One of the attractions of Science Fiction and Fantasy is the taste of the exotic that these genres provide. I’ve never seen in real life the rising of two great moons over the scarlet ruins of a vampire city. I’ve never seen a galleon with sails of white careening through the sky before a dark storm’s winds. I’ve never watched a star eaten by a black hole. But I’ve imagined them.
I remember as a kid how much I hated most “approved” reading because the books locked me into a world with which I was already familiar. The Grapes of Wrath was about farmers, for example. I lived on a farm. Other approved books I read were about people who worked in factories, people who lived in small, rural southern towns, people who struggled to deal with crop failures, people facing religious persecution, people dealing with the tragic deaths of loved ones. I’d think, OK, that was kind of like last Tuesday. Couldn’t I read something that I hadn’t lived through? It was such a relief to toss these “relevant” books aside and join John Carter on a desperate ride across the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom with swords gleaming beneath twin moons.
As I got older I came to appreciate realistic fiction and I enjoy it to this day. I appreciate the effort that goes into telling such tales and I find much of worth in stories of “universal” suffering and joy. But I always still crave that touch of the exotic, that little bit of something that shocks my imagination. I want to see the world as I’ve never quite seen it before, as I don’t see it when I look out my window.
Tomorrow I want to post on ways to work the exotic into one’s fiction. How do you create a meld of the exotic and the real that becomes seamless for the reader. It’ll be a work in progress, because right now I don’t know exactly what I think about this topic. I think it’ll be fun to find out.