As I routinely tell people, I’m not impossible, merely highly improbable.
But one of the funniest moments of since I “came out politically” on my other blog was the cartoon character who left a one line comment “Do you ever tire of being a stereotype?”
It was funny because it startled a laugh out of me before I even thought about it.
Look, life holds few distinctions (as Mr. Bennet would say, in Pride and Prejudice) however being highly improbable is one of mine. There are probably more improbable people (my kids, for one) but if I were a book character, people would be definitely raising eyebrows and going “You expect us to believe that?”
I don’t know what the percentage of people who emigrate is, as compared to the Earth’s population, but I can tell even in a country of emigrants (which Portugal is) they are still a minority. Rarer still are people who emigrate out of reach of family and kin and friends, and to a country that contains none of those.
This is why there are immigrant waves from certain localities into the US. I’m told entire Italian and Irish villages relocated en masse, mostly to NYC back in the day. This meant people who wouldn’t be likely to emigrate otherwise did so, because they were just staying in their “tribe”, the group they’d been born to.
But as a lone wolf? We’re rare, more so if we’re women. One of the things that drives mom nuts is being asked over and over why I came to live here, if I had a degree that guaranteed upper-upper class in Portugal. Sure, I married a foreigner, but in that class, the normal thing is the husband comes to Portugal. The answer to why is long, and difficult, even for me — though it was a decision consciously made — and impossible for mom, so she has come up with a set of just-so answers that have nothing to do with it, but are understandable to those over there.
I digress. That’s a huge improbability in my life, but there are others. For one being born extremely premature in a vast stone house, during a snow storm is one such, I– well, I lived through the night. And the fact I turn 60 this week is amazing, if you consider I managed to catch everything else along the way, and the locality was neither salubrious nor particularly hygienic. (We sailed little boats on the effluvium when the septic tanks were opened onto the watering channels. (If you wrote this in a novel, you’d most certainly leave that out.))
Frankly that I acquired the degree I did was highly improbable too, if you consider that high school education was already considered “educated” and that the entry to universities was tightly controlled on grades and school performance, and therefore very few people from a village school background made it. (In fact all my classmates were from wealthier families, ranging from “slightly better off and had tutoring from age 6” to “very very rich and living at a level my family couldn’t imagine.)
And once I was here, the possibility of my becoming a professional writer were vanishingly small before you throw in “this is not even my native language.”
So: I’m highly improbable. Honestly I’m improbable enough that I don’t blame the complete idiot who thinks I’m a construct. (It’s the motives and ownership of the construct that are ROFL. But that’s because idiot.)
Perhaps that’s why I like highly improbable but exciting worldbuilding.
However, I’m far from alone in this (and perhaps closer to stereotypical than not) and there is considerable evidence that humanity in general likes a lot of what I like: from massive multi-century conspiracies, to ancient lost civilizations, to time travel, to…
There are problems with this though. Look, people don’t like to be that wildly improbable in their world building. And you have to make the improbable/impossible plausible, to really sell it.
Now, granted, those of us playing in the sf/f waters are already at an advantage: IF you don’t want a slightly off kilter, plays with reality premise, well, what’s a nice reader like you doing in a genre like this, anyway?
But there are ways to sell it and ways to sell it.
Usually it is advisable to:
1- Keep your massive impossibility to one:
There are fairies and elves/unicorns, whatever or “in a hundred years we have colonies in dozens of extra-solar worlds, for instance. each of these is usually sufficient, though I’m trying to combine them in one novel, but that’s …. so…. I have an explanation.
There is a bravura performance to carry a dozen impossibilities in a novel. It can be done, but it’s a master-level thing. I personally tend to throw away books when yet another impossibility is pushed for no reason that makes sense.
2 – If you must have more than one modification from objective reality:
a) Make sure there is one that is the “important” one without which the novel wouldn’t exist.
Take Darkship Thieves series: I made the bio-engineering the central “wouldn’t exist without this” premise. The other stuff, like anti-grav wands and flying cars and artificial islands? That was strictly rule of cool, for the feel of retro-futuristic which is what I was going for.
b) The important premise must be as rock solid “hard sf” as you can make it. So research, etc.
c) give it enough time in the future or a thoroughly parallel universe for it to work on the “but we don’t know this.
d) Make the people as real as you can possibly do.
3- If working on “secret histories” in which elves, fairies, whatever the heck have always been there, you must:
a) research real history as hard and deeply as you can, and make sure you can hide things in certain “pockets.”
b) anchor it as hard as you can to real events or incidents, which you might need to show in the novel itself.
Okay, off the top of my head — which is not fully on today, for that matter — this is the best I can think of.
OTOH I’m sure some of you have questions and suggestions.
Oh, yeah, be glad you’re doing this in fiction, meaning, you just need to make it plausible enough for the duration of the story and then you dance off stage as fast as you can, and no one sees the facades without backing, or the wires pulling history into place.
It’s much harder to do this in real life.
Trust me. I know of what I speak.
One day the timeline will rectify and I’ll vanish with an Earth-shattering kaboom.