Sunday, January 16, 2011

Suspending Disbelief, Part I

Suspending Disbelief, Part I

I confess, I am an avid Sci-Fi reader. When I take time to read, I almost exclusively read that genre. That doesn’t mean I’ve read every Sci-Fi book that’s ever been written, so don’t be surprised if I haven’t read your favorite. I read what I read, not necessarily what you read. I also enjoy children’s movies, like The Last Mimzy. Why? Because I live in the world of reality, and when I take the time to leave that world through reading and watching, I enjoy the imaginative creations of others.
Even with that premise, however, there are constraints. What I read or watch needs to have some element of truth, or else present itself as pure fantasy. I view Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter as pure fantasy, and those works don’t require the suspension of disbelief. You know going in what it is and don’t expect anything except a fun read. Good Sci-Fi, however, ratchets my expectation up a notch. In those works, I expect the plot and characters to have an element of “believability”. Even more, I want them to make a social statement.
I’ll address social statements in writing in a subsequent blog; this one is about believability. To achieve that, many Sci-Fi movies and books link to various religious and philosophical texts. Known works and events ground the fiction, make the story seem plausible by connecting it to something already established. It’s an old approach, and one I intentionally used in my Sci-Fi trilogy recently published by xoxopublishing.com: The Judge, Infinity Quest and The Empress of Tridon.
I knew from the outset the overall story would cover new frontiers of space and time. I believed I could creatively handle the vast distances of space by providing a new view of how everything is put together, but I wanted to ground the story by beginning at the present time with a somewhat flawed child, Daniel, and his father who is totally consumed with biblical study. The first challenge was getting these people off earth.
As with all Sci-Fi and paranormal stories, my main characters had a few “special” talents, otherwise the stories would have been “True Crime” or “Contemporary Fiction”. The three special talents my characters claim are the ability to read and implant thoughts, communicate with pheromones, and learn rapidly. Other than that, they are exactly like everyone else. Of course, anyone with those abilities could also rule the world if they were clever enough, but my characters chose not to, being more concerned with discovering why they were different and staying out of the spotlight.
There are many good reasons for a character not exposing his “differences” in human society, if you’ve got them. The famous red dot experiment most aptly demonstrated one of them. In that experiment, a red dot is placed on one white chicken among many. The other chickens see the red dot and begin pecking at it, eventually killing the chicken with the dot. People can be like that, and history is littered with witch trials, the killing of Jesus, and other atrocities against people deemed “different”.

Because of that, I chose to let my “heroes” remain a secret society, never exposing themselves overtly. I also gave them more than a cultural incentive to do so—a mortal enemy with similar capabilities, but dedicated to the total annihilation of the heroes.
I used the father’s bible study to gradually reveal my heroes’ roots, with specific verses leading to the conclusion that this special group of people, who call themselves Judges (the title of the first book in the trilogy), are descendents of the original Judge, Jesus. The bible is a rich references source to guide one to that conclusion.
That Jesus could teach his elders at age twelve made sense if He had a special ability to learn rapidly. The miracles attributed to Jesus also make sense…if he could implant thoughts in the minds of those who wrote them down. And the ability to communicate using pheromones might be necessary to keep the special abilities within the community of Judges, in the same way pheromones help humans subliminally select mates capable of producing offspring with strong immune systems. Everything was grounded. Everything was linked to some known belief or to some scientific principle.
Of course, Daniel soon reaches his teen years and feels constrained by not being able to be “him”. He throws off the taboos of using his special abilities in secret, and instead uses them to seduce women, to win at gambling, and whatever else will bring him pleasure. He becomes a hedonistic free spirit in an unsuspecting society, but by exposing himself openly, becomes a target for his mortal enemies. His father and other Judges eventually exile Daniel to the Alaskan wilderness, where he is forced to endure severe hardship far from other people until he matures.
Over time, Daniel comes to realize his abilities should be used for the good of society, not for personal gain and pleasure. He is supposed to act in secret to eliminate evil from the world, as all Judges do, and never expose himself or others like him for what they are. Even the words of Jesus help him understand his role, and Matthew 7:1-2 takes on new meaning for him. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Daniel is forced to consider, Isn’t that EXACTLY how judgment works? Christ HAD to have been a Judge! Okay, fine, but how does that get the Judges off earth?
The arch enemy continues looking for Daniel, and eventually finds and murders his parents. Their deaths brings Daniel back from Alaska, where he is confronted with the disposition of his father’s things—including his unfinished biblical study. And that takes Daniel on a journey to Israel and through many interrelated bible verses that lead him to the inescapable conclusion that Jesus might have been the original Judge, and that He was not from earth. In fact, the verse 2 Peter 3:8 opens his eyes, “…With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” and he realizes time might not matter to his distant relatives at all.
A cascade of events and considerable study lead Daniel to understand the genealogy and purpose of his people. The Judges are ancient beyond belief, and they’re purpose is far greater than the elimination of evil from earth’s societies. Unfortunately, as he reaches his conclusions, his enemy is only one step behind him. That’s when he makes his most astounding discovery—a ship buried beneath the Negev desert.
Even that discovery is grounded in verses beginning with Revelations 4:1 and continuing through 10:1; 14:6-9, 14, 15, 17; and 18:1, a multitude of descriptions that could easily have been the Apostle John’s attempt to report encounters with technology ancient man could not put into words. When he finds his way into the ship and finally observes the truth of his distant past, he realizes the ship is accurately described in the book of Ezekiel, a book written to the Jews during their exile in Babylon approximately 600 B.C., and that Ezekiel 1:16 is just another description of an ancient man’s encounter with something that couldn’t be described using language that existed at the time.

Okay, it is probably appropriate I re-state my purpose for writing this blog. It is not to convert anyone to anything, or to say the bible is a good reference for finding a spaceship. No, it is only to say that linking a story to known items makes it more believable, and that is important for me. I’ll be discussing more on this topic in subsequent blogs, the third Sunday of every month, but the links to reality won’t be just the bible. Instead, they will be published scientific papers, the Torah, the Koran, Hindu writings, and other known philosophies that will enable to reader to stay grounded even though the universe being exposed in the trilogy is vast almost beyond imagination.
With the background above, the blurb for the first book of the trilogy, The Judge, should make sense, to wit: While humans see a person’s physical appearance, Judges see a person’s soul, and if evil is found there, they can release it, causing the judged to inflict on themselves whatever they planed for their victims. Judges live secret lives exercising their capabilities for good, but Daniel strays. His hedonistic lifestyle draws the attention of Iblis scouts, the Judge’s ancient enemy. The Judges escape earth in a gigantic ship hidden by their ancient ancestors, and on the distant planet Tridon, find a massive matrix containing trillions of years of recorded lives. Simulations within the matrix lead to surprising encounters with an element of God, and to a technology for generating objects from thought—a technology that prompted the ancients to question their own existence. The question, “Do we exist?” could not be answered, but Daniel finds life was scattered throughout the universes as part of an elaborate experiment to answer a related question the Judges must now consider: "Is infinity real?"
Thanks for reading today, and a special thanks to those sweet and sexy divas who made posting this blog possible.


James L. Hatch



Carol L. said...

Hi James,
What a totally fascinating post. The Judge looks and sounds like a very interesting and entertaining read. Thanks for the post.I usually don't read Sci-Fi but I'd like to read this one. :)
Carol L

Tina Donahue said...

Interesting blog, James - your books sound fantastic!

Marie Rose Dufour said...

Hi James,
I agree with you that people who do read Sci-Fi as a genre want to leave the real "reality" behind when they want to be entertained. The best type of writing in this genre starts off with a "seed" of reality and then grows into the possibilities of "what ifs...". Very insightful post!

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Carol: Hey, thanks for the comment. The concept will be carried forward to some surprising technical papers, including one by NASA showing faster than light speeds. The real deal. Glad you enjoyed the blog!

James L. Hatch said...

Thanks Tina! The trilogy was fun to research and write. And thanks for having me here today!

Marie: You sound exactly like me, so of course I agree with you. If the work isn't grounded, it just leaves me cold. Thanks for stopping by.

Kristal McKerrington said...

Awesome Blog James, I hope that you have many more successful blogs and you have many more sales with it. Kristal x

James L. Hatch said...

Thank you Kristal! One can hope. I have a series of blogs planned for this site that should be interesting. I'll do my best! Thanks for being here!

Terra Pennington said...

Hey James,

Great interview. I have your book The Judge but have not read it yet but after reading the excerpt again I need to move it up on my list. Keep up the good work.


Paris said...

Very interesting blog James. I'm looking forward to Part II!

She said...

Good post. Very interesting. I don't read much Sci-Fi. The few stories I've read in that genre have been good if they were strictly Sci-Fi. All too often most in the genre are Sci-Fi/Fantasy and are heavy on the fantasy. Slowly I am expanding my reading to include genres I've never had an interest in the past.

Rawiya said...

That's Awesome James.

I love your first blog. Truly interesting even though I don't read a lot of sci-fi. Congrats on all you success and I wish you more in the near future.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Terra: The greatest complement an author can receive is from someone who bought his/her book. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the entire series.

Hi Paris: The next one will have links to WW II dictators -- my Sci-Fi has real monsters. I look forward to posting it.

Hello "She": Interesting name, by the way. I tend to avoid Sci-Fi with monsters of the traditional type. Fantasy isn't necessary is the science is solid. Thank you for your comment.

Hi Rawiya! Good to see you here. I saw your email, too. Thanks for stopping by! Thanks for your good wishes.

Francesca Hawley said...

This sounds like a very interesting series and your point about grounding science fiction in known reality is a really great point.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

James I am 100% with you about the need for sci-fi to have some important social statement and that it be believable. To me that means some basis in real science. I like that you have a good reason to hide your characters "special abilities" from the mainstream of society--we know how they treat people who are different. Loved your blog. I already know that your books are wonderful reads. I look forward to your future blogs.

Estella said...

Very interesting post! Your books sound good

Teresa K. said...

Wow James,

Your first blog was really good. I love how you took the SciFI and used scripture base text to tie into your books. From the story line base that you spoke of on the blog, I'm very much interested in reading this.

Can't wait to read the second blog James I also shared this on Facebook.

Di said...

Wow! Intriguing ideas. It continues to amaze me when I read these stories - how do you authors come up with them? Your brains must just work differently - thank you for that or else we wouldn't have so many fun books to read. I also appreaciate when book themes make readers think about social concepts that may cause them to be more open to all.

Fiona said...

I think the best sci-fi starts in reality then expands to the nth degree some facet of it. I tell students that all things invented were thought of by someone who wrote fiction. Leonardo wrote drawings for tanks, submarines, and helicopters in the 15th century! When he wasn't perfecting writing backwards and painting things like Mona Lisa, (which has a background unlike any place on earth...was he an alien?) So for me, sci-fi that brings humans with all of our flaws and humanity, into some "other" place, is the best! Of course, I like to have "naughty" bits in it also!

Anonymous said...

Hi James, I have your book on my to buy list. Sorry, but my funds have been in short supply lately. I do agree with you about suspention of belief. In my SF book SENTI which takes place 500 yrs in the future, I use as much modern day companies as possible. Like weapons, Theh use a Glock 9mm energy pistol or a Berretta 32 cal energy pistol. They use a battery clip that allows from 9 to 30 rounds to be fired before it has to be replaced. Using brand names popular today is just one thing I use to help create suspention of belief.
G W Pickle

Judy said...

I found your post very intersting and informative. Sci-fi is not my preference genre, but it is one that I read often. Your books do sounds very interesting!!

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Francesca: Thank you for your comment! Yes, grounding is vital to me in both what I write and what I read. I know you'll love the next blog (third Sunday of Feb). Thanks for reading!

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Sarah: I am looking forward to writing the social statement blog (Mar 2011). I really appreciate the opportunity you guys are providing to us new people to tell our stories and our thinking behind them!

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Estella, Teresa and Di: Thank you all for your kind comments. The truth is that creativity DRIVES an author. There is little choice about whether to write or not. We write because we must. Thank you for your encouragement! I also look forward to March when I'll cover social concepts. I hope you will like it.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Fiona: There is so much I agree with in your comment. A fundamental premise of the trilogy is that thoughts can be recorded and saved, an extension of the "book of life" concept in the bible. Simulations within such matrices opened entire universes of different thinking. It was fun to write.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi GW: Love your concepts, too. I didn't do too much with weapons, except to use plasma rifles, as well as antimatter and nuclear mines. The most serious weapon in the series was a thought magnifier, a weapon to control the thoughts of others. Artificial realities were also used as weapons. It was a joy to write.

James L. Hatch said...

Hello Judy! I hope you will continue to follow my blogs here. The trilogy is full of new concepts that will challenge even ardent Sci-Fi fans. Thanks for being open to new things!