A couple weeks back, I had a post about space opera
, which has been on my mind not only while I finished reading Judith Tarr's Forgotten Suns
, but also because Dave Trowbridge and I are back on track with rewriting Exordium for ebook. (Book View Cafe
The rewrite has been interesting. Of course I wanted to clean up the prose (I have learned a lot in twenty years, though yes, I still have a long way to go) but there were also aspects we wanted to bring up-to-date. And never is it more obvious that fiction is very much about our time, whenever it is set, than in looking at futuristic science fiction.
Thanks to Dave, our tech is actually really strong. He was one of the first to figure out what FTL strategy and tactics would actually be like, something that sparked fans among Navy and other types in Washington DC, like Chris Weuve
. Dave also invented the boswell, which is pretty much what the Apple wrist watch is going to be in about five years. This was before cell phones were anything but a gleam in tech-geeks' eyes.
But here is where writing for your time edges in. If you read as much history as I do, you won't be surprised about how long it takes to bring Hot New Tech to actual tactical advantage, in terms of warfare, and in terms of social adaptation, how long before the Not New Thing changes from a peculiarity of the rich and the wild to everyday. That progress usually parallels cost coming down, but not always. Making a new thing part of one's everyday life is an interesting process, and doesn't progress at the same pace from person to person, house to house, region to region, country to country.
Anyway, in rereading Exordium preparatory to rewriting it, it occurred to us that though our characters had boswells, they actually weren't using them in times of emergency: they were going to the nearest public computer console a bit like we went to the nearest phone booth back in the eighties. Oops. So when the action required it, we had to invent reasons why the characters couldn't boz each other. Security blackouts are convenient that way.
Another aspect in which we were ahead of the time was socially. Both of us had been bothered by one single black character in Star Wars 2 (Star Wars 1, much as we adored it, and went back to watch it a kajillion times in 1977, was Rilly Rilly White), Lando Calrissian. In our future, white skin was socially repellent: people gennated for melanin production for health as well as social reasons.
And because we were a female and male team, it had been my goal from the time we pitched the TV series to HBO and NBC in 1980 (right before The Big Strike, which is why you never saw it on TV) to get female starship captains and pirates and everything else in there, not just men in action, women standing around as targets, fridgesicles, or ladyprizes. That included looking at the institution of marriage in the far future, and relationships, given universal health care and birth control, which we figures would lead to a polysexual attitude in most, but not all. In rereading, I could still see traces of unexamined assumptions which we have worked with without changing the story materially.
Another aspect was cuss words and pejoratives. We'd made up our own cuss words because at that time TV Standards and Practices were strict. Besides, I figured, if there really was sexual equality in the future then pejoratives would not be female specific. We kept the made up words when we went to book, though we knew such things are problematical. We've finessed them even more in the rewrite, but they are still there.
It's been a fun process--we're readying the fourth book now, and Dave is tackling the fifth before passing it back to me. They will release this summer.