My tastes in fiction run toward the weird. In part, I blame Frank Herbert for this because I got into him early on. With the revivors series wrapping up and future projects now moving onto my writing desk, I now find myself feeling like a kid in a candy store…but a lot of the candy is weird.
I mean some of it is more mainstream – there’s Swedish fish and bubble gum on the shelves there, but there’s also zotz (Google it if you’re too young to remember those). I loved zotz, but they weren’t for everybody (also, for those keeping track, the spell-check suggestion for ‘zotz’ is ‘Zoloft’). As I sift through potential ideas I find myself asking the question – how weird is too weird?
That answer will vary I’m sure between readers, agents, publishers, etc. and even individuals within those groups. Would The Green Brain or A Man of Two Worlds fly today? For those who haven’t read either of those The Green Brain is about (in a nutshell) a type of intelligent organism which commands social insects to cluster together into human form…the impostors infiltrate ‘green zones’ from which humanity attempts to dominate the planet’s ecosystem. A Man of Two Worlds is about a race of super powerful aliens called the Dreenor who are able to turn their thoughts into reality. When one of their creations (Earth) invents interstellar travel (which could allow them to actually discover the Dreenor themselves), they slate us for destruction but one Dreenor goes to Earth without permission to coinhabit a human body – inside that body is where the fate of the Earth will ultimately be decided.
If you haven’t read either book, then when you read those descriptions just now, did you roll your eyes or did you add one or both to your Amazon wishlist? Would either book fly today, do you think, if they were written by someone without the Dune cred to back it up?
I don’t pick projects strictly based on how ‘sell-able’ they are, but the reality is that (especially at this stage in my career) I can’t completely ignore it either. Even if I were to completely ignore it, there are others involved in the process who still get to say ‘no’ if I cut a hard left toward the wrong side of wacktropolis. Whether this is a good thing or not isn’t a black or white issue, and at least for the time being I’m glad to have someone tap me on the head if I start to head too far down the rabbit hole but still I’m left to wonder…at what point does ‘weird’ begin to move into ‘inaccessible’? Are you intrinsically more inclined to take the journey when you already trust the author? Does an author have to write a Dune before he or she can get away with A Man of Two Worlds? Or do you just love the bizzaro and immediately dive in? Does none of it matter and no matter how offbeat the concepts are story trumps all?
At what point do you begin to lose connection with a story or its characters? What if it takes place on a different planet where none of the characters are human (though this isn’t the case with any of my current stories) can you still relate to it? What if the reality it takes place in is different from our own (a Permutation City, for example)?
This is more a matter of curiosity for me – whatever I pick in the end will (if history is an indicator) be the candy that I most have a taste for at the moment I grab for it, but I’m interested…what are your favorite stories you might consider ‘out there’, and why?