What was I thinking?


worf facepalmOver the last few days I’ve been re-editing my first Kestral book, My Life, After Berserker.  And as I did, I had to revisit two things I’d done in the book that honestly left me wondering:

What was I thinking?

The first, and this is an easy one, is the fact that I created a universe where my characters use warp drive to get around (I didn’t call it that, but that’s essentially what it is).  Basically, I took the old faster-than-light-travel-throughout-the-galaxy trope to create my story and setting.  Sure, I gave it a few personal twists, and just turned a blind eye to the fact that even I believe FTL travel in powered ships is bogus… impossible.  Pure fantasy.

So why’d I do it?  Because people like FTL travel, the way fantasy lovers like dragons, detective story lovers like brainless molls, and comedy lovers like pratfalls.  Who cares if FTL is impossible, like dragons, brainless molls and pratfalls that don’t break your pelvis?  I wrote it because it’s popular, and it sells.

The other thing I did was about sex.  Yes, the first Kestral story always had sex in it; but in itrs original draft, the sex was what I like to call “kiss-kiss-cut-to-morning” sex, like we used to get in 60s movies and television.

Then, after publishing, I thought: We’re in the 21st century now, and we’re not as prudish as that anymore.  So I rewrote the story, and this time, I turned the very G-rated sex scenes to the kind of hard-R scenes that are becoming the norm today.

But today (well, yesterday) I looked over those scenes… and realized how crappy they were.  Sloppy.  Needlessly detailed.  Just plain bad.

Why did I do it?  Because times have changed, sex doesn’t scare people like it used to, and I believed it would improve sales.  But when I looked at the scenes now, I was embarrassed… because I went too far.  I had to seriously dial a few scenes back, not quite all the way to kiss-kiss-cut-to-morning, but a lot less salacious anatomical detail.

This is one of the dangers of being an artisan author with too small of a support base: You don’t always have people who can review something you’ve done and tell you what’s wrong with it, before you’ve already put it out there for people to buy.  And this was early enough in my writing days that I was not nearly as knowledgeable at my craft as I am now.  I blundered, and it’s probably cost me.  Now I have to go back and fix it.

It’s a good thing that I’m planning to revisit each novel, with the main intention of giving them improved covers, and to go over the text before they are reissued.  I have a nasty feeling that I have a lot of cleaning up to do.


6 thoughts on “What was I thinking?

  1. amacd55

    I remember way back when I was in High School, circa 1948 or so when some British Rocket Scientists “proved” that it was theoretically impossible to escape the earth’s gravitational field with a rocket. If the observations don’t fit the theory, the theory is wrong. Theoretically a bumble bee cannot fly, the theory is wrong. Theoretically it is impossible to exceed the speed of sound with an object or aircraft so that theory is also wrong. So why, since we are a long way from testing the theoretical limits of Einstein (which we already know diverges from the theoretical as we approach the speed of light) why do you assume this theory that “warp drives” are also impossible? Never forget that the ancients were stumped for hundreds of years because one cannot describe nothing mathematically so they shunned the concept of a zero. So I suggest we just coast along with any SciFi concepts like warp drives, “Beam me down Scotty” and other things that may become reality is form other than what we imagined. After all, nearly all the concepts in “20000 Leagues Beneath the Sea” have been invented. I don’t know of any SciFi readers who are uncomfortable with any of the “impossible” concepts put forth, just with the explanations of how they are possible, which is outside our present knowledge, but is not banned from being common knowledge in the future.


  2. Future engineering marvels notwithstanding, comparing the breaking of the sound barrier to the breaking of the light barrier is a lot like comparing a single carbon molecule with an entire planetary ecosystem; a difference of a number of orders of magnitude.

    Which is why assuming we can break that barrier by “pushing harder with bigger engines, and maybe some kind of energy field that we don’t even know if it’s possible to generate, much less control” is a conceit akin to assuming a paramecium can walk to Pluto.

    Of course, I’ve postulated another way to cover astronomic distances (in Verdant Skies)… what I was referring to in this post was the “big engine and fantasy energy field” method of moving faster than light like we sail the seas. Maybe we’ll figure out a way to cover those distances someday… but I’m sure it won’t be like that.


      • Massive ships flying faster than light is the kind of thing a writer does in order to avoid freaking out his audience too much, to make an outlandish idea seem very familiar and do-able… a “flat Earth” way of thinking if there ever was one. So all of us authors writing about FTL drives are already acting like flat-Earthers.

        Sometimes you have to just admit that things are just plain impossible. As much as we might like to do it, we can’t lounge around on passing clouds; so we admit that, and write about something that is possible (like flying around in blimps).

        We need to look at travel between the stars the same way, and be willing to admit that what we want may just be impossible; it’s time we accepted that, and started writing about what IS possible.


  3. In my current writing project, FTL is already an established thing, and I can’t change that now. But as I’ve become more and more familiar with science and science fiction, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the idea of a civilization restricted to only one star system. Whatever my next project will be, I think I’ll probably use the Solar System as the setting and leave the rest of the galaxy out of it.


    • As the author, you can put whatever you want into your novels… including bits you know you don’t like, but your audience does. Or vice-versa. Sometimes that may mean reconsidering whether a story can be told with one of those elements… or, if not, whether you should be writing something else. But it’s always your choice.


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