When I first wrote Bald New World, I honestly did not think of it as science fiction or dystopian or any other genres. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE science fiction and dystopian books- they’ve inspired me a tremendous deal. At the same time, my main focus was just on telling the story I wanted to with futuristic elements injected in. I mention this because of late, people have asked about how I considered audiences, whether I targeted literary or sf crowds, etc. and that sort of marketing acumen in terms of how I write my books is not something I’ve ever considered. I don’t ever set out to write a book by genre. I just write characters and themes I feel passionate about. In fact, the first time I realized Bald New World could be considered science fiction was when Publishers Weekly named it one of the best science fiction books of the summer. Aside from jumping with joy, the question/thought that popped in my mind was, whoa, BNW is SF. To put things in context, I’ve always viewed SF with extreme respect and felt my stories didn’t have enough SF elements in them to constitute science fiction. Now that people are calling it SF, I’m really honored and happy. As for the dystopian category, I’ve associated dystopia with a certain type of government and technological element; take for example 1984 = Big Brother watching; Brave New World = Soma; Hunger Games = The actual Hunger Games, etc. Governmental structure is barely touched upon in Bald New World and aside from the baldness, there isn’t an overlying dystopian factor connecting the world, aside from general economic uneasiness that is a malaise on everyone regardless of region or race.
As much as I love other types of fiction, science fiction has always been a big draw since childhood. In SF, I could imagine strange worlds where my imagination could run free. RPGs with science fiction elements were my favorites; think the final twists in Might and Magic or the sudden appearance of a Lunar Whale in Final Fantasy IV. I’ve been watching a bunch of shows about space, quantum mechanics, and the meaning of the universe. Sometimes, when I hear scientists theorize on the big bang, it makes me think of how ants would describe traffic on the freeway. At best, they could come up with ideas on what the cars were doing and where they were coming from, but all the why’s would be beyond their grasp. The speculation, the uncertainty of knowing what happened billions of years ago, inspires a sense of humility.
I guess in many ways, my stories accept that the why’s will be unfathomable (just like the baldness is never explained), though I want to keep seeking and searching for those truths. On my part, at least at this stage in my writing, it’s how we endure, how we exist in this universe that interests me.
I know readers and fellow writers will ask me about science fiction and dystopia and audiences and I’ll do my best to come up with answers that I hope will be helpful. But for my part, I like to espouse the philosophy on science from a short story in Watering Heaven called Cold Fusion:
“Fish became atoms and Ethan realized electrons weren’t all that different from humans. Negative, positive energy, fission, anomalous heat production, mysterious reactions. Quarks were feisty son’s of bitches and the Heisenberg uncertainty was just another name for someone who was moody.”