Worry Wart

I write about things that worry me.

When I think about the stories I’ve written over the years, the common theme is:

  • Flawed characters
  • Struggling to overcome a societal issue
    • usually caused by overreliance or abuse of technology
    • sometimes caused by scientific hubris
    • often compounded by environmental collapse
    • often a result of overcrowding and/or overuse of natural resources

Why do I write stories that deal with these types of issues? Because these questions and concerns are the ones that plague me every day. How can humankind sustain itself given the rapid depletion of natural resources we’re currently experiencing? Can technology provide solutions? If so, can it do so quickly enough to halt or reverse the damage we’ve done already? And will there be unintended consequences to our corrective actions? As a teacher of technology, I’m constantly bombarded by the wonderful advancements we’re making in science and industry. I’m also constantly struck by how much harm many of those advancements can cause, either directly or tangentially. And it worries me.

I love science fiction, and one of the major reasons why is that, as an author, I can choose to answer the questions above any way I see fit. I can (and usually do) choose to provide salvation for my characters and the planet on which they reside – a light at the end of the tunnel. Usually that light is much too faint for my characters to see at the beginning of their journey, hidden in the far distance behind many twists and turns. And more often than not when they return from their subterranean adventures, blinking and confused, they’re nowhere near where they expected to be. But sometimes, just making it back to the surface and breathing fresh air again is enough.

Because, frankly, sometimes I feel like the real world’s not going to be so lucky.

As for whether or not any particular people I know make it into my stories, the short answer is: sure. Not exact copies, but caricatures of friends, family, and coworkers sneak into my stories all the time. More telling is that my protagonists are almost always some shade of myself. Given that my main characters are often trying to save the world from imminent destruction, who wouldn’t want to be cast in that role, at least in some small part? I’m guessing that’s true of most authors, and authors that deny it aren’t being completely truthful.

So, returning to a common writing mantra: I write what I know. What I know is what worries me, how I feel about it, and what I wish I could do about it. That’s what (and why) I write.

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