Why Write: Science Fiction with Sarah Paige Berling

sarah paige berlingReaders, welcome Sarah Paige Berling! She writes speculative fiction of all stripes, but she’s here today to talk about sci-fi. She also says some great things about science and how sci-fi affects the world, so check it out!

Hello, Sarah, and welcome!
Thank you for having me, Kristin!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Well, primarily I write speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Recently, I’ve delved into contemporary fiction, but my first love was science fiction. I started reading science fiction in the fifth grade with the Animorphs series and just went from there. I have just finished my contemporary fiction novel and now I’m working on editing my sci-fi/horror novel called Forgive Me If I Sleep, which is a post-apocalyptic tale, similar to World War Z and The Road.

What made you decide to write science fiction?
I have a lot of science in my background. I spent four years studying meteorology and geology, before finally realizing that my true love was creative writing. But because I spent so much time with the physics, math, and chemistry part of college, science remains a fascination of mine.

My favorite sci-fi author, and the one whom I respect the most, is Dan Simmons, who frequently combines hard science fiction with classic literature. My favorite stories of his are his two most recent novels, Ilium and Olympos, which chronicle hard science fiction mixed with Homer, Proust, and Shakespeare. And I believe it takes place in the same universe as his Hyperion Cantos, which makes the story that much more intriguing. I really aim to emulate him. He’s amazing.

What types of stories does science fiction make possible?
Science fiction shows how the world COULD be, if we could just work towards getting our butts in gear and focus on science and space exploration. I had an argument with an acquaintance once, because he believed NASA was obsolete. “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.” That was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. I explained to him that there was no way humanity could remain on Earth forever, and that we needed to explore space if we were going to survive as a species. And I honestly believe that to be true. We need to leave our cradle and work towards becoming self-sufficient adults – in this case, exploring new planets and expanding our civilizations.

What audience do you think sci-fi attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Science fiction attracts all types. My sister, who was an opera major in college, has read science fiction, but so has my husband, who is your quintessential nerd. It really depends on the person, I suppose.

I try to write stories aimed at the more scientific aspect of the sci-fi culture. I have a couple of stories in mind revolving around meteorology, one sci-fi and one contemporary fiction. Write what you know, but write what you don’t know about what you know, and also, write about what you’re passionate about. Lots of rules for writing, but those three stick out in my head most of all.

How does science fiction affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

If we work the science correctly, it leaves the audience guessing: how will they get out of this bind? The majority of your sci-fi audience does not have a PhD in theoretical physics, so you can get away with more, if you need to. But because the majority of your audience doesn’t have a whole lot of science background, the story changes from science to magic.

The characters, for the most part, are aware of the scientific limitations of their world. The audience is not, not entirely.

Why do you think people love to read sci-fi? How do you think the genre at large affects its audience?
Science fiction is definitely an escapist form of literature – and that’s okay. It leads to alternate worlds, and sometimes, that’s just what you need.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
My favorite genre to read is “books.” I will read most anything. My list so far this year has included “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, and “The Hyperion Cantos” by Dan Simmons.

Where can readers track you down?
My blogs are http://sarahpaigeberling.com and http://paigejohnsson.com
My facebook is http://www.facebook.com/sarahpaigeberling
and you can follow me on twitter at
@sarahpberling
@paigejohnsson

Thanks for stopping by!

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Why Write: Speculative Fiction with Morgen Rich

Morgen Rich V1Readers, today we greet Morgen Rich, writer of boundary-pushing epics. She has some fantastic things to say (and some great recommendations to make!), so be sure to check out her work when you’re done!

Hi Morgen, and welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

First, I want to thank Kristin McFarland for hosting this series of author interviews from various genres. I think it’s a fascinating study of differences and commonalities among writers and genres, and I will be following it to discover what those are!  I hope others will, too, and that they’ll join in the discussion here on Kristin’s blog.

Why, you’re welcome! I do plan on posting some follow-up analysis to all of these interviews. I’m just finishing a book right now, I swear.

About me?  I’m tempted to use Steve Martin’s line in The Jerk and say, “I was born a poor, Black child,” but that’s because I’m mischievous.  I am a hybrid of Scottish, Irish, Cherokee, and Comanche ancestry.  I was born and spent most of my youth and some of my adulthood in the southwest.  I’ve lived in a lot of places in the U.S. and Western Europe.  I have a background in academia and still teach university courses in English and Communications from time to time, though I consider myself a full-time author and independent publisher now.  I started my literary life as an early reader, and I’ve been writing fiction and poetry for well over 20 years, though I hadn’t considered publishing commercially until about 5 years ago.

Over the years, I’ve written medieval fantasy, poetry, and contemporary literary fiction (mostly short stories, at which I think I truly suck).  My main writing interest is Speculative Fiction with a decidedly feminist slant, and I lean toward epics.  I’m in the process of releasing my current work, the first novel in The Staves of Warrant series, in serial form.  The novel’s parts will be the first released by my independent publishing house, Bookmite Press. I hope to have the company open for submissions by the end of this year.

 You describe your work as speculative fiction. What exactly does that mean?

Laughs.  Let’s just get right to the hard question, shall we?

That’s why they pay me the big bucks. And by “they,” I mean me, and by “big bucks,” I mean nothing at all. *grins*

Speculative fiction is most often an umbrella category for works of fiction that are difficult to categorize in traditional genres.  Speculative Fiction has a lot of sub-genres.  For instance, one sub-genre, science fantasy, is a blend of science fiction and fantasy.  When one tosses in the epic aspect, something like Star Wars or the Pern series would fit into the category.

Although there was political discussion about specific works being speculative in ancient Greece, the term “Speculative Fiction” seems to have been coined in literary circles in 1889 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in an article on Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward.  That short novel is something of a dystopian Rip Van Winkle tale that grows around a science-fiction element—in this case, something akin to (but definitely not) cryosleep.

Since the term was coined, however, the genre has all but refused to be defined, and there are about as many definitions as there are definers.  Nathan E. Lilly at Greententacles, for instance, has an assortment of definitions by a variety of literary types.  For anyone interested in exploring the topic further, I’d say Lilly’s list is a good place to start.  Interestingly enough, the list is housed on a section of the site entitled “Articles That Never Die.” The fact that the definitions were posted in 2002 and are all, without exception, still relevant to the discussion of what constitutes Spec-Fic speaks volumes for the nebulous nature of the genre itself.  Looking backward to Bellamy (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) and the birth of the term in relatively contemporary literary discussion, Spec-Fic definitions have been debated for over 200 years.  I can’t resolve that debate.

Speculative fiction elements in my own work include:

  • More than one genre (epic, fantasy, science fiction = epic science fantasy)
  • Magic in the same narrative space as science and technology
  • The “what-if,” interrogatory nature of the story

 And you write epic fantasy, too?

Without injecting spoilers, I will say The Staves of Warrant trilogy is set in the Shifting Worlds universe, and the first world that readers see is described by characters and appears to function like a medieval fantasy world.  The story is epic in the traditional sense, both in scope and in length.

 What made you decide to write across these genres?

My muse couldn’t resist the imaginative possibilities.  I laughingly say that as an Aquarian, I just can’t resist What Ifs.  I’m sure I drove my parents insane with all of my “But why” or “But why not?” questions as a child.  And maybe because so many of those questions weren’t or couldn’t be answered, playing with boundaries, mixing up the Whys and Why Nots with the What Ifs, feels right to me.  Spec-Fic allows me to keep asking questions, some of which may never have answers.

My own personality aside, published authors really shined the light on Spec-Fic for me, particularly female authors who pushed the boundaries of genre in their works.  Mary Shelley, Madeline L’Engle, Zora Neale Hurston, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Paula Gunn Allen, so many more.  But the main influence was Octavia E. Butler.

The first of Butler’s novels that I read was Dawn, the first book in the Xenogensis Trilogy.  Butler’s depictions of change, language constructions, and a third gender in her trilogy blew me away, particularly when the third gender evolved.  After that, I knew I wanted to explore science fiction.  Fortunately, I was attending a university that houses the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library, so I started digging up all kinds of information and decided to write a Masters Thesis on Butler’s work.  When I got to Kindred, I was confounded as to why it had been categorized as “fiction.”  A book about involuntary time travel without machines and interaction with one’s own ancestors as fiction without any genre label, not even science fiction or fantasy?  Why was the categorization of Kindred so disconnected from the elements in that novel?  I didn’t realize at the time that science fiction had such a negative connotation in the literary world because so much of what I’d read in the genre had been just as good as the “Classics.”  I suspect, though couldn’t prove, that look down the nose is partly why Butler’s publisher chose fiction as the bookshelf it would sit on at Barnes and Noble and in libraries.  The last time I looked, Kindred had sold well over a million copies, and many of those copies were to students, as the book became quite popular in high-school and college English courses.  I still wonder how much influence the categorization as fiction had on Kindred’s academic use and commercial success.  If I had to label Kindred as anything other than Spec-Fic, I’d call it historical science fiction or historical fantasy or historical science fantasy.  The label fiction just doesn’t do justice to its genre complexity.

Wow, that’s some food for thought: genre labels as either limiting or frontier-opening. I think I’ll throw that idea open to the blog readers.

In the case of The Staves of Warrant trilogy, the story insisted it was science fantasy.  I tried initially writing it as a medieval fantasy with a single point of view, but I discovered that the story of Grainne and other characters couldn’t be told in the confines of a single voice, a single novel, a single world, or a single genre.   The crossovers between culture, magic, myth, science, and technology demanded diversity.  I tossed out the whole lot of drafts (5 novels in total) and started over, this time with a Spec-Fic premise from the beginning, working to reveal that premise little by little.

What types of stories does fantasy/spec-fic/epic fantasy make possible?

Stories that defy boundaries.  Stories of revolution (think Star Wars).  Tales about how we evolve and adapt over time, space, and cultures.  Tales of warning.  That’s not to say that revolutionary, evolutionary, or cautionary tales are unique to fantasy/spec-fic/epic fantasy genres, but Spec-Fic is a fertile breeding ground for them.

What audience do you think your work attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

My work is definitely for readers 18 and older.  Writing for a mature audience gives me the freedom to explore gritty, unjust situations without fear of scarring some unwitting child’s innocence.  I can create characters who are absolute scum and who do awful things to others.  Writing for adults means laying the responsibility of choosing to read and think about issues like human trafficking, rape, and other social violence and injustices at the feet of those best-prepared to handle them emotionally and psychologically.

My beta readers are fans of Speculative Fiction, Feminist Fiction, Fantasy, and Science Fiction.  Throughout the trilogy, neither Fantasy nor Science Fiction is absent, though readers may not realize that fact immediately.  My hope is that my particular blend of those two genres will appeal to readers of both genres, as well as readers who enjoy stories with strong, yet flawed,  female protagonists.

How does an epic scope affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

In epics, the stakes for characters are high and challenges not easily overcome, though those elements are not unique to epics.  Progress and failure are interdependent, and in an epic tale, take time to unravel.  The epic hero/ine, for instance, usually travels away from home to learn the lessons that s/he brings back.  Depending on the complexity of what s/he must do and learn, the story can take a substantial amount of time and pages to unfold, particularly in the context of sub-plots.

From the sheer standpoint of the amount of time it takes to read an epic story, readers set off on a journey in which their time is a tangible stake.  I am painfully conscious of that commitment and stake.  Yet, a story that spans a broad distance (time, space, culture, etc.) also gives readers a chance to see characters develop in a multitude of environments and circumstances.  That’s something of a trade-off, and I hope readers feel the investment was worth it in the end.

The nature of an epic is tragic, though not always in the sense of “and the main character dies,” and there is a fine line between tragedy that bums out a reader and tragedy that is situated in a more satisfying conclusion.  So, readers have a stake in the endings of epic stories.  The risk that the story won’t turn out the way they’d expected or a beloved character will die, are stakes.  Readers are savvy.  If they invest time and emotional energy in a story, they expect satisfying fruition.  Bilbo Baggins survives, but is he happy after his own adventures have ended?  Is the end of Tolkien’s epic satisfying to the reader?  I can’t speak for all readers.  For me, it was satisfying despite the element of tragedy with Frodo.  As a reader, I expect an epic to tell a big story with a lot of smaller stories inside of it.  By using smaller stories to ameliorate the tragedy in his tale, Tolkien was able to bring his story to satisfying fruition for me.  He proved to me that I’d invested my time wisely.  My stakes in his story paid off, despite the cost of my emotional tie to an endearing, heroic character who doesn’t survive.

Why do you think people love to read speculative fiction? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I hate to speak for readers other than myself, but I’d guess readers who love Spec-Fic do so partly because they are drawn to the worlds of possibility the genre delivers.  Spec-Fic lets readers’ imaginations soar in directions they might not have otherwise—beyond the realms of reality, plausibility, and probability to cohesive possibility.  Consider China Miéville’s Railsea or Perdido Street Station.  They contain settings and characters that are unreal and both implausible and improbable, but within the stories’ plots, settings, and characterizations lie cohesive possibilities—someones, sometimes, somethings, and somewheres that readers can accept as what Miéville molds them into, as well as what they may represent to readers.

I think Spec-Fic readers enjoy flights of fancy, too.  Because Spec-Fic has no boundaries except those the author inserts or readers interpret, it is fluid, and fluidity is a desirable trait in flights of fancy.

Speculative fiction draws readers into the story, prompting them to ask themselves the same questions the author and the characters are asking. What would happen if . . . ?  How would this change culture, relationships, perspectives, me?  Could something like this really happen? Has it happened already?

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

That’s a tough one because I’ll read anything that’s well-written.  In addition to fantasy, science fiction, and spec-fic, I have been known to pick up a detective novel or dozen, a horror story, a romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, and “Classic literary fiction.”  As a child, books and reading were my windows into worlds that interested me more than the one I lived in.  I guess I’ve never gotten over that entirely, though I now also see them as windows into a world more complex than my child-mind could comprehend.  I read all genres because I’m compelled to stare out into the world through every sliver in the stained-glass window of literature.

incorrigible-finalD smallHow can readers get in touch with you?

I love to connect with readers and other writers and just about anyone interested in writing, publishing, or Speculative Fiction.  I adore hooking up with people who love gardening, architecture, and animals, especially big dogs!  News about my work is always posted on the sites listed below:

World Enough and Time is my Website and blog, which includes book reviews of works by other authors, articles on various topics I’m interested in or that readers and friends have asked me to discuss, links to my interviews, and coming in the very near future, author interviews and posts by some of my writer friends!

I also hang out on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

For occasional e-mails with news about releases, sales, and giveaways, I have a mailing list that people can subscribe to (and unsubscribe from at any time).

Thanks, Morgen, for spending some time here! I definitely want to throw some of these topics open to blog-readers; what do you guys think about genres that are every genre and no genre at all? Are genre labels limiting? What shelves do you shop in the store?

Why Write: Sci-Fi With N. E. White

Today we welcome N. E. White, one of my very first blogging-writer friends! She writes fabulous sci-fi and fantasy, and even won that kooky contest Emmie Mears and I ran over Halloween. Today she’s hear to talk about why she writes sci-fi, so let’s give a big, warm welcome to Nila! *pause for applause*

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m a five foot tall, married, chubby runner/cyclist/kayaker/former fire ecologist/current geographic information specialist that also likes to write. Oh, and I have a fourteen-year-old dog that still thinks he’s two.

I write mostly in the fantasy/science fiction genre, though I’ve been known to play around with magical realism and I’ve even attempted a few literary pieces. After shelving a novel series, my concentration has been on short stories. Currently, I’m working collaboratively on a novella with Joe Bailey about an ageless serial killer on a mining space ship.

What made you decide to write sci-fi?

Science fiction allows a writer to explore questions of social distress in terms of technology that we create for ourselves. In essence, as we rely more heavily on complicated technology to live, we set our own traps and maybe even our ultimate demise. Setting my characters in these situations makes for good drama and, working in the context of a future that we’ve built, allows me to put a mirror up to our desires. Sometimes what we see makes us question the world around us and our own participation in that world. I hope what I write makes people question why certain systems are the way they are or what it truly means to move over to a new technology.

What types of stories does sci-fi make possible?

Stories with awesome space ships! And cool technology! (That’s for sure! Sci-fi scares me because I’m afraid to make up nonsensical pseudoscience.) 

Seriously, though, for me, it is about the how technology changes us. I mean, look at how it has changed the way we, meaning you and me, live today. We are virtually connected to millions of people around the world. Yet, that connection is only secured in rich, stable regions of the world and it is a superficial connect at best. And what about the rest of humanity that doesn’t have the luxury of instant information at their fingertips? What dichotomous states are we seeding and what will that look like in the future?

Then there’s just the way people interact with technology today. So many young people rely on their devices for directions to their destination, or find the best used bookstore in town, even who your next sexual partner might be. We also use it to research items on the fly. But just how reliable or accurate is that information? And just who is feeding us that information? What filters are being used to give us an answer?

One of the issues Joe and I are exploring in our novella is how a young detective uses a virtual data room that stores centuries worth of information about the space ship they live on. The database is accessed through a three-dimensional, holographic interface. However, the algorithms used to retrieve the data “fills in the blanks” for either missing data or makes guesses at what information the detective might need, thus subtly influencing how an investigation might go, or not go. We see this today with Google search algorithms. Google essentially gives us what we want to see, not everything we should.

What audience do you think sci-fi attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Wow, that’s a good question. I know I’m attracted to science fiction and my background is a mix of environmental activism and computer modeling. Most of the writers I hang out with over on SFFWorld.com have IT and/or science backgrounds. So, I guess, folks like me.

When I first started to write science fiction, one thing I realized early on is that most science fiction readers are really smart. A lot smarter than me. I thought, if I want to continue writing science fiction, my characters would have to get a lot smarter! The stories I try to tell pit smart characters against terribly hard choices.

How does sci-fi affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

It offers choice.

In other genres, especially some that follow the traditional fantasy tropes, many of the characters have limited options on how they can act, and what influences their behavior can be limiting. But in science fiction settings, I find the opposite is true. The possibilities are limitless and that gives the character (and the reader) a glut of choices. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it is one that makes you think.

For instance, I’m working on a short story titled G.O.D.S., for government overt detection system. I know, that’s not a very imaginative acronym, but real-life government acronyms are often very bland so my lack of creativity works for this piece! Anyway, it’s about a society where strict oversight is managed by an artificial intelligence. It tracks everyone’s habits and behaviors, and weeds out unsavory individuals. On many accounts, life is great. Those in the center, who live by the rules, enjoy a level of freedom that we currently enjoy but with the added benefit of feeling completely safe. No rape. No bullying. No murder. No domestic violence. It is all taken care of by the G.O.D.S. In order to maintain this system, all citizens are required to give up the most intimate details of their lives. And most willingly do that – much as we do now with social media like Facebook and Twitter. However, doing so means that your behavior is monitored and corrections can be administered. The final decision to make those corrections (either through corporal or capital punishment) comes from a human, of course. We can’t have AIs going around hurting or killing people, right? The AIs rely on human supervisors to review data when someone is in need of a correction.

The crux of this story is that not everyone is happy with this so-called utopia. They feel stifled and controlled. A rebellion is organized. They infiltrate the ranks of the G.O.D.S supervisors, intent on planting a virus that will destroy the G.O.D.S. database. But our main character, a woman, who has been in the G.O.D.S. training for some time is given a correction case to review – one of a repeated sex offender.

Remember, most people in this society do not know what it feels like to fear people who are close to you. There are no pedophile uncles preying on their nieces and nephews, nor priest or teachers taking advantage of their students. So she is introduced to a world of depravity that is only heard of in stories passed down from aging relatives. The things this one sex offender has done to innocent children shock this rebel, and she has a choice to make: Dole out this man’s punishment (in this case, capital punishment after a series of behavior modifications that did not work) or destroy the system that was used to catch him before he could molest more children. Which would you choose?

Those are the kind of choices science fiction allows me to explore.

Why do you think people love to read sci-fi? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I think people read science fiction for the same reasons they read other genres – a good story. Of course, in this case, it is a good story with high-tech suits, robots, space ships and aliens.

I can’t say how the genre affects its audience, but I can tell you how it affects me. It makes me question my basic assumptions of what I think is right and wrong, and just what is morality when looked at in terms of the universe. Does an asteroid have a moral code? Would other sentient species? And if they did, what would it look like compared to the myriad versions we have here on earth?

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

That’s a hard one. Geez. I can’t say. I love both science fiction and fantasy, but I suppose as long as it is a good story, the setting really doesn’t matter. As long as the world-building is done well, and it is written carefully, I’ll enjoy whatever you put in front of me.

How can readers find you?

Come read my rant about writing at http://nilaewhite.wordpress.com. If you like apocalyptic tales, check out the free anthology I put together with the writers over at SFFWorld.com: The End – Visions of Apocalypse (it has a sci-fi bent).

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed it.

Cultural Themes in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Part 1 of Many

Ah, theme. That elusive concept that our eighth grade English teachers hammered into our tender brains. “What is the theme of A Tale of Two Cities?”

As if a complex masterwork can be adequately explained by a thirteen-year-old’s understanding of the gap between the aristocracy and the peasantry and the political woes that arise as a result. Books just don’t break down that easily—yes, theme is present, but usually in the form of several interwoven-threads that often make a very specific or a very vague point. And literary critics will tell us that the themes we find often say more about us than about the work we’re interpreting.

But we can’t escape it. Writers are so often asked, by people who don’t really care, “What is your book about?”

These people don’t usually want to hear, “Well, it’s about this middle-class, average graduate student, who decides to throw away her huge research grant and, instead of focusing on the social practices of rapidly disappearing indigenous people in northern Asia, decides to go on a quest—both academic and actual—for the origins of a dragon myth. And then she finds that dragons aren’t real, but the myths may stem from a race of dragon people who live in the hills and mountains and are rapidly becoming extinct.”

Some people might want to hear that (it does sound pretty cool, even though I made it up to be ludicrous), but most people want to hear something like, “Well, I’m writing a novel that explores the relationship between those who study native cultures and members of the culture itself.”

That makes you, the writer, sound smart, and the listener can either nod interestedly and walk away or can nod sagely and contribute some nugget of wisdom on the topic.

So not only is theme inescapable, it’s also useful and can help you focus on what is really important in your book.

I’ve digressed so far from what I actually wanted to write about today that I’m going to call this paragraph a transition, and move onto what I really wanted to discuss.

My fiance and I frequently discuss what we’re reading, and I’ve noticed a pattern in his sci-fi books and television lately: the theme that any given race will want to uplift or be uplifted by another race. It’s the myth of progress, but in a disturbing cultural form, not unlike the “white man’s burden.” It assumes that some form of existence is fundamentally better than others, and that all other forms will want to aspire to be like it.

It’s like this, but with “lesser” mammals or alien races.

That’s pretty disturbing, actually.

It got me thinking about common themes in sci-fi and fantasy in the last two decades. I’m not much of a sci-fi person, but I can talk about fantasy fairly well. It seems that there’s been a shift from the 80s/90s fantasy that focused on individual quests, the a hero’s journey that saves the world but is ultimately about becoming fully-actualized self. Nowadays, it seems more like (traditional) fantasy is often about human-on-human atrocity: the wonder is that we’ve made it this far at all, not at how far we can make it.

Are sci-fi and fantasy in the depressive ditch of a manic theme swing? Or is my post-colonial class rearing its ugly head and telling me more about my own education than about the books I’m reading? What are some other themes appearing in contemporary sci-fi and fantasy?

Jazz Punk

Those of you who don’t watch Fox’s latest sci-fi venture, Fringe, missed a miraculous moment last night: the birth of a new genre.

The much-discussed episode, titled “Brown Betty” after a very special breed of pot, is a drug-induced, musical fairy tale told by a mad scientist to the main character’s young niece. It’s a noir tale of a broken-hearted private detective, a young man with a glass heart, and an evil scientist who steals children’s dreams as inspiration for his inventions, which include teddy bears, hugs, and singing corpses.

But I’m not too interested in the plot, as fun and quirky as it was; nope, I’m interested in the setting. The fairy tale combines a prohibition-era, jazz age setting with the sci-fi technology of the Fringe universe… Jazz Punk!

Steampunk is, for the most part, running out of steam (haha), but it’s been a major sci-fi fetish for a good twenty years now. Could this be its replacement? You still have the dark, smokey atmosphere of Victorian London, but this time it’s noir New York, gangster Chicago. Imagine the potential: think of flapper dresses, the fedoras, the high-tech computers! Picture the roaring twenties, but with lasers and flying cars! Swing dance, but with AI?

Yeah, okay, that last one was cheesy, but I think the Fringe writers, in keeping with Fox’s theme week,  inadvertently created an entirely new sci-fi genre — and possibly a new fetish. If you haven’t watched the episode, check it out. Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities… Smoke some Brown Betty if you have to.

“Brown Betty” discussion:
Entertainment Weekly
UGO
Zap2It

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