Sunday, December 23, 2007

Is this progress?

So last night I read though the 20k words I have on a "first contact" novel.

There are only a few things that I might want to expand on but for the most part I like it very much. What I've got there is essentially final draft and, dangit, it's *good*.

The only problem is that reading through doesn't get me any new *words*. I do have a couple of scenes for this story written out in a first draft long hand and I could revise and type them up but there is something very important that I don't have... an antagonist. The protagonists are the good guys, the military are the good guys, the aliens are the good guys.

I realize that the antagonist doesn't have to be a character. It could be the situation or some other element of conflict that is working against resolution.

Things need to get worse, much worse, so they can get better.

The theme so far (if that's the right word) is that the concepts of "good aliens" or "bad aliens" or else "peaceful" or "evil war-like conquerors" are naive. So I suppose I want a rather ambiguous ending in that respect. The main POV character's take on it all is that the aliens *must* be assumed to be hostile and also that the aliens *must* be assumed to be peaceful. Both. That one or the other are equally wrong and that only both together are true.

I'm not equipped to start a war, a la Ringo, but maybe I could almost start one then avert it. Still, the people dealing with the aliens *now* are pretty much doing everything right. Someone else, human or alien, needs to do something desperately *wrong*.

I just can't figure out what.

Some possibilities are that other aliens arrive to rescue those who crashed, or that the aliens have more than one nation that are at war and the wrong group shows up. I don't want to rely on cliches such as politicians being stupid or fearful and deciding to bomb something. Perhaps having the crashed ship allows humans to make a secret weapon and so the aliens can't accomplish their take-over and have to either disengage or negotiate and they weren't planning on having to negotiate anything. So I'd need overtly hostile aliens to show up. That might work. I don't want the crashed aliens to give away their secrets, though, on account they learned to love us. Ick!

Maybe I need to start sketching out scenes from various alien point of views and see what happens.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ymarsakar said...

That might work. I don't want the crashed aliens to give away their secrets, though, on account they learned to love us. Ick!

You might want to talk to David Weber on this, given the fact that Weber's grasp of human social dynamcs, motivations, is translated very well into alien psychologies.

Weber can only extrapolate alien history from human history, of course, but he does great work concerning the interaction, psychic or not, between humans and aliens. Given that his recent Multiverse series is based upon humans meeting other totally alien humans, it recreates the strangeness of human history except in a sci fi setting.

The real question is whether you wish to make the alien cultural template more alien than Japan's was to America in 1917.

Steve White did just that, by making his alien race practically immortal through the downloading of a conscience into some kind of group psychic subconsciousness, then having an identity reincarnated once in a while. This would make the aliens more suicidal, far more than the Japanese, given that they literally have almost no sense of "self" or self-preservation. Self-preservation to that species is protecting the mass mind, which was their colony ships. Suicide tactics is a bonus in that case since it frees up resources and inflicts damage on the enemy.

This is, of course, totally alien to even the most fanatical human cultures given the basis of human psychological dependence on the "self".

You could set up an alliance of mutual need between the crashed aliens and the local humans. Or you can get some ideas from David Weber's Multiverse series with linda Evans.

Maybe the aliens are involved in a war with another species, and wants to recruit Earth as an ally. Then their enemies come and seek to enlarge the front to Earth to prevent it from being used by the friendly aliens.

Even given the limitations of using human history and socio-dynamics on an alien species, it is still more workable than fantastic differences, in my view. An enemy that is simply programmed to conquer, is no fun to play with, given the fact that there is no subtlety. It's fine if you war is your deal and you want lots of action, but in terms of internal politics, subterfuge, and what not, human or human like opponents are always superior to cookie cutter alien invasions.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Synova said...

The biggest problem with fantastic differences, no matter how realistic, is that a story happens where cultures intersect. If the cultures and species are too different they aren't even going to intersect.

In this story the aliens can breathe our air, drink our water, and *might* be able to eat our food if we figure out how to process it properly. So they're pretty similar to us even if they look quite different.

The intersection of aliens with humans happens on Earth after the aliens have crashed. In order for that to work the above things need to be true. Otherwise the aliens would simply die and the story would be over, or at least be a very different story.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

In this story the aliens can breathe our air, drink our water, and *might* be able to eat our food if we figure out how to process it properly. So they're pretty similar to us even if they look quite different.

How are you handling the cultural or sociological templates (such things as human hierarchies and dominant/submissive roles) given the alien biology? Meaning, where are the differences and similarities to humans?

A psychologist author who writes sci fi, Vernor Vinge, did some nice work on how aesthetics and visual-sight processes differed from an alien race that could see in the infra-red compared to us humans in orbit over their planet.It made for some different cultural cues that I found intriguing.

Otherwise the aliens would simply die and the story would be over, or at least be a very different story.

So if you intend for an alliance to occur between one group of humans and the crashed aliens, against an external enemy, which enemy would you prefer to write in?

I personally prefer an independent human external enemy and an alien external enemy, not exactly together but they are furthering each other's purposes.

Or the external enemy that creates the need for this alliance could be trying to grab human allies at the same time that the allied aliens are trying to cement their bonds of trust with humans.

It depends on what you decide the form that the external enemy will take. Single, multiple, etc.

2:20 PM  

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