Small things, quiet stories
It’s the little things in life. I have gotten off to a slow start this morning not because I was busy, but rather that we didn’t have anything pressing, so we stole some time to be wrapped up in one another. As I was preparing to write the blog, and address a few questions I’ve been asked this last week, I was thinking about this. Right now, my family isn’t fighting to save the world, save the universe, or even the multimeter. No, we’re just trying to make ends meet, make life better, and steal some time like this morning to remind ourselves of why we keep battling on.
One of the questions I was asked this week was “do you know of any small stories in science fiction? I liked Nathan Lowell’s trader series. I am not a huge fan of Military SF, or ‘save the world’ all action books.” I was tired and half-asleep, so the only one I could name was Cal Primer’s Company Daughter. Wide awake now, I’d add The Martian by Andy Weir, for stories of people living, or fighting to live, while being good stories to read. I suspect that there is a market for those smaller stories, back off the grand stage of most action-adventure tales where Our Hero carries the literal weight of the world on his shoulders. I’ve seen similar questions asked before, by folks who like a slower-paced story with smaller stakes, more about the characters who just want to succeed in modest life goals, and raise fat happy babies.
Which brings me to the second question I saw asked: where are the families in science fiction? There seem to be a paucity of tales where the story mentions happily married life, a pile of kids (with puppies and kittens of course!), and all the home love that sustains so many of us. I know the meme is that writers tend to be bitter and alone, but looking around, that’s not actually reality. So why don’t we see more stories like Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones? I still love that book no matter how many times I have read it before. We see, so often, Our Hero broken and alone, but it’s much rarer to see the main character supported, loved, and surrounded by others who will tease them one minute and watch their six the next.
Which brings me to the last question I saw asked. What about the space travel that takes place like the settling of the world really did? Where the explorers that are gone from home and family for months, if not years, at a time? There is a wealth of research material out there which could bring stories like that to life. I have one in mind immediately, the tale of William Dampier, the reluctant pirate. He was gone from home (in the 1600s) on one voyage for eleven years, while his wife, it is recorded, ran the farm profitably and raised children. As a writer, incorporating the tales of those who stayed behind to keep the home fires burning could be a welcome note. Or the story of the left-behind who had to fight off the invasion with a baby on their hip and a plasma rifle in the other hand. Or the Iliad, the man who returned after twenty years to find his wife beseiged by suitors, or…
There are a million stories out there; more, if you look at the entire Amazon catalog, even allowing for duplicates of public domain works. I know some of them would answer the questions, but I also think there is room for more to be told. The reader doesn’t always want thrills, original, avant-garde… Sometimes they want the warm, familiar, comforting feeling of knowing these people, knowing just what they are going through. Shopping for a spaceship on a budget. Finding a way to teach the kids while mining the asteroids. Keeping up their own education (not every character can be a genius who absorbs All the Knowledge by osmosis). Working, and finding a market for their skills. Plumbing a second bathroom into that too-small spaceship…. Ok, maybe not fodder for a whole story, but a hilarious note to all us parents of teens.
And on that note, I’ll leave this to you, my gentle readers, to suggest extant stories which would satisfy these readers. I hope that the writers among you will have a few ideas to thread into your tales. For me? I apologize for any typos, I have written this from my tablet, unwilling to move and waken the slumbering. Or to leave the warmth of the blankets. I can now snuggle back down until the children clamor for breakfast…