Sharon X Wong

Writer of words. Builder of worlds.

Month: September 2019

Wolf Road: Setting that doesn’t overtake plot

Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis, is a post-apocalyptic Western. It centres on Elka, a girl who was lost in a forest far from home and ended up being raised by a man who turned out to be a serial murderer. Once she finds this out, she decides to run away and seek out her parents, but she is pursued by the murderer who raised her and the sheriff who wants to catch them both.

It’s a great book, a heart-twisting tale with some surprising turns. It struck me most as being a post-apocalyptic novel that isn’t really a post-apocalyptic novel. The fact that nuclear bombs went off in the recent past is a footnote, a background detail. It’s not the main plot. That made me realise how often it is in SFF that we make the setting or the premise front and centre in the story. In fantasy, there’s always a threat to the Kingdom, or the world, and in science-fiction it’s often the technology that we are exploring. In my experience, these stories tend to be on a larger, less personal scale. (Horrible and probably incorrect generalisation, I know.)

I can understand this. In contemporary fiction, people already know everything about how the world works, so the interesting part is not the world, but the characters who inhabit it. In fantasy and sci-fi, we do so much work in building the world it often isn’t really worth doing that without it being front and centre.

However, Wolf Road does a really good job of giving a futuristic setting that really is just background. To be fair, a world that is just like ours except for a nuclear war is scarily realistic. Lewis doesn’t drill down on how society is organised, doesn’t give us any details about the world that don’t affect the character. She doesn’t give us any details on how close the human race is to extinction, or the society is to collapse. She focuses on one girl and her struggle to escape and find a family.

Often when we read fantasy and science fiction we are looking for escape from the ordinary. But we never want to venture too far. So it’s good to hang onto a few remnants of the familiar, that reflect some aspects of the world we know. And one of those aspects is that our personal problems can seem just as big and world-shattering as a Dark Lord or the world getting blown up. And those are worth telling stories about, too.

Summer at Hotel Fulcrum, Part 6: Felicia

This is the sixth part of my fortnightly serial. If you missed Part 5, you can read it here.

Part 6: Felicia

Janet glanced at her watch. Her shift had ended at half past nine. It was now past midnight. Where had the time gone? She looked up at Paxton. “I need to leave without getting lost and without anyone seeing me. I don’t suppose you can help me with either one of those?”

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A Morning ‘Wake-Up’ Poem

This is something I wrote in the quest to become more of a morning person. I’m not one, at all, but I’ve found that if I’m not at least a little productive in the morning the day tends to be less productive overall. Apparently snoozing is bad, but my bed is too comfortable for not snoozing to be easy. So this is something I’ve stuck next to my bed. The idea is that when my alarm rings, I recite this poem and then get out of bed immediately after the last line:

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Summer at Hotel Fulcrum, Part 5 : Mind Tricks

This is the fifth part of my fortnightly serial. If you missed Part 4, you can read it here.

Part 5: Mind Tricks

Janet stared at the impossible people before her. Robin Foxglove and Paxton Blackthorn stood before her, just as she had seen them before. Only they should not be in the basement. Hadn’t they left the hotel? And how was she in the basement?

“I’m dreaming,” she said. “I have to be.”

“Please, mistress,” said Robin, “it’s no dream. We need your help.”

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