The Dead Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop

“That was wonderful wasn’t it? Such a talent.” Helena loaded the next reconstruction workshop as her students looked on. “Even if you’re not a fan of his work, I think we can all learn something about writing from Iain Banks.”

Helena looked at the display as Robert Heinlein’s face came into focus: a static image frozen between expressions.

“What works so well with the reconstructions is the advice comes straight from the authror’s writings,” Helena explained. “They aren’t mediated by those so-called rules of writing.” She made a small zig-zig gesture and Heinlein’s image blinked to life.

“There is a secret to selling good fantastical fiction,” he began. “Writing a good plot helps, of course, but it is characters – always characters – that we remember.

“The best characters are those that fulfil the wishes and fantasies of the reader. This is all you need to know.” Heinlein’s portrait gave a slow nod.

“You’re an old engineer, an old physicist – why shouldn’t the old man get the sexy schoolgirl?”

Helena gave a knowing shrug to her students, most of whom looked on with raised eyebrows.

“I like pretty girls – all men like pretty teenage girls. All men want is for a pretty teenage girl to notice them – to notice them as an object of desire – an object of raw, sexual desire.” He paused and pursed his lips as his eyes seemed to fix longingly on some distant point.

“The best characters will be the ones you fall in love with. In the Door Into Summer I wrote about a man falling in love with a ten-year-old girl. This is illegal, but it is something I can explore in fantastic fiction. The old engineer used time travel to marry the girl when she was of legal age. This is good. This is sexy.

“Of course it’s not all about young girls – it’s important, but not everything.”

Helena rolled her eyes and smiled, miming a exaltation to the heavens.

“You can dig deeper. We all love our mothers, we all want to make love to our mothers – our mothers are sexy. In my novel Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long went back in time to have sex with his mother. This is very sexy.

“So you see, you can take a trope of fantastical fiction such as time travel and use it to fulfil your reader’s deepest desires: to be with young girls, to be with their mothers. This is what time travel is for. It is very sexy.

The portrait of Heinlein licked his lips. “Let’s talk about how much fun rape can be. If the woman makes an effort to enjoy it then–.”

Helena gestured frantically toward the display. “I’m so sorry,” she said, turning to her students as her cheeks flushed, “this one’s clearly just a pervert.”

Heinlein’s portrait froze between expressions.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.

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