A few weeks ago I posted an article about sending my new science fiction book to an editor at a sci-fi imprint, who judged it as “not science fiction”. Science fiction is a very diverse genre, covering the portrayal of science in the future, and often in the present and past as well, except where it doesn’t involve science at all, as in speculative fiction, alternate history, or in the related category of fantasy. Writer Damon Knight has described this enigmatic type of writing as “what we point to when we say it”. So setting out to write sci-fi only to have an editor suggest that the book does not fall into that category, felt like a kind of achievement in itself. Science fiction is what we point to when we say it, except for that book Martin Jones wrote.
Now, finally, the book is available on Amazon Kindle. And oddly, that experience of not immediately finding a seat in the sci-fi boat is very fitting for what I set out to write about. The novel is called Best Eight, and was inspired by an odd fact I came across whilst idly, and accidentally, watching a documentary about rowing a few years ago. An extremely healthy looking young man was explaining that selecting a competitive, eight person rowing crew was not about choosing the eight best performers on a rowing machine. A good rowing crew is mysteriously more than the sum of its parts. It’s best eight, not eight best. Out of this came all kinds of interesting possibilities. There was potential unfairness in the way a competent rower might possibly be passed over in favour of someone less competent. Equally, there was a sense of tolerance in the way we should withhold judgement about who is worthy and who is not. A narrow definition of merit shuts the door on people who have unexpected things to give.
So, I wondered, could we stretch this idea out? Let’s think up a bizarre scenario – maybe at some distant time in the future, a King of Earth wants his grandson and heir to extend the monarchy to Mars. The boy is reluctant to face his responsibilities, so the King decides that rowing might instil the necessary grit. Could there be a place in the Oxford Blue Boat for a future prince, who is quite possibly the worst rower at Oxford University? Could there be some way for this unlikely person to be one of the best eight, even if he is certainly not one of the eight best? And so the game was on. The challenge was to find a way for the prince to win a place in the boat and go on to fulfil his destiny. The other challenge was to take a book set in the future, but playing out in the most traditional of locations, and find a seat for it in the sci-fi boat.
To see what happened, follow the link below. Enjoy.