Taking it Home… The Orbit Team January 18, 2012


Today sees the release (in the US and Canada) of my new digital short, “Something Wikkid This Way Comes”, I’m excited about this story for a number of reasons. There’s the fact that I can write about Moo, Shar and Capitola, the Triptych girls you met in book three. They are so much fun and I really had a great time getting to know them better. I was also able to experiment with the form, having written this story in the present tense in an attempt to give it a more immediate and dark feel.

But one of the main reasons this story was so fun is that it takes place in Borealis, Illinois.

Now, that probably means nothing to you, and if you made the mistake of googling it, you’ll find that Borealis doesn’t exist. But Aurora, Illinois does, and knowledgeable readers may know that Aurora is where I grew up.

They will also notice that Borealis very, very closely resembles Aurora.

So why didn’t I call her Aurora? For me, it was important to take a little psychic distance, both as a writer and as an urban fantasist. As a writer, I’m not recreating Aurora. On the contrary, I use Aurora as a vehicle for fantasy, which, as an urban fantasy, must come first.

That said, rooting Borealis in Aurora gave me a firm grip on reality. After all, I know Aurora so well, and it was a unique place to grow up. Racially, Aurora is very diverse and economically it ranges from hard working to middle class.

All of this made Borealis a perfect place to stage the kind of fiction I wanted to write after Jane. First of all, I wanted to show people who looked like the people I grew up with, that is, characters who aren’t all white. So I wanted to show more diversity in my fiction. And yet, at the same time, I grew up with such a diverse group of friends, for whom race or class was do not an overriding issue, at least not as a group dynamic. At the same time, however, issues of gender, race and class permeate all strata of culture, simply because that is what these issues do.

My goal, if I get to write more about these ladies, is to subtly explore some of these questions, under the guise of telling a good, engaging story. As a doctor of literature and a professor, I talk and write a lot about these ideas, but my message does not go very far. Meanwhile, “going far” is the true power of popular fiction. We have to tell good stories, but we also have the opportunity to inject into those stories a bit of what we want to talk about, in terms of social issues. And yes, these injections have to be subtle or light, but that’s the beauty of pop culture. It’s fashionable.

Which means a little goes a long way.

At the end of the day, I’d like to give my readers a little insight into how I grew up – with a diverse group of friends who came together because we shared interests, humor and a some weird sensitivity. Our relationship, however, was not made for the TV movie, with a catchy message of racial and social equality. We were just people who enjoyed each other and let nothing get in the way of that fact.

I think there’s power in that idea, and it’s a vision I’d like to share, like pop fiction.

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