Today, I am so super-excited.
I’m excited because in just TWO MONTHS Across the Universe hits shelves.
You guys, I cannot wait to read this one!
This debut novel by Beth Revis has been described as “part sci-fi, part dystopian, and entirely brilliant.”
That description reminded me of another fictional work, set far in the future: Firefly by Joss Whedon. If you haven’t seen this amazing television show, go out and buy it right now.
It is one of the most well-written shows I’ve ever seen and the Nerd and I are huge fans.
Unfortunately, Fox was not. The show aired for one season before being canceled. A movie, Serenity, was later released.
So I just knew that Beth, who has mentioned her love of series on Twitter, would be the perfect person to dissect the world of Firefly and Serenity.
And today, she’s doing just that. I’m so excited to have her here on The Nerd’s Wife!
Photo courtesy of Visio Photography
“When Arena asked me if I was influenced by Firefly and Serenity by Joss Whedon, I could not help but smile. Of course I was. How could I not? It’s like saying a painter isn’t influenced by da Vinci.
Whedon (and his work on the Firefly series in particular) is a genius at crafting a great story. I’m such a Browncoat that I not only own the entire series on DVD, but I’ve also watched every episode with the commentary on. And let me tell you, if you’re a writer, watching the commentary on the series and accompanying movie is worth going to three different conferences alone.
Here are some things I learned specifically from Firefly and Serenity that influenced me while I was writing my own debut YA science fiction, Across the Universe:
Science fiction doesn’t have to be too scientific
I love stories that take me to a different world. But I hate science. Which meant I read a lot of fantasy and not much sci fi. The thing is, science fiction doesn’t have to be riddled with scientific theory and long algorithms. Sure, you have to follow the basic rules of what’s scientifically possible (or probable), but you don’t have to explain exactly how the Capissen 38 Mark II engine worked, as long as it does. (Or doesn’t—“Out of Gas” is my favorite episode.)
The devil’s in the details
It’s an age-old adage of writers everywhere: show don’t tell. Whedon’s the master of this. Never once did Captain Mal tell Inara he loved her—but you know he did. Beyond characters, though, there’s:
- Language: The series didn’t explicitly explain why there’s so much Chinese in the dialect (although the movie did), but it’s a world-detail that’s very realistic. By the time Earth became Earth-that-was, the Chinese and English languages were most prominent. Of course there would be a blending.
- Setting: This is one of my favorite details. There’s just as much going on in the background as the foreground in Whedon’s works. Take, for example, the mess hall. It’s decorated with ivy and vines. You don’t have to be as avid a fan as me to know the Kaylee painted the mess hall. It’s never explained, it’s never even remarked upon—but that tiny detail makes the whole ship more real.
Make us care about your characters…
Mal is, basically, a space pirate. He’s willing to do illegal things; he willing to bad things. But we still love him and his whole crew, even misogynistic Jayne. The reason for this is because Whedon takes pains to explain:
- That they’re human, and humans make mistakes, and
- They have a reason for doing the things they do, even the bad ones.
This is what makes us love Whedon’s characters. That, and Nathan Fillion is hot.
…even the villain.
This detail is the single most influential detail I learned from Whedon. Make your villain be someone you can almost agree with. This applies more to Serenity than Firefly—the Operative is viciously, single-mindedly driven to kill River. But his reason for this—order in the new world—is so…honorable…that we can almost agree with what he’s doing.
All these lessons and more influenced my own writing. I strove to make the focus be on the story, not the science, and I tried to make characters you can sympathize with. I named one character Kayleigh in honor of Whedon—she paints her room with ivy and vines. And I hope that my villain is someone you could almost—but not quite—think is doing the right thing…”
Thanks so much, Beth!
Don’t forget to put Across the Universe on your wish list… It will be released Jan. 11, 2011.
Until then, check out Beth’s blog — she’s running a contest to unscramble the password to the super-secret section of her site. You can with AtU goodies and ARCs by figuring out the password!
Oh, and I totally agree — Nathan Fillion is so hot!