Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nanowrimo Break: Sleepless and Bitty Details

Sleepless by Charlie Huston is one of those near future science fiction things you hear about but never realized exists until you hold it in your hands. It's detailed.

Most of the time when someone says 'detailed' he means 'they talked about a space ship a lot and maybe there was a character and stuff happened.' Or maybe the author dedicated forty pages on fashion styles to explain why the protagonist took that parasol with those boots.

Sleepless is detailed in that every part of the world - the WOW game stand-in, the human bombs, the devastating disease - are effortlessly referenced in sentences and phrases before Huston dedicates entire scenes to explaining just what the hell is going on. The background details are such a part of the world that his characters live these pieces of science fiction and the reader can breathe it all in without pausing to admire the damn spaceship for pages on end. Think of the last time you had a fight with a friend on a message board and tried to explain to someone (to whom message boards did not exist) how you had trouble communicating in real time. The important part of the story you are telling this person is not that you have to wait minutes, hours, or days to get the last-last word in, but that you are having an argument with a friend and the bastard won't lay down and accept defeat in light of your brilliance. In between recounting witty repartee, you still have to explain message boards. That's the importance of detail.

As I Nano (only four thousand words behind, it's okay, that's a weekend marathoner, no problem) I have to keep detail in mind because while it's tempting to boost a word count with nonsense like two thousand words of what color sneakers my character has on, the bits I get to keep later while Nanoedmo'ing (National Novel Editing Month) are the pieces that advance the story while maintaining a careful snare around the reader's attention.

If you have a minute in between typing madly and procrastinating just as madly, give Sleepless a try. It's science fiction without the spaceships and it's a brilliant apocalypse that will make you wonder about the tiny things in life. And if near future science fiction can't make you doubt every minuscule interaction in your life with a tiny shake of fear, it's obviously not trying hard enough.

Another detailed series I've always enjoyed are the Company novels by Kage Baker. She takes history and future with the same finesse, and while she shines with historical detail I'll admit my favorite of the series is Graveyard Games where she really starts telling us about her world's terrifying future.

No comments:

Post a Comment