One thing a good book should do is make you think. One of my high school English teachers insisted that there must be reasons for enjoying a book, and he preferred at least one of those reasons to be some kind of challenge to your intellect. Tell him you liked or hated a book, and his response was always, “Why?” He was right, in most books I’ve enjoyed I’ve found something that appealed to or challenged a deeper belief or emotion. If a book is well written, you shouldn’t have to agree with its contents to appreciate it. (Please don’t tell me you never think through the arguments you consider ‘wrong.’)
Several years ago I realized this world was a long way from what I’d consider to be ideal. Some of that thinking has made it into my Martian Symbiont series. For starters, the Martian leader is a matriarch–always has been, and always will be. Next, the slightly telepathic nature of the symbiont helps people to understand each other, brings about world peace (for the most part,) and enables a person to find the perfect mate. (At this point, you may be wondering how such an ideal world could even have conflict, but for that answer you’ll have to read my books.) As far as science fiction goes, I always wanted it to be funnier. While I enjoy a spoof as much as the next person, there just isn’t enough humor in regular science fiction for me. I’ll gladly walk the fine line in between, as suggested by the slogan on my website, ‘Putting Fun Into Scifi.’
On the other hand, I do use my characters to bring out what I think are serious, relevant issues. Dr. Coren and his friend Jerod are clones of their originals, as are all of the Martians who return from space. From time to time they discuss whether or not they’re actually the same people, or whether the data and experience downloads merely deceive them into thinking they are. At the end of the day, they take the stance that for the most part, it really doesn’t matter. But does it? Would it to you or me, if we were given the opportunity to be cloned, and all the other problems–like premature aging–were resolved? Would you be the same person, and if so, what of the soul of the clone? It’s a bit of an existential question, but an annoyingly persistent one.
In spite of the worldwide agreement, there’s an underground. There always seems to be an underground in science fiction, some faction of society refusing to accept things are as good as the aliens are trying to make mankind believe. In my Martian Symbiont series, it’s the underground that seems to be in the wrong. They don’t have the telepathic ability the symbiont gives, so they have to figure things out with their own thoughts and dialogue. Hopefully, this will get people thinking about how we try to understand each other, and why we fail so often.
In my life, I find failure to understand each other usually happens because people dig in their heels and stop communicating altogether. Or worse, they become too loud and long-winded to listen to ‘the opposition.’ (As a general rule of thumb, the loudest, most violent camp tends to be ‘in the wrong.’ People who are ‘in the right’ don’t appear to need to be as vocal. Politicians might benefit by learning this.) People who are at peace with themselves and others are generally more relaxed than people determined to enforce their point of view.
However, sometimes a person has to stand up for what is right. The Martians in my series won’t stand by and allow Earth to be devastated by hostile aliens, nor will they allow members of the underground who oppose them to become meals for the aliens. The willingness to defend those who disagree with you often marks the difference between civility and barbarism. Attacking people who are no threat to you is insane.
Defending yourself or your country is another matter. Some people who enlist seem to think they get to pick which battles they’ll be fighting–there should be a way of refusing these ‘soldiers of convenience.’ It’s dishonest to sign up for something you don’t believe in. The very act of signing up is a way of choosing sides, and up till then you have the choice. One of my personal pet peeves is people who can’t seem to let their decision stand once they’ve made it. I understand the hesitation to commit to a decision, but not the decision to ‘uncommit’ once it’s made. I prefer my waffles on a plate, at breakfast.
While I don’t consider myself an environmentalist–I love my car and the personal freedoms it provides; relax, it’s fuel efficient–I do believe that we should try to limit pollution and prevent various plant and animal species from becoming extinct. Hence, the Martian’s tendency to ‘save the planet’ (from invasion) is accompanied by their attempt to ‘save the planet’ (along with its environments and wildlife.) So it turns out the Martians are not only user-friendly, but environmentally responsible as well.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly