In many ways, we write and read to leave our everyday experience. True, the absolute best story tellers out there shine a light on the wonder of the mundane, the tragedy of the familiar, and the joy of the every day. But when it comes to dadgum space operas, I think it’s pretty safe to say we pick them up to experience something else. If not to escape our life, then certainly to temporarily check out in favor of emotions and sights you’re not going to find at the corner drugstore. Something we otherwise would never be a part of. At least, we think that’s the reason.
What’s curious, however, is how it’s critical to relate every fantastical thing that happens to the most familiar, common experiences. The more fantastical it is, the more important it be for the fundamentals of the story to be as grounded as possible.
This is pretty obvious, of course – most of us have read about it in one way or another, and if you think even for a moment on the more popular myths of our time – Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, so on – it’s all about farmers and common-middleclass peeps being thrust into the affairs of the exotic and powerful. It’s familiar territory because most people spend some part of their time in that fantasy land every day, whether they admit it or not.
So it’s very satisfying when you can draw on something that’s common for oneself, but exotic for everyone else. The hope is that you can, through your own familiarity, make your experience come alive–become real and familiar–to someone else. That hope is rooted in the fundamental desire to share what we are experiencing; after all, if we didn’t want to share it, we’d tell it to ourselves. Instead, we write, draw, paint and talk, so others will feel whatever it is we do. Hope, fear, failure, achievement, love and indigestion, we want everyone else to know what we’ve been through.
AdriAnne got to draw on the fact that she, her husband, and several other members of their lunatic family are all commercial fisherpeople in Bristol Bay during the summer. I say ‘lunatic’ because for those who aren’t familiar with commercial fishing in Alaska, it’s difficult to comprehend the level of work, sleeplessness, and exposure to the elements involved. Weeks on end are spent chasing quality salmon runs in the summer days of Bristol Bay – and by summer I mean weather that will kill you in minutes.
That’s all interesting enough, to be sure, but it just so happens that the fishing villages are fascinating melting pots of weird characters from around the globe, people you would never expect to find at the literal ends of the earth, mixing with a culture that has been there for thousands of years. On top of that, you have the area being next to one of the largest copper and gold reserves on the entirety of planet. The politics–local, national, and international–start getting a little intense.
How could one resist making that part of a story? Particularly a story set in space, with, you know, princes and and royals and galaxies and whatnot. Makes perfect sense, right? Well, yes, except in the end, we ended up avoiding making a massive emphasis of it. To communicate the truth of an experience, to try and weave it into a story as foundational, not fantastical, you almost have to treat it as unexceptional. If the best stories draw on familiarity of experience, then the best way to convey a familiar experience to someone, to make them understand what it’s like from inside looking out, you need to accept it as an unremarkable reality for at least someone in your story. This is their every day experience, now what?
As a result, we got the singular opportunity to take both our protagonists and make both of them fish out of water. We juggled two realities, from two different point of views, and got to shove one characters truth into the others. I feel that’s much harder to pull off writing by yourself, but with two authors we had two sets of life experiences to overlap. Every time you switch a point of view, what was mundane before became new and exotic.
It’s curious that ultimately, the best literature that is deemed escapist is less about escape than it is about illustrating the extraordinary nature of what exists in your own world. If you’ve connected with a character that flits between the stars, and it turns out that their hopes, fears, and motivations are ones you can understand, what does that say about you? More than anything, what reading has done for me is look at the world with new eyes, and my hope would be that after one reads what we’ve written they will go outside and view their cityscape, their backyard, their country vistas, with a new wonder and excitement. Because if the Kuiper Belt is boring to one person, I can promise that sunset on a lake is escapist to them. So look around you, at the fantasy world you live in. Turns out you’ve already escaped. Now what?