I met Chris when he submitted his book The Slant Six to the site for review consideration. The synopsis was interesting, the cover was eye-catching, but what really made me decide to give it a read was that it had been endorsed by one of my favorite authors. If Piers Anthony liked it, I thought, this has to be worth a shot. Well, as I said in my review “The Slant Six is outrageous, hilarious, dirty-minded, and entertaining from start to finish.”
And then, as it turns out, the author is also a rather nice, entertaining fellow! One who agreed to do a guest post for the site. So, let me happily present Christopher F. Cobb’s “Sci-Fi: A Passion for the Fantastic”.
Sci-Fi: A Passion for the Fantastic
by Christopher F. Cobb
(Author of “The Slant Six” and “A Moon Called Sun”)
What in the Mutara Nebula is Science Fiction anyway? Well, gee whiz Lieutenant Demanding Dan, if you must know then let me take a stab at it. I guess in its most literal sense, breathe, Science Fiction tackles the impact of imaginary innovations in science or technology, swallow, with made-up elements possible within scientifically postulated laws of nature, breathe. Science Fiction may involve technology, spaceships or aliens, swallow, and will often focus on exploration of the unknown. (Arbitrary sniffle…followed by the sound of a single chirping cricket.) Okay yeah, so that went over like a flatulent xenomorph in a decompression chamber. Enough Mr. Spock, the needs of the many outweigh the gas of the few. Let’s drop some syllables here and talk “Sci-fi” instead. Because, quite frankly, Sci-fi should never be described or quantified with the tedious terms associated with Science Fiction.
Sci-fi isn’t so much hardcover thesaurus as it is a soft-shelled, neon-encrusted stegosaurus. It’s more a degree of Zen master than it is a Master’s Degree. It’s a state of mind rather than a mindful state, a suspension of disbelief with a retention of a person’s inner child. Sci-fi is a magic carpet ride, man, it’s a 12-year-old inside a darkened cinema, biting his arm as he leans against the chair in front of him. Next to the boy sits his younger sister clutching a handful of popcorn as light dances in her eyes. In absolute rapture, pupils dilate, and their optical jellies grow as big as the Death Star itself. Two little hearts race as a massive Star Destroyer fills the screen, firing brilliant lines of laser at a tiny spaceship fleeing the angry giant. It’s like nothing these children have ever seen before and becomes a shared memory that they both cherish well into their adult lives.
As the 12-year-old boy in the scenario, my own personal view of the universe was forever altered on that afternoon – a prepubescent altered state so to speak. Not quite the William “murdering monkey boy” Hurt in Altered States, not yet anyway. That movie came later…although it changed me as well. I still pound on the walls in melodramatic fury, bouncing back and forth down the hallway as I imitate the agonizing morphing scene. You know, the one with Willy Hurt fighting against his biological devolution into a bloodthirsty primitive – the homicidal homunculus. I do this every so often, especially when I’m frustrated…or horny. It’s fun and makes a damn fine point. But I digress.
Okay, so maybe the first view is a bit Pollyanna but that’s all I needed to fuel my imagination when I was 12. It was more than enough for me. And perhaps the second example is a bit hardcore, but that’s what I crave as an adult. I still find myself wanting more. The beauty of Sci-fi is it that it can be all things to all phases of a person’s evolution. So, suck on that Young Adult Fiction! And yeah, you can suck it too Historical Fiction and, gulp, Self-Help! Put that in your steaming bowl of chicken soup and choke on it! Sci-fi transcends your emotional stages of angst and social acceptance. It blows away your plotlines based on facts, figures and real timelines. It’s a boy saving his father’s soul, it’s a girl in a golden bikini who eventually rules the universe or even a stubby little robot, more fire hydrant than humanoid, who’s actually more human than them all. It’s pure stricture to convention and reality. It’s a passion for the fantastic.
That’s not to say the other genres don’t have passion because they do. However, Sci-fi is entirely different. This kind of passion is more of a pre-existing condition – a happy defect in our DNA. Sci-fi is an acceptance that our universe, that our very perception of reality, extends far beyond what common sense tells us is allowable. Yeah, yeah, yeah, some “Know-It-All” Ned Nederlander will make the argument for genres like Comedy or Horror. I truly like them both but in the eternal words of those infamous Knights of Ni, I say “Ni! Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing!” And for this insult, I demand a shrubbery. One that looks nice. And not too expensive. Regardless, Horror and Comedy are always rooted in recognized mythos or logic. Even the most twisted or absurd has a germ of practical reality nestled into its core. Friday the 13th was nothing more than an Oedipus Complex with an ax. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while the most beautifully existential comedic masterpiece ever filmed, came from actual history. Yes okay, Star Wars is based on myth too, sure, if you’re going to be a Nitpicking Nancy Drew about it. But turn that myth on its head and it becomes more than myth. It’s becomes canon. For those of us who chose to believe it, we embrace it as the new reality.
Sci-fi was, and still is, my ultimate escape, my magical realm of Xanth, my Pandora with a shitload of unobtanium to be mined. It’s Captain Kirk tagging some sexy green alien punnai and Quaid jump-starting the reactor on Mars. More than just a MacGuffin, it’s my Fifth Element. It is love. I love watching it. I love reading it. I love writing it. I love losing myself inside of it. I love becoming that 12-year over and over again, feeling my pulse race with that passion for the fantastic. I will continue to do so until the day I die. Of course, being a devotee of Sci-fi, I know death is never the end. It’s simply a journey to a new dimension – an eighth dimension where my best friend Buckaroo Bonzai waits for me. What wonderful adventures we will have! That’s my reality. My Serenity. Perhaps, I don’t make any sense. But then again, I write Sci-fi, therefore, I don’t have to. Case closed.
The year is 2252 and Loman Phin is in trouble. A washed-up channelship racer turned freelancer, he hits pay dirt with his latest mission: a fortune is on the line if he can transport forty-three kilograms of human skin to a remote villa on Pluto’s moon, Nix. Little does he know his very life is at stake when he gets caught up in an ancient feud, chased by a space vampire, and forced into a death-race by the king of Ceres. Meanwhile, danger is always hot on his heels in the form of a massive space freighter out for Loman’s blood. With just his wits, his friends, and his beat-up cruiser, the Slant Six, Loman sets out on the most dangerous adventure of his life.
Buy Link: Amazon