Friday, January 23, 2015

Snapshot: Bringing 'Big' Back to Science Fiction

My guest is alternative fiction author, Dale Cozort. He discusses how Sci-fi seems to have it's original premise of big ideas and adventure.

Snapshot is my ambitious attempt to open up a new universe for science fiction, full of intriguing ideas and open for adventure, for escape.

Science fiction started out as the fiction of big ideas, of adventures and of escape from the mundane world. In the early days, cardboard characters and iffy plots often accompanied those big ideas, but stories gained substantial audiences based on the power of the ideas, the adventure and the escape.

Science fiction changed over the years. We realized that the old dreams of inhabited Mars and Venus weren't viable. Nothing in the solar system offered much in the way of adventures or escape. Inhabitable planets meant going to the stars and interstellar travel may never become feasible. Much of the escape and adventure function of science fiction has moved to fantasy.

The cardboard characters and iffy plots of early science fiction are mostly gone and not lamented, but the balance swung so far in the other direction that much of science fiction now is essentially literary fiction with spaceship decals. Characters spend stories embracing their dysfunctions rather than dealing with big ideas or having adventures.

Science fiction with big ideas and adventure has become far too rare for my tastes. I wrote Snapshot not just as a novel but also as a universe to explore big ideas and have adventures, a new space to replace the old inhabitable Mars and Venus.

How did I do that? Snapshot is set in a universe where for at least eighty million years extraterrestrials with godlike powers have made exact replicas of Earth's continents--including plants, animals and humans. They put the replicas (nicknamed Snapshots) in snow globe shaped artificial universes, connected like strings of pearls by vents high over their oceans. Life on the Snapshots goes on, getting more and more different than life back on Dirtball Earth. And anyone in the Snapshot universe with a plane that reach the vents can fly to universes where dinosaurs still roam, where Nazis or Soviets rule Europe or where Indians still rule North America.

The setup lets me write big ideas and adventure. Snapshot  the novel is set on one of the Snapshots. Greg Dunne, a Middle East analyst, is kidnapped from the brand new US-2014 Snapshot and ends up in the middle of a feud between German ranchers and ranchers from a Korean war era US Snapshot over ranchland in an ancient, thinly-inhabited continent-sized Madagascar Snapshot. The setting is a mix of the Wild West, the US of the 1950s or early 1960s, the Cold War and pre-World War II Europe, but with electric cars, nuclear power plants, windmills and some totally unique elements.

Lurking in Snapshot is a question: If we met the United States of the late 1950s or early 1960s, how would we get along with them? US-1953 Snapshot is not exactly the US of the 1950s, but its close. It hasn't had a personal computer revolution or an Internet revolution or a cell phone revolution, and it's not sure it wants any of those things.

Here is a snippet between a German major and am African-American US diplomat that illustrates the issue: 

"Don't figure US-53 are the good guys because they have US in front of their name. You won't like each other."
"I'm sure you would enjoy watching two versions of the US feud. Tell me why we won't like them."
"You in particular because your skin color isn't loved there. Your Snapshot in general, because you're both used to being the alpha dog. Power matters. None of the rest does, not cultural similarities or the fact that US-53 people are sort of your brothers and cousins. You may be brothers, but both of you expect to be the older brother, the one the other tries to be like. That won't end well."
"Maybe not. Then again, we're where US-53 would have been if it hadn't been cut off. They may look at what we've accomplished and want to catch up."
The major laughed. "And that's exactly why you won't get along. You'll be lucky if you don't lob a-bombs through the vents at each other."


Alternate realities you can fly to. 
The Tourists have taken Snapshots of Earth for eighty million years, living replicas of continents. Life in Snapshots quickly diverges from the real world, creating a universe where humans and animals from Earth’s history fly between Snapshots through vents high above their oceans, exploring, fighting, and sometimes meeting themselves.
In 2014, the Tourists’ new North America Snapshot cuts a copy of the modern US off from the real world [and] catches Middle East Analyst Greg Dunne rushing toward Hawaii to join his wife, who just went into labor. The new Snapshot doesn’t include Hawaii, cutting Greg off from everyone he loves and thrusting him into the aftermath of a hidden, decades-old massacre.The prize: a wild, ancient Madagascar Snapshot that controls communications between dozens of Snapshots.

DALE COZORT lives in a college town near Chicago with his wife, daughter, three cats and a lot of books. He is a computer guy and teacher as well as a long-time science fiction fan and writer. He has a diverse range of interests, from computers and history to martial arts. He loves animals and did a stint as a foster home for orphan Samoyeds. He also loves alternate history and does a 5 times per year online newsletter of alternate history scenarios and stories. Snapshot is his fourth published novel.