Sunday, August 08, 2010


I had a short novel (or long novella) published in May, 2010. It has gotten several very nice reviews. But one of the reviews made me crazy, because it said the story was fluff.

I mentioned this to Mike Levy and he said, "Well, it is fluff. There is no character development." Or words to that effect.

The story is about a planet where one sex has enslaved and exterminated the other sex. Because the surviving sex, the murderers, are female and capable of parthenogenesis, they survive. But their culture is not nice. Among other things, they have created a second intelligent species, which they exploit and eat.

Now maybe I need to think about what "fluff" means.

I just checked Fluff is "something of no consequence: The book is pure fluff, but fun to read."

No, I would say the story does have some consequence. It's about the failure of nurture, what happens when a culture devalues care, as our culture in the US is doing right now.

However, it is also a parody of space opera and first contact stories; and this may be the problem. I am talking about something serious within a plot which is a joke, and that may send a mixed message. As a rule, one should avoid irony, ambiguity and mixed messages in science fiction and fantasy. (Though come of think of it, the 1950s short story writers I loved used plenty of irony, ambiguity and humor, along with terror and horror. Well, that was long ago.)

Mike is right. I don't think there's much character development. My characters sail into an awful situation and are horrified by it. Then they are rescued and sail out.

I guess I would argue (a) most plots are a joke, because they are nothing like life; and (b) a lot of life simply happens. It doesn't have the structure of a plot; and it doesn't have the meaning of a plot. While it certainly changes us, it does not necessarily change us in a meaningful way.

There are things we can learn from life. Psychology, biology, the social sciences all illuminate our lives for us. But this isn't the kind of meaningful meaning we seem to want.

I am often baffled by the responses my stories get, and I guess this is another example. I think this particular tale is more good than bad. I would have liked more time to tinker with it, but I don't think the problem is fluffiness.

Ah, what the hell. It's light summer reading about slavery, the eating of intelligent life forms, and holocaust.


Blogger delagar said...

I would say, having read the story in question, whoever said it was fluff was not reading with enough attention. You can't do anything about imperfect readers, sadly.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

delagar -- Thanks; and you are right that I can't control readers.

10:22 AM  

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