Saturday, October 2, 2010

What if?

by Tamara Hogan

“Before you say something is out of this world, first make sure it is not in this world.”

Michael Shermer

I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction and alternate history stories: Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series. The classic Star Trek TV series and its many TV and movie spin-offs. The Star Wars franchise. And, of course, “The X-Files.” While the first three works operate from a baseline assumption that humanity is not alone in the universe, "The X-Files" did not.  As someone who works in technology, I naturally relate to Dana Scully, the rational, skeptical scientist who needs to see hard data before she believes anything - but Fox Mulder’s pain, dreams and yearnings definitely strike a chord.

What if?

Given this fascination, is it any surprise that when I (finally) wrote a novel, the majority of the characters would be… of extra-planetary origin? Aliens, if you really want to get technical about it?  What if they’ve been living amongst us for ages, and we're just not aware of it yet? 

My Underbelly Chronicles series is set in just such a world, where "first contact" occurred nearly a thousand years ago, when a ship transporting environmental refugees to their new home crash-landed on Earth instead. Hopelessly marooned, the crash survivors - incubi and succubi, sirens, vampires, Valkyrie, werewolves and faeries - have survived (nay, THRIVED) by influencing human history and myth to their advantage.    

In today's technological and security climate, staying under humanity’s radar is more challenging than ever, and incubus security guru Lukas Sebastiani thinks siren rock star Scarlett Fontaine draws way too much attention to them with her glorious voice and her tabloid lifestyle. In TASTE ME, the kickoff book in the series being released in March 2011, someone with an escalating sexual energy addiction targets their ruling council’s family members, and Scarlett flat-out refuses to cancel her homecoming show. Lukas, who experiences the world largely through taste, must protect the woman he loves but can't have again, no matter what the personal cost - never dreaming that he might be the killer's ultimate target. 

(Lukas + Scarlett) * Proximity * Emotional/sexual energy = SPARKS. 

Incubi who absorb emotional energy for sustenance. Pheromone intoxication meds. Planets long-destroyed due to their inhabitants' flagrant exploitation of natural resources. Vampire paparazzi. Paraphrasing Shermer again, what if there's no such thing as the supernatural, or the paranormal – only the natural, the normal, and things we don’t yet understand? 

What if? ;-)

Is there a paranormal phenomena that you think may be natural and normal, but that we don't yet understand? 

24 comments:

  1. Very good post, Tamara. I'm kind of strange. For the most part, I don't believe in ghosts or aliens, but I do believe in angels and demons. However, I'm fascinated with ghosts and aliens because while I'm not convinced they are real, I'm not convinced they aren't.I've read a lot of real case histories of people who've experienced alien sightings and/or abductions, and it's so interesting. It really makes a person wonder. Sounds like you've got a very compelliing story playing on these possibilities.

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  2. Hunky alpha werewolves, of course! I'm off to find them in Scotland and I hear some own castles and are just as sexy as the American versions!

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  3. I think on this earth, we often get glimpses of transcendence, of a state of being beyond life in the space suit we call our bodies. Hot scenes in romance novels allude to such an experience, though I'm sure a runner's high, an end zone dance, a well danced ballet solo and other accomplishments yield a similar gift. Whatever it is, the experience is real, and yet not considered quite normal.

    And then there are things that go bump in the night... I live around some civil war battle fields, and the ghost stories are endless--from sober, rational neighbors who never touch a drop. So, yeah, I believe.

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  4. What if is the basis of all Sci-Fi and horror, and the need for aliens, creatures that inspire fear to remain hidden as much as possible is only logical, considering how humans do like to kill just about anything they don't understand.
    One could say, all forms of fantasy fiction bear a stark similarity to religious beliefs. Even God seems to like to stay hidden from prying eyes.
    In my vampire stories, I show my vampires as creatures created by God, very similar to humans but with some obvious differences and abilities not shared by humans. They too use vampire myth to hide their presence.

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  5. The thing about being "paranormal" is that it's something that isn't normal for us, but IS normal for others. To them, we'd be paranormal. It's purely a matter of POV.

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  6. Oh Tamara, you are a woman after my own heart! The first books I ever bought for myself were sci-fi.

    Nothing would be more fun than to write speculative fiction, and yet when my unconscious mind bubbles up a story, it's always a straight contemporary.

    That said, my characters always have a brush with ESP, a ghost--something unexplained. In SEALed Forever, we have a foray into psychokinesis. In my experience, those things are natural and normal. They are and always have been part of my everyday world.

    I think humanity would be better served to stop asking if they are "real" and start asking how they work.

    Fairies, leprechauns, other "little people?" I've not encountered them, but enough people in diverse cultures have to make me think that some sort of inter-dimensional creatures may exist, and might exist in a continuum with occurrences lumped in with UFOs.

    That said, becoming attached either to belief or non-beleif produces narrow-mindedness. I treasure skepticism. Though there is apparently no limit to human's ability to behave in inhuman ways, I seriously doubt if vampires, werewolves etc are anything but imaginary.

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  7. I don't have much imagination when it comes to paranormal things, but I'm enjoying reading your blog and all the ideas everyone has in their comments!

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  8. Hi everyone!

    One of my favorite scientists, entirely adorable experimental physicist Dr. Brian Cox (currently hosting SCI's "Wonders of the Solar System") recently commented that, regardless of how 'advanced' humanity thinks it might be, we don't yet know what 96% of our universe is made of. As a human, I find this positively humbling - and as a storyteller? Fascinating.

    @Anita - the issue of belief is a complex matter, isn't it? Some people can make that leap of faith, and some people can't or won't. Then there's Fox Mulder, who WANTED to believe. Poor guy was stuck right in the middle of data and belief. In the second book of my series, which I'm currently writing, I...put an entirely different spin on alien abductions. ;-)

    @Terry - yes, your hunky werewolves are definitely out of this world!

    @Grace - ah, transcendence. I experience transcendence most often when I listen to fabulous music, watch huge ocean waves barrelling into shore, or (referring back to Dr. Cox's statement) when I consider just how huge and awesome the universe is. I think there's a lot we don't yet understand about how energy works. In my series, I took this idea and ran with it.

    @Pete said: -->'one could say, all forms of fantasy fiction bear a stark similarity to religious beliefs.' Yes, I think fantasy fiction and religion are both, in their way, attempting to answer the question, "Why?" "Why are we here? How? How do we fit in? What are we here to do?" Again, channelling Mr. Spock, I find the possibilities endlessly fascinating.

    @Cheryl - YES, great point about what's considered paranormal being in the eye of the beholder. Consider the classic movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy." A Coke bottle falls from an airplane, and the indigenous people who find it think it's a gift from the gods. To us, the bottle is a completely prosaic manufactured item. To someone who's never seen such a bottle, or is unaware of the existence of airplanes? It must seem like magic indeed. I enjoy thinking about what WE might not yet be aware of.

    @Mary Margret - like you, I also treasure skepticism. The minute we think we "know" the "truth" about any topic is the minute we close ourselves off to new data or other possibilities. This is one reason why I'm entirely comfortable with the provisional nature of scientific research and inquiry. We know what we know until we discover new information which supplements our understanding.

    In my series, I loved playing with the concept that mythical or fictional creatures such as vampires and werewolves originated on other planets - and purposely created the very mythology surrounding their existence, so they could hide right under our noses.

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  11. Duplicate posts ahoy! Sorry, folks.

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  12. Hi, Tamara,

    I love sci fi (huge Star Wars nerd here, I sleep with Yoda, smile) and paranormal. Sounds like a brilliant concept for a series, looking forward to reading Underbelly.

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  13. Hi, @Diana Layne! There are quite a few out-and-proud sci-fi fans over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, aren't there? ;-) I love science fiction, paranormal and urban fantasy because it pushes worldbuilding to the max. Thanks for stopping by!

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  14. @ShanaGalen, you're right. People have posted some thought-provoking ideas, haven't they?

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  15. While I am of a logical and skeptical nature, I like to read (and sometimes write) paranormal fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi. I don't believe any of it, but it is fun to wonder what if and delve into a make-believe world.

    The premise of your books sounds fun!

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  16. Hey Tamara! I love the what if game. It works on so many levels, but in paramoral and sci-fi, it's crazy fun. We can let our imaginations go and create amazing creatures and alternate realities and all sorts of things. Great post.

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  17. @Olivia said: --> it is fun to wonder what if and delve into a make-believe world.

    Isn't that the truth? I love making things up and trying to find a plausible explanation for what happens - even if I have to make that explanation up entirely out of thin air.

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  18. Hi @Shea! Isn't "what if...?" is a great creativity prompt? Thanks for stopping by.

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  19. Tammy, the 'what if' question is always inspiring, isn't it? As for things that 'go bump in the night,' I'm a skeptic, although I do believe there are planes of existence. That said, what if those planes collide?

    An interesting and engrossing way to spend a few hours, yes?

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  20. Hi, @Gwynlyn! I'm with you on the possibility that there might be multiple planes of existence. A lot of our current understanding of quantum mechanics and string theory simply doesn't hang together without factoring in the concept of multiple universes (or multiverses). It's a tantalizing prospect - one that my math isn't nearly good enough to fathom.

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  21. Every time I hear more about Taste Me, the more I want to read it. Aliens among us, using myth as a veil, the threat of exposure - love it, love it, love it. I'm definitely looking forward to this release, Tamara.

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  22. Who defines what is paranormal and what is normal? As Arthur Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    What a great scenario for your novel, Tamara! I confeas to a real weakness for fantasies and science fiction, so paranormal is right up my alley.

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  23. Great post. I firmly believe that there is life in the universe aside from what exists on our planet. The universe is HUGE. Have they visited here? Well, if you look at the pyramids from ancient civilizations it does make you wonder how they could've built those things. Ghosts. Yup. No doubt in my mind. Oh yeah, I believe.

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  24. "What if?" is my favorite inspiration! Good to know it's shared by you. :}

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