Once a long time ago, I crashed a Halloween party. Sounds very bold, doesn’t it? But truly, it was out of character for me, and besides, I was in costume so in a way the person who crashed the party wasn’t really me. I remember that the party was given by a friend of a friend, but I have no idea how or why I decided to go — perhaps as a joke to see how long it would take for people to realize they didn’t know me.
I dressed as a witch — the whole bit: long black scraggly hair, puttied nose and chin almost meeting, heavy black brows, green-tinged skin, cackling voice. I walked into the party as if I belonged there, and for a while I was the belle of the ball as people tried to guess who I was. It finally occurred to one guy that I was a total stranger. So I left. Rather hurriedly.
That’s how I feel now as a science fiction writer — as if I’ve crashed a party, and no one has yet discovered that I don’t belong.
But am I a science fiction writer? Light Bringer was written as a thriller, not science fiction, though readers have called the novel science fiction. The story takes place in the present day, not in some fantastic future or otherworldly setting. The characters are recognizably human. Most of the science is based either on what is known today or gleaned from ancient religious documents and mythology. There is more history than science. And yet, a couple of my characters are not quite human, there is talk of UFOs and of another planet in our solar system that might return to wreak havoc upon earth. And, more importantly, Light Bringer is about ideas, showing us humans in a different light. Do those few science fiction elements make my thriller science fiction? Will calling it science fiction give people the wrong idea about the book?
People like what they recognize. There are certain conventions that readers expect in their favorite genre, and they are unforgiving if their expectations are not met. What if they decide I’m only masquerading as a science fiction author?
And so here I boldly stand, acting as if I belong, but secretly wondering if anyone will guess that I am a stranger in a strange land.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”