Today’s topic was Phoebe’s idea—she asked if I could write a bit about a sci-fi work that inspired Cinder, and it took about half a second for me to know what I would be writing about.
Although there were other sci-fi works that inspired me while I was writing Cinder (Star Wars in particular shouldn’t go unmentioned), it was Firefly that I would pop into my DVD player whenever I was feeling disconnected from my story and couldn’t remember why I wanted to write it in the first place. I could wax poetic for pages and pages about how much I love this show, but I’ll try to stay focused on those elements that truly inspired The Lunar Chronicles.
I get annoyed with sci-fi worlds that are either A) squeaky clean and high-tech everywhere you look, or B) dirty, grimy, and with a civilization that seems to have reverted back to the Dark Ages. I don’t think either model is realistic. Just like Earth today has everything from Times Square and smart phones to third-world countries that lack indoor plumbing and irrigation systems, I think our future will continue to have a broad range of cultures and social classes.
To me, Firefly got this just right. There are high-tech hospitals, perfectly sterile and filled with fancy gadgetry. There are planets that focus on natural beauty and high-society galas. There are farming communities and grungy brothels and thriving commercial marketplaces. Plus, despite being set hundreds of years in the future, many elements of today’s varying cultures are still present in everything from fashion to language.
In writing Cinder, and plotting the rest of the series, I used these different setting types as a guide. I think the variety adds realism to the futuristic world, and it also provides more interest for the reader. Various settings can even provide added conflict, say, if a character is used to being grungy and is suddenly thrust into a spectacular society gala. Just as an example…
More than any other part of the show, I love, love, love the cast of Firefly. There are nine main characters, and yet there isn’t a boring one in the bunch. They have their own quirks, back stories, and they play off each other in unique ways. No matter how archetypal some of them may seem at first, each character still has the ability to surprise us.
I hope to capture these same sorts of dynamics in The Lunar Chronicles. Although my cast in Cinder is relatively average in size, each book in the series will introduce a new heroine, love interest, and secondary characters. As their paths cross and they join forces, they form a group that I hope will be every bit as charming and fascinating to watch as Captain Reynolds and his crew.
This is a big one, and I think the themes in Firefly will probably continue to influence my storytelling even after The Lunar Chronicles is finished. Because while this is a TV series about a crew of smugglers aboard a spaceship, it’s about much more than that (as good fiction tends to be). It’s about friendships and loyalty, good and evil, protecting your loved ones, following your instincts, doing the right thing, being brave even when you’re scared, and choosing freedom over conformity.
It’s not in my nature to pick out the themes in my books as I’m writing them, and it isn’t until I look back at a finished manuscript that I can start to see beneath the surface of the plot and pick out the deeper meanings that somehow slipped in there. But I do think it’s natural for writers to gravitate to certain themes, and many of those that speak to me are found in Firefly, just as readers will find them in Cinder.
I can only hope, of course, to bring those themes to life in as epic a manner as Firefly did.
If you ask me, Marissa did a great job–Cinder has a rusty, textured setting, complex characters, and a running thread about friendship that underlies the epic SF. Cinder comes out tomorrow; you can pick it up from Amazon, B&N, or your local indie. We’re also giving away a copy to one commenter on Friday’s review–the copy is going to . . .
Krazy Book Lady!!!
Congrats to KBL! We’ll be in touch shortly via email for your address. And thanks gain for Marissa and F&F for including us on their tour. – Phoebe