ozarque (ozarque) wrote,

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Writing science fiction; writing fictional interviews...

After I posted the "cyberdragons as substitutes for children" interview at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/421074.html , Doug sent the following comment:

"The thing that impresses me most about the story is that we hear from only two people (the interviewer and the cyberdragon fashion designer), and the two are on the same side (both aiming to convince the hypothetical CNN viewers that cyberdragons are no threat to the human birthrate) BUT by the end of the story, the readers are convinced that both of them are wrong, that the much-derided protesters are right to be worried, and that the interviewer probably never will have that child 'when the time comes.' How do you do that, Suzette?"

My response was: "At no time do my fingers leave my hands... : -)" However, I got to thinking about this and decided it might be useful to post some rough guidelines. So...

Guidelines for Writing SF Fictional Interviews

1. Start by writing a couple of sentences about some Future Development that you're reasonably certain would be interesting for your readers. If you're doing sf, this FD should be a plausible extrapolation from current reality; if you're doing fantasy --suppose you're interviewing an elf, for example -- it should have internal consistency.

2. Make a list of the factoids that reader would absolutely have to know in order to understand and enjoy the FD you've chosen.

3. Choose a persona for whoever -- or whatever -- will be interviewed in such a way that that choice, all by itself, will carry a respectable portion of your necessary factoids. [For example, just by choosing an interviewee who is a successful and wealthy designer of fashions for cyberdragons, I was able to establish that (a) there are lots of cyberdragons, and (b) some of them wear expensive designer clothing, and (c) plenty of people are willing to spend the money for that clothing, and (d) the future culture doesn't find those other three factoids surprising.]

4. Make sure the interview isn't just an infodump. That means you don't have your interviewer start with something like this:

"As you know, Jemalia, most people in the U.S. today are buying cyberdragons and spending huge amounts of money on them instead of having children and spending money on them the way they did as recently as thirty years ago. What does that mean for a fashion designer like you?"

5. Presuppose as much information as you can, instead of just stating it. For example, one of the interviewer's questions -- about the group of protesters called "Humankinders" -- is:

"You're talking about this crazy campaign of theirs for a federal law making it illegal to own more than one cyberdragon?"

For the interviewer to call the Humankinders' project a "crazy campaign" presupposes that he thinks nobody should be limited to owning only one cyberdragon, and that he feels many people in the culture would agree with him, and that it's common for people to own more than one cyberdragon. It also suggests -- doesn't presuppose, but suggests -- that he thinks it's none of the federal government's business how many cyberdragons people own. The word "own" in the sentence presupposes that cyberdragons aren't considered to be persons.

Suppose I had wanted to tell readers that the interviewer thought limits on cyberdragon ownership should be regulated by the states instead of by federal law; I could have presupposed that by doing the question this way:

"You're talking about this crazy campaign of theirs for a federal law making it illegal to own more than one cyberdragon?"

That would also have suggested that perhaps there were already state laws regulating cyberdragon ownership, and it would have let me raise the issue of people moving in droves to states where those regulations were less restrictive ... and that would have been a whole different narrative.

6. Don't try to turn the interview into an encyclopedia article. It should raise at least half a dozen interesting questions that don't get explicitly answered. You want to leave your readers freedom to work out various different versions of the fictional future you're presenting. For example, consider this question from the interviewer:

"Of course, we want to remind our viewers that a family does need to have one child, at some point. To carry on the family names."

By adding "at some point" -- and backing that up later with "when the time comes" and two more clearly phony "of courses," I was able to presuppose that the interviewer was only paying lip service to the claim that a family should have at least one child, while still leaving open the question of why he felt that he that it was obligatory to state that claim. And saying "carry on the family names" instead of "carry on the family name" let me set aside the default presupposition that what matters in the future U.S. culture is carrying on the father's name, while still leaving open the question of what "names" would mean and how that would be worked out.

Enough for now....
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