Hi all. I’m Stephen B. Pearl and Lisa has been kind enough to let me bend your eyeballs for this Guest Post.
I’m going to discuss my Science Fiction, Detective, Erotica. Romance novel, Slaves of Love. Looking at the description this seems a perfect opportunity to explore genre purity. Yaa right. If you’ve read much of my stuff you know I have a hard time coloring within the genre lines. I would like to talk about the challenges and joys of writing cross genre.
The joys are that you get to be very original and juxtapose worn-out plot lines and stock elements from one genre into another in ways that make them fresh. For example, in Slaves of Love I begin with a twist on the classic damsel in distress. Astra, my female lead, has been kidnapped and Race, my male lead, has to save her. The twist is that Astra is lying in Race’s bed. Her mind has, in a sense, been kidnapped by Todd, a thug, who slipped her protoerotoskillin, a drug that forced her to imprint on Todd turning her into a virtual slave doomed to have a mental breakdown if she fails to obey his orders. Todd, a member of the criminal syndicate, has ordered Astra to go to the asteroid belt as a mail-order bride. A miner on the belt has paid a pretty penny for the girl of his dreams who, after re-imprinting on the miner, will be completely obedient to his whims.
Thus an old chestnut takes on a new twist. Another old plot line with a fresh face is that Race has to recruit a criminal to help him force Todd to release Astra by supplying more of the drug so that Astra can be re-imprinted and be told not to lose her free will. What makes this unique is that Ralph, the criminal, is actually an artificial personality imprinted into Race years before so he could infiltrate the European crime syndicate.
Thus by applying a science fiction twist to two concepts that you are likely to find in old westerns they become new and open the door for a lot of interesting conflict. Two men inhabiting one body, each vying for supremacy, sounds like fun to me. Make them both interested in the same woman and the sparks are sure to fly.
This kind of thing is made possible because science fiction is primarily a genre of setting. You can tell pretty much any type of story in a science fiction world. There is a proviso though, to tell the story well the science should be an essential element of the story. The futuristic drugs and psychological manipulation in Slaves of Love are the main source of conflict.
The detective story part of the book is in essence fairly standard. A tough as nails gum shoe, ex-cop has to gather information then confront the bad guy. Problem is everybody undergoes psychological conditioning at the age of ten so that they can’t commit an act of violence. Sociopaths are immune to this conditioning and Ralph is a sociopath which is one of the story lines. This would fall under the challenges of crossing genre because you have to stay at least somewhat consistent to the nature of both. So how can Race be a tough guy if he doubles up in pain anytime he throws a punch? I won’t give it away beyond saying that the answer is in some forms of martial arts training. Still, staying consistent to both the science fiction parameters and the hardboiled detective took some mental tap dancing.
The erotic elements of the book were another challenge. You’d think they’d be simple since some things never change, well mostly but you’ll find that out if you read the book. This was more just the challenge that you face every time you write a sex scene. You don’t want to throw the scenes in for no reason. In good writing every word pulls weight. Everything must advance the plot or characterization. The real temptation is to just drop in the sex scenes and think they will be enjoyed for their own titillation factor. This misses the point. At no time is a person more vulnerable or fulfilled and alive than during the act of making love. In contrast, at no time is someone more disenfranchised as a human being and reduced to a material object as when they are rutting like a dog in heat. Both acts share the same mechanics, so a sex scene is a place you can delve into character, explore motivation, and define the character as a hero or a villain. Thus the erotic elements should be used for this. They should drive the plot forward.
Now for the romance. I used this as the driving motivation of the piece. Romance can encompass erotica and in fact does in Slaves of Love, but it also extends beyond it. Race awakening Ralph from the depths of his Psyche so that he can save Astra, placing his own identity at risk, is a classic great Romantic gesture. A man who might not cross the street for sex will move heaven and earth for love. The trick in Slaves of Love was to not let the romance overwhelm the action elements. Love is the key that saves both Race and Ralph and it needs to be present throughout the book, but mostly in the background fueling the heroic actions.
It is very easy when putting romance into a science fiction book to end up with a novel that could have been written in the present day and probably should have been. This is because love, like sex, doesn’t change over time. The stories of a ninety year old woman’s first love may well have marked similarities to the things that her great grand daughter is going through in the present. To integrate that it was important to keep that eternal element but not let it overwhelm the book in general. It was also important to let the state of the society influence things in a logical way. When you have to pay tuition and may have your family cut you off finically because they don’t like your boyfriend you can be motivated to rush moving in together for financial reasons. Also, if you’re pregnant in the future fetal extraction and freezing or transfer to a host mother who can’t conceive on her own may be real possibilities.
So I guess what I’m saying is when you write cross genre you really need to watch your proportions and blend the different elements letting each alter but not overwhelm the others. Making an internally consistent logically cohesive book should be the goal.
In any case, thank you for reading, and thank you Lisa for this opportunity to pontificate.
If you’re interested in finding out more about my published works or me you can check out the other entries on this site and or visit any of the below web addresses.
Gandalf taught me how to be a spirit wrapped in flesh. Aragorn taught me how to be a man. Frodo taught me of perseverance, and Samwise of loyalty. Along the way I learned of the power of the written word, the gift it could give by slipping past our defences to show us the best and the worst in ourselves. So who is Stephen B. Pearl? He is a lifeguard, husband, mystic, science enthusiast, home handyman, backyard mechanic, and writer. Like most of us the face he wears changes with the company and the season. His three cats know him as pride alpha, I like to think so, though servant might be more accurate. Who am I kidding? My wife runs the pride; I just try and stay out of her way.
At any rate, I am a man of middle years who lives in a house in Ontario, Canada with three cats, a wife and a sincere hope that you will enjoy my book.