Polarisation, or, There's No Such Thing as Love or Hate, Only a Subtle Balancing Act Between
by Steven Savile
by Steven Savile
So, the new book is written, delivered, it goes through the various stages of editing and proofreading, then goes off to the license holder (in the case of the majority of my work, it's media tie-in fiction, and Keith's asked us to discuss our stuff in relation to media franchises this weekend), they love it, or suggest tweaks or changes that'll help make them love it just a little bit more, then it is back to edits, another round of proofing, then typesetting, then another round of proofing against the finished print-ready galleys, then wooosh, it's off and the book becomes reality. Easy as that. You can't really hope to influence the world at large, or the fans, when it hits, all you can really hope to do is polarise opinion.... What? You mean you expect everyone to love it? Everyone to hate it?
It's out of your hands, obviously, but when you are way back at the writing stage you can certainly shape the future—you can either conform, not challenging yourself and your reader, or you can ask difficult questions of yourself and them... me, I am rather fond of the latter.
Here's the thing, at least in my head—if you aren't polarising opinion, if say 30% don't outright want to burn you alive and 30% bestow sainthood you probably aren't doing your job properly as a writer... you want to be putting out challenging material to a wide audience and the wider your audience the more unreasonable it is for you to expect everyone to like what you have done with the characters they love so much and the world they've come to think of as a second home. It isn't easy, and as a writer you really should back away from Google when a new book comes out, at least until it has had time to divide opinion. The thing is if people love a book invariably they put it down and pick up another one, it is only when people feel compelled (usually because you've forced some sort of extreme of reaction, an anger, or a love) to put pen to paper do they hit Amazon and chose the dreaded 1-5 star review. As a reader I'm deeply suspicious of a book that lacks that polarisation, so why, as a writer would I expect anything other?
If I'm not making the reader react I'm not doing my job.
So, when the new Stargate SG1 novel, The Power Behind the Throne was released on Friday I found myself oddly content that within a couple of minutes two absolutely polarising reviews appeared. One reader loved it, one detested it. My job is done.
And it shouldn't a surprise that it would generate such differing opinions—the subject is difficult, it's about genocide and racial oppression, it's about the risk of giving dangerous people exactly what they want, their heart's true desire, and it's about the potential we all have in terms of letting loose the monster within us... in certain situations what would you do? Would you always take the noble path? I know I wouldn't, sometimes I'd take the easy one, sometimes I'd take the stupid one, sometimes I'd just plain old take the wrong one... but scale that up by multiples of thousands and you get the kind of "monster within" facing Jack and Sam, Daniel and Teal'c. When it comes right down to it, it's all about the what if?
Stargate SG1: The Power Behind the Throne by Steven Savile is on sale now from Fandemonium.
Check out Steve's web site.
Next up: Paul Kupperberg.