, I’ve tried to write some other way. Our first novel was a heroic fantasy called ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman.’ It’s set in a world with dwarves, elves and magic. Sounds like fantasy? It is, but it is also, in a bizarre way, science fiction. It’s about a Dwarven rifleman; the story could not exist without the technology of rifles. Specifically large-bore air rifles, which I had to do a lot of math and research to make sure were actually plausible and functional. Given the resources and the help of a skilled craftsman I could make one of these rifles and it would work pretty much as-advertised. Likewise all the ‘technical details’ of stonework etc. are based on real science; the only thing that isn’t is the magic, and even it operates in a ‘science-like’ fashion. At the end of things we found that what we’d written was Science-fiction set in a medieval fantasy world. Cool.
Our latest novel ‘Rage of Angels’ makes no pretense. It is straight-up Science Fiction. Helpful hint for you young folks who look at your math homework and say, “But I’ll never use this!” Yes you will, if you want to right science fiction, anyway. My high-school math teachers would keel over in shock if they saw some of the math I’ve done to make sure that things in this story would at least arguably work.
Wanting everything to work can be a big problem for a writer and can actually require a lot of imagination. ‘Rage of Angels’ is about aliens attacking the earth. Unlike an awful lot of stories of this type the aliens in our book are smart. They don’t do stupid things like building a single point of failure into their systems that can take down the whole mess. I don’t want to give too many spoilers but we had a serious problem writing this book. Smart aliens with more advanced technology than ours would win. First of all they wouldn’t attack if they had any doubt they could beat us. They would do smart, logical things that capitalize on their advantages. Humanity would be screwed. So two thirds of the way through the book we could not for the life of us figure out a believable way for Earth to triumph. How did we resolve this dilemma? We turned to science, of course. Because science is cool and can accomplish things that look like miracles.
Want to see Michael and Linda’s books?
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Michael ‘Tinker’ Pearce and Linda Pearce Live and write in Seatttle, Wa. Tinker is a well-known sword-maker and Linda is a recruiting and IT professional. You can find out more about Tinker’s work here.