Part of the magic of sci-fi is that really wild special power a character wields to give them the edge over the villain. As readers, we are willing, even anxious, to suspend all the real-world rules so that we can live vicariously through a character that can endure ridiculous amounts of violence, emerge unscathed, and come through with that special ability that saves the day. I get the chills just thinking about some of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy like Star Wars, Dune, Spiderman, Artemis Fowl, and on and on.
The thing is, if you look outside our human experience and instead look at the animal world, you see an amazing amount of science-fiction-like abilities in the real world. Eels that can use electric shock to stun their prey, lizards that change their skin to look like their surroundings, squirrels that can fly. That magic is just as exciting to me as super-hero magic. It got me started thinking about what special abilities might actually be scientifically possible in humans if evolution had been a little different.
My challenge with the story of Blue and Will was to write a real-world thriller novel that stayed in the real world even as I gave them a special ability—the ability to communicate with infrared light that is generated and detected through the otherwise normal optics of a human eye. That special ability had to be scientifically sound yet still have that tingly magic quality. What I found was that in order to stay in the real world, the special ability wound up having real-world flaws which perhaps takes away some of the magic. Instead, I discovered a different magic. I think the magic of Will and Blue’s story lies not in the escapism that you find with good vs. evil superpowers, but rather an empathy and commiseration in sharing their pain and joy as humans sharing tragedy and victory. The special ability turns out not to be something that you necessarily envy other than the bond that you see it creates between the two characters. You fall in love with the characters as humans, not as superheroes.
So what is the genre Vox Oculis series? Is it coming-of-age? YA? Thriller? Mystery? Science-fiction? I myself don’t know how to classify it. I didn’t target any of those genres using the conventional genre templates that most authors use. I just let the story write itself and discovered that I can’t wait to see how it ends.