The Mathematics of Speculative Fiction–E. Kaiser Writes

A number of people who object to speculative fiction or one of its many forms seem to give “It’s not real” as grounds for their stance.

This has always puzzled me, because the tales I learned the most from in childhood always seemed to be the fairy tales, fantasies, allegories and sci-fi. (Not that there’s a lot of sci-fi children’s books, but my dad was benevolent enough to periodically retell every Dr. Who episode he could remember. So though I might probably have been scared into nightmares by the actual show, I got the story lines, and their meanings, at an early age.)

Then I realized why this dichotomy seemed to be, and that at its heart the illusion of “unreality” was the key mirror that produced the whole scenario. What drew me to spec-fic was the same thing I loved about dreaming… the windows of the mind are flung wide open and all manner of things can happen. The impossible ceases to exist and the order of probability is skewed way off.

Stories based in the “real” can only deal with a limited palette, so their themes have to be specific to what lies strictly within their color wheel.

But stories that reach beyond the physically perceptible world can describe things to us that have no colors… explain things that can’t be seen… can capture great truths that are too large and wide to be bottled down into a small-town neighborhood.

…Spec-fic is like algebra. (No! No! Don’t run away screaming!) It’s like saying “The width of the rectangle is “W”, and the length of the rectangle is “L” then we can find the area of the rectangle by multiplying “W” by “L” and the result will be correct.”

So, if we go out and measure the width of any rectangle, and plug the resulting numbers in, then we will always come up with the right answer.

In the same way we could say: “If the over-whelmed protagonist is “Frodo”, the seemingly unconquerable oppressing force is “Sauron”, then we can apply “never give up-ness” to “dedication to truth” of the “Frodo” and that combination will always result in a victory.”

We can plug that in: a kid is mocked, =”Frodo” public opinion = “Sauron”; so apply “never give up-ness” with a “dedication to truth” and the kid who is mocked will survive and even overcome the incident. (Nugget of wisdom: being “friendless” for the right reasons is totally worth it. Don’t give in just because doing the right thing is hard!)

How about that? Have you ever been bolstered in doing the right thing by remembering stories? I know I have. Lots of times. And if Jack’s giants were giants, and he killed them… then what did it matter if my giants were my own bad attitude/my rotten sister/mean brother/or a just terrible day that refused to go right? I could slay them all, and emerge victoriously still doing the right thing. (Full confession here: the giants often enough slew me instead. But framing the problem in the perspective of these timeless truths enabled me to see the situation for what it was. A battle. And one I could win, if I fought hard enough.)

In the end, I’m happy to report, I generally did win out, (even if it took a couple years of trying!) But it’s not the length of the war that counts, only who finally wins.

Just so we’re clear, I’m terrible at math. But I managed to grasp the fundamentals of algebra by comparing it to words and characters, and basically… plot-lining.

If the MC is a Warrior Hero= he must have a sword.

If the Antagonist is a Lidless Eye of Doom= he must completely fall before the book is over.

There are some things that are just givens… and in real life, that applies too. Right is always right… no matter what else is going on.

Elizabeth&PuppiesReworkE. Kaiser Writes lives in the Wide Wild surrounded by friendly creatures, and combines witty dialog, twisty turns, and complex plots with deeply meaningful themes, resulting in a reliably unpredictable happy ending in most of her writings. Author of the Fia’s Journey series, (as well as the upcoming Thaw series, of which she is hard at work on book 3) she is currently hosting a call for submissions for the  sci-fi anthology Space Kitties: an encouraging opportunity for writers of all stages to join together in print & e-book, with no entry fees or hidden restrictive rights clauses. Anyone interested is invited to visit her blog, E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog.


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