Every now and then, someone who’s read one of my books actually, demonstrably “gets it.” Note the “demonstrably” part. I’m sure there are other readers who “get it” but don’t bother to let me know. I cherish them equally. However, it’s the ones that express their revelations who provide me with the reinforcement a writer needs. One reported in just yesterday evening:
[Porretto] attempts to ask questions along the lines of "what should a good person do in this particular situation?"
Exactly. That is my reason for this enterprise, my answer to the question “At an age when you could justifiably declare yourself forever finished with productive work and dedicate your remaining years to relaxation, the enjoyment of the lighter pleasures, and chasing pretty women in short skirts and high heels downhill, why have you chosen instead to do this agonizing, time-consuming, monstrously difficult thing?”
It’s to get the reader thinking.
Most people make the overwhelming majority of their decisions without thinking. I can’t fault anyone for that. Thinking is strenuous. It takes time and effort away from other things that might seem more urgent. Worst of all, it can lead you in the wrong direction. As Robert A. Heinlein wrote in Glory Road:
Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won’t work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
The wrong premises will lead to the wrong conclusions every time – and it’s remarkable how seductive certain wrong premises can be. As Arthur Herzog wrote in The B.S. Factor, a paranoid is just a logician with a fractured premise.
Part of our inheritance is a vast trove of “pre-made decisions” that apply nicely to a great many known situations. The child’s learning process is largely about absorbing those lessons. Because those decisions have been tested against the situations they fit many times, we can rely upon them – something we often learn by attempting to “go our own way” in such a situation and getting our fingers burned in the process.
But that inheritance covers only a portion of the human experience. There are infinitely more possibilities than any amount of received wisdom can cover. When such a possibility arises, it’s necessary to think.
The Futanari Saga is the most challenging of all my fiction to date. It tackles situations many persons would recoil from considering, some of which are active elements in our current sociopolitical milieu. It embeds several speculative elements – the existence of genetically (rather than surgically) produced futanari; human cloning; Rachel MacLachlan’s desire-control technology; Fountain’s apparent miracle-working – but I wrote it principally in the hope that those speculations might help to illuminate some current, real-world controversies.
Any light arises from the reader’s decision to think: to apply his premises and his logical powers to the unprecedented situations into which I throw my Marquee characters. Without that, the stories are merely transient entertainment, and perhaps not particularly satisfying entertainment at that. But the possibility, however slender, that I could get people thinking about current controversies from an entirely new perspective is why I decided the effort would be worthwhile.
At the completion of each novel I kick back for a few weeks, mostly to recover from the effort, but also to consider certain questions afresh:
- Am I entertaining my readers or just pontificating at them?
- What would make my stories more entertaining?
- Am I “finished?”
The answers are never perfectly certain. They can seem more nebulous after the release of a novel than before it. But I must face them squarely, for the reasons I outlined in the first segment.
If, by contriving novel situations with a degree of relevance to real life and putting believable characters into them, I can get a few readers to think more actively and broadly than before, I’ll answer Question #3 above with a resounding “No!” I’ll keep going. Of course that compels me to face the question “If I’m not ‘finished,’ then what comes next?” But that can wait until I’ve emptied a few more bottles of Harvey’s.