Anne E. Johnson, based in Brooklyn, writes in a variety of genres for both adults and children. Her short fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Shelter of Daylight, The Future Fire, and elsewhere. Her science fiction novel Green Light Delivery was published in June, 2012, by Candlemark & Gleam. She also writes novels for tweens. Learn more on her website http://anneejohnson.com.
My thoughts on optimistic SF.
I love history. I studied classical languages in college and music history in grad school. And you know what's the most important thing I've taken away from all of those years of term papers, exams, and dissertations? Humans don't really change. Yes, there are periods where things get worse, but there are always good people will to fight back. There are periods where creativity is official quashed, but there are always artists working in the corners, ready to burst out and take over culture again.
Obviously, there are many far darker ways to interpret the overall scope of history. I must, for whatever reason, be a natural optimist. But my optimism about humanity certainly affects how I write science fiction. Green Light Delivery (and its upcoming sequel, Blue Diamond Delivery) included no humans at all, but human behavior informed how I wrote the varous types of alien characters. Their world, the Raralt Planetary Circle, is full of the same mix of personalities that Earth's human civilization always has been: the good, the bad, the indifferent, the clever, the sweet, the brave, etc. And, although bad things happen, the bad characters are never allowed complete domination. They're always counterbalanced by good.
Introduction to Excerpt
Webrid is a carter in the dirty old city of Bargival, on the planet Bexilla. This is the opening of Green Light Delivery, my humorous, noir-inspired novel. As you can see from this excerpt, there are mysterious and possibly evil forces at work, but Webrid himself is just an ordinary Joe trying to make a living. He finds himself hurtling toward unaccustomed adventure through no fault of his own.
Excerpt from Green Light Delivery
Ganpril Webrid, carter for the Bargival district, handed a clod of jamboro cake to the blue-skinned businessman. He took a dendiac note in payment. “You stayin’ here?” Webrid asked, “or can I bring my cart into your space?” Obviously pretending that he hadn’t heard, the fellow closed his window and sucked the cake down whole through a slimy blue mouth.
Webrid hated these commuter types. Somehow, they never learned the basic courtesies of urban interaction. And they were always in Webrid’s way. So he tried again, louder this time. “Can I use your space, mate?” He enunciated clearly. “How long you stayin’?”
“Bivisher! Braaap!” came the reply, the first word being an expletive, the second a burp.
“Fine. I’ll go somewhere else.” Webrid knew when he’d been licked. But he couldn’t just keep rolling along. He needed to get off the street for a while, after several hours of selling cakes to commuters, pushing his cart through the hot afternoon smog.
As he thought about how tired he was, Webrid realized that someone was standing next to him. “Yeah? I got cakes today, friend,” was his automatic response. Then he turned his head and focused his eyes.
This guy did not want a jamboro cake; he could tell that much for sure. For one thing, this “guy” didn’t appear to be biologically based. Webrid could see the wires at its joints. A great metal head lowered itself on a slender tube of a neck. A brace of digital cameras absorbed the features of Webrid’s face, which made him squirm.
“Like what you see, sailor?” he joked, but only to hide his fear. This wasn’t a Vox police robot. Not one like he’d ever seen, and he’d seen them all, what with parking tickets and contraband searches every few days. The Vox, always watching and listening, seemed to be after him constantly for one thing or another.
The robot’s head came closer to his face. Webrid pulled back. Maybe it was a cop bot after all. “I ain’t parked wrong. I’m on the move, in search of a legal space, officer.”
The robot responded with a mechanical buzz and a series of clicks. A door retracted into its central chamber, revealing a speaker. Somebody—somebody biological—spoke. “Ganpril Webrid, Second-State Licensed Carter,” it announced.
That voice! Icy snakes of déjà vu scuttled up Webrid’s spine. Clear as the bot hovering before him, he pictured the squalid back alley where he used to play with his cousins when he was a kid. Webrid huffed and shook his head, chasing away the random vision.
“Ganpril Webrid,” the voice repeated. “You have been called.”
“Eh?” Webrid had just spoken this syllable when a delicate feeler came flying out of the robot’s head and wiped across his forehead. It stung. “Hey, now, what’s the idea?”
But the thing was gone. Upward. Out of sight.
Webrid felt a headache coming on, and a strange green light pattern was starting to flicker in one eye. The light coalesced into a shape. It was not a very familiar shape, but after a moment of painful concentration, Webrid thought he recognized it. A tree? There weren’t any trees in Bargival, or on the entire planet of Bexilla. Webrid had only seen trees in pictures at school years ago. But now there was one floating in front of him, made of a green cloud. Then its particles dispersed, and there was nothing to see but the comforting grunge of the Bargival streets.
Webrid decided he needed a drink.