Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More thoughts on non-fiction

Google-fu, don't fail me now

Shauna's recent post on why fiction writers should read non-fiction struck a real chord with me. That's probably because my editor and I are currently grappling with a science-fiction romance I wrote, oh, more than a year ago now.

In revisiting the novel, I'm struck by all the bits I managed to stick in there that were definitely non-fiction. Quantum physics had a look-in, with a dabble in relativistic computations, fusion experiments and stellar temperatures. Chemistry joined, with scouring of books (and the internet!) to find out what compound could form a message. I used group dynamics and basic human psychology to sketch how people would behave in particular situations. Human biochemistry led to a class of drugs that can tamper with memory. And that's not even including, you know, the actual story! And, of course, I have a background in a few sciences, so there are all my references -- my back-up brains -- sitting on the bookshelves as well. I'd love to grapple more with mathematics, but I fear my love affair with that particular branch of science is shared by few others. Then again, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

So, after noticing all the non-fiction bits, what I'm really worried about now is whether I put too much in. Are readers going to be put off? Even as one fear is allayed, you'll notice that the chronic writer finds another impending apocalypse to focus on. In case you were wondering, we're all like that.

I know, in going through the non-fiction bits of my novel, I haven't told you about the novel itself. Well, that might have to wait until the contract negotiations are concluded. As far as I'm concerned, nothing is a given until that contract has been signed, counter-signed and delivered to both parties. Actually, my sense of scepticism is such that I'm not really happy until the thing has been released, but I'm relaxed enough now to offset my paranoia to a certain extent.

Sooooooo, no finalised contract yet so no news, but still a kick-arse post from Shauna. Hopefully I'll have something for you within a month.(Have I told you how slowly publishing moves?)


Liane Spicer said...

The paranoia comment hit a nerve, Kaz. You might recall I refrained from even mentioning my book by name on my blog for the better part of a year, even after I'd finally gotten that countersigned contract in my hands. I relaxed - sorta - when I saw the thing on a list of upcoming releases on a totally unrelated site.

I have no problem learning strange new things in novels once the info is integral to the story and not an 'info dump', as I've seen it referred to. I've even been known to pore over info dumps and run off to Google stuff I'd had no interest in minutes before. That's one of the fascinating things about books - getting to explore worlds you might not normally encounter. Even if said worlds involve, uh, mathematics and quantum physics.

Kaz Augustin said...

Ah, you're just saying that to make me feel better, Liane. But it's still much appreciated. :) Now, if only I can stop these fingers from tripping over to Jewel's latest post (following mine) and making a comment about snow cones that would probably get me banned from this group .... control, control ....

Liane Spicer said...

Kaz, now I'm curious about this snow cone comment of yours. Reminds me of a joke about Trinidadian migrants to Canada loving the snow the first time or two, then graduating to calling it, ah, a very bad word.

Maria Zannini said...

I like a little techno in my fiction, as long the author doesn't get carried away. Tom Clancy is over the top for me. I feel like he pounds me over the head with more facts than I need to read the story.

I want to be delighted with new info, not lectured.

Having read your other sf books, you are just right. :o)

Shauna Roberts said...

I don't know how common my tastes are, but I enjoy learning new things about the real world in a novel, even if it comes in the form of an info dump. I think in science fiction and historical fiction, one can get away with lots of facts mixed in because the audience is reading partly to get the tech or the history.

Thanks for your kind words about my previous post, Kaz.