Today I’m handing over to Robert Eggleton, the author of the satirical Rarity from the Hollow, discussing Literary Social Science Fiction.
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston , West Virginia , where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.
Saving an entire universe is a big job for anybody, though. It takes more than just magic. Lacy Dawn needs a team and a very strong sense of humor. First, she motivates the android into helping her fix her family by putting her foot down and flat out telling him that she won’t save the universe unless he helps her first. The android agrees to the terms.
After Lacy Dawn’s father is cured of his mental health problems and stops being so mean to Lacy Dawn and her mom, Lacy Dawn next arranges for her to mother get her rotten teeth replaced, pass her GED, and to get a driver’s license. The mother feels so much better about herself that she also joins the team. By this time, the android has fallen so deeply in love with Lacy Dawn that she has him wrapped around her little finger.
Add a pot head neighbor who sells marijuana and has a strong sense for business transactions, Brownie, a dog who proves to have tremendous empathy for the most vile occupants of any planet, and Faith, the ghost of Lacy Dawn’s best friend who was murdered by her own father — the team is ready to embark on a very weird off-world adventure.
Working together, the team figures out how a few greedy capitalists had made such a mess of the entire universe and how to prevent its destruction without intentionally killing one single being.
Rarity from the Hollow is a Children’s Story For Adults. The content includes serious social commentary and mature satire. There are graphic scenes in the first chapters before Lacy Dawn’s family is fixed.
“…You will enjoy the ride with Lacy Dawn, her family and friends, but don’t expect the ride to be without a few bumps, and enough food to last you a long time.”
— Darrell Bain, Award Winning Author
Literary Social Science Fiction
Life can be tough, that’s for sure. Most of us need a break from reality at least every now and then, in one way on another, and to some degree. Of all addictions, reading is probably the least harmful, and sometimes it may be healthful or beneficial during our individual pursuits of happiness. Books present a terrific way to temporarily escape from the stress of real-life. Many people read “genre” fiction, like young adult, mystery, fantasy, or romance novels. Other people choose to read “literary” fiction. It is less about escaping from reality and more like escaping into reality, if that makes sense. Real-life issues, like racism or poverty, are often part of a character driven literary fiction story. Genre fiction tends to leave out such issues and is more plot driven with action and imaginary detail. While these two may sound very different, they share a common function — entertainment. Different strokes for different folks, right? I read both literary and genre fiction.
Of course, some books don’t fit neatly within this or that box, literary or genre. Plus, there are a zillion subgenres, like paranormal romance or young adult science fiction and some of them may very well address the human condition, a criterion that some apply to distinguish literary from genre fiction, such as dystopian or utopian adventure stories. Sometimes critics will use the term, “popular” in reference to genre fiction. What about The Color Purple? Few would argue that this story was both literary fiction and very popular literature. Plus, nobody really cares because it was a GREAT story, regardless of where it fits within the schematic. What the heck does “highbrow” mean? Is it a story with excessive adjectives and adverbs with a few big words thrown in? In my opinion, nobody writes any fancier than Ursula K. LeGuin, a genre fiction writer, and if someone does, I’ll just call it something that I don’t want to read, or write.
For me, if I privately reflect on the words of a story long after the last page has been turned, experience the magic of the story over and over again, I’ve just read a “literary” work. On the other hand, if I give a story little deep thought after I’ve finished it, that book may fall within “genre” literature. Any fiction story can have great (or poor) writing. Commercial or “the-most-popular-kid-in-school” type of fiction may not have anything to do with quality. Originality of ideas may set literary fiction apart from some genre fiction because genre fiction may be more likely to have fan bases, such those readers who are so in love with Harry Potter that no other boy will do.
You know how two biological species cannot successfully mate? That’s not the case with book. Another animal exists. Its first name is “literary” and its middle name is the genre of the story. As examples, there is literary science fiction, literary fantasy, and, conceivably, any other genre. A story that falls into the “western” genre could have the first name “literary” if it has strong characters who address sexism in the Wild West instead of just more gunfights at the OK Corral.
I selected the SF/F backdrop for my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, because it was the best fit by process of elimination. While it is a fun read, the story does include early scenes and references to tragedy: child maltreatment, poverty, domestic violence, and mental illness in contemporary America . As such, it was not a good fit to the historical or western genres, although the social problems addressed in the story have existed throughout history, and are not restrained by our world’s geography, cultures, or religions. I felt that biographical and nonfiction wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it. The story had to be hopeful and I especially wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of people using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre. That almost never actually happens in real life, so the romance genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?
The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world, and to invest in economic development. As symbolized in the story, I feel that our governments are unlikely to fund effective solutions to social problems in the near future because of the politics. The systems in place to help victims of these types of problems are woefully inadequate.
At the 2013 International Skoll Forum, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh reportedly said something like, “We have science fiction and science follows….” He heads a company that loans money to entrepreneurs who live in impoverished areas and who would not otherwise qualify for financial assistance. Dr. Mark Manary of America headed a scientific breakthrough in the processing of peanut butter that is having a significant impact on the social problem of child malnutrition. It’s called a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and is made in Malawi , Sierra Leone , and Ghana . The lives of thousands of African children have already been saved by RUTF. In the 1970s, Ursula K. LeGuin was credited with coining the term, “social science fiction.” It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think any of these famous people are talking about new cell phone technology.
Since Rarity from the Hollow has been pegged as drama, comedy, satire, horror, romance, paranormal, science fiction…I decided to tell the world the proper term for the kind of writing that I enjoy — literary social science fiction cross genre. How’s that for a mouthful? Despite the use of colloquialism, I consider my novel to be literary because there’s enough food for thought to last a long time. So what if there ain’t no fancy words in the story? I consider it to be social science fiction because the story not only includes social commentary, but needs science fiction to pull off its mission — to raise funds for the prevention of child abuse, yes, real-life kids, as real as world hunger. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention programs operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Maybe I should call my writing science faction instead of science fiction because the correlates of society’s failure to help maltreated children are fact: addiction, poverty, crime, divorce, suicide, mental illness…
Read the 1st Chapter here!
An Excerpt from Chapter 13
Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.
I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me?
“Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.
Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.
I will always love you guys.
Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.
Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front.
Jenny looked to the left of the path.
There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is.
She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face. Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.
“All right, you mother f**ker!”
“Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”
DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner. Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.
“Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny. It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house. It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate. No one moved. The spaceship’s door slid shut.
“Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”
“You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.
Stay between them.
“Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.”
“You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.
“MOM! Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”
Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.
He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.
“DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”
Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.
“Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”
I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.
“Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”
Jenny’s left eye twitched.
DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…
…(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”
“He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.
“What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know. You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”
“Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.
Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.
A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.
“What’s that?” Jenny asked.
She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.
“But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.
“Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”
“Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….
It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I‘d better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby.
“What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.
“I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”
“My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said.
They both glared at him.
“Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.
“I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her.
“I love you too,” DotCom said.
Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.
Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up. My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”