The TranzCon Series

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IT'S SCI-FI JIM

(but not as we know it)

Why don’t people want to read sci-fi these days? I can remember a time when it was the big seller, maybe back in the days of the Foundation trilogy, or when the first book of the Dune saga was published. Sadly no more. Now most people seem to regard the genre as somewhere for dysfunctional weirdoes to read about bug-eyed monsters getting zapped with laser guns. Or there are other reasons why people might dislike sci-fi, and from some of the movies I’ve seen in recent years I’m inclined to agree with them. In particular I’m thinking about all the aggression and violence that seems to be an essential part of the formula for getting a good return at the box-office.


But sci-fi doesn’t have to be like that: it isn’t what I want to read, and it sure as hell isn’t what I write.


A book I enjoyed recently is Dark Eden by Chris Beckett. It’s an amazingly good story featuring real human beings living in a pre-Bronze age situation. From the rudimentary level of the technology available to the people it could be argued that the book it isn’t sci-fi at all, though for reasons absolutely essential to the plot it takes place on another planet. An alien planet. And that damns it forever - it has to be science fiction so millions won’t take the risk of reading it. And oh boy, are they missing out.


The point is, science fiction can be many things and in my opinion the best examples of the genre are achieved simply by bending the smallest possible number of rules to create a forum in which the author can set a cracking story. The exotic characters, ultra-high-tech hardware and endless mega-death battles somehow expected as part of sci-fi these days simply aren’t necessary.


Take the TranzCon series for example, my books are entirely free from:

  • Men in black helmets (with a heavy breathing problem)
  • Robots (especially the ones bent on exterminating their way to domination of the universe)
  • Death-stars
  • Bug-eyed monsters
  • Anything with green or blue skin or with more than four limbs
  • Beings with chevronned foreheads
  • Laser guns and phaser guns
  • Photon torpedoes
  • Space vehicles with wings (to help them fly through a vacuum?)
  • Evil megalomaniac warlords
  • Massive space battles
  • Dematerialising transporters
  • Wormholes
  • Warp engines
  • Beings who have telepathy, or are able to read minds
  • Humans who turn into monsters
  • Zombies, vampires, werewolves, wizards, goblins, orcs, dwarves, elves, vertically challenged humanoid creatures with hairy feet
  • Dragons (with or without wings - fire-breathing and non-fire-breathing)
  • Beings who can fly or run super-fast, or swing from sticky filament threads
  • Beings “enhanced” with implanted weapons and sensory devices
  • Beings with X-ray vision or superhuman strength
  • Anyone who wears a funny suit in order to somehow enhance their crime fighting abilities

That was how the list stood until a few days ago when I finished reading Ancillary Justice. Now I’ve decided to add "beings that inhabit more than one body" (at any one time) and “politically unaccountable tyrants” (but artificial intelligences with a penchant for music are quite believable so they’re definitely not excluded from any stories I might choose to write in the future).


So, you might feel that with all the exclusions detailed in my list, I’ve wiped out the whole of science fiction I disagree - strongly. My approach to sci-fi is to settle on a few areas where the technology employed goes beyond what we know in 2015, and having decided on these few things I stick to them. I’m writing fiction not fantasy.


Have a read of my books. In the whole of the TranzCon series you’ll find just four areas where the technology is ahead of what we have right now:

  • The ability to move minds from one body to another
  • The ability to focus and modulate gravity waves (which leads to the ability to fly through space faster than the speed of light without the need for wormholes or warp engines)
  • Massive virtual reality matrixes where beings live almost unaware of the fact that they are computer generated
  • Fusion reactors that actually work (and that’s not unbelievable at all, it will happen very soon)

Everything else in the story is as realistic as you’d find in a book on the non-science fiction shelves. And that’s the key to it, the strategic use of a few advanced techniques to open up an almost endless range of new scenarios and possibilities. The technology should facilitate the story rather than dominate it, and if you read Female 22 and its sequels I hope you’ll agree that this is exactly what I’ve achieved.