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Writer’s Craft #19 – The Fuzz Up

May 9, 2011

It was only after thoroughly enjoying Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, that I found myself wondering why Loki looked like an Asgardian if he was the son of an ice giant. My net reaction was “so what”. It’s a magic realm. It might be explained in the sequel or, like the aside in a Star Trek movie about why Klingons had looked human at one stage in their history, it might be relegated to a humorous footnote. I’m going to label bits of business like this “fuzz ups”: the necessary things you can’t entirely justify but either can’t correct after the fact, can’t do without, can’t explain yet, or never want to bog the story down by belaboring.

I’m aware of two fuzz ups in my Okal Rel saga. In a paper I wrote for a British conference in 1999, I justified the sexual appetites of Vrellish women from an evolutionary psychology viewpoint by arguing the importance to a clan of having highborn children, and the difficulty of getting highborn women pregnant.  It always nagged at me that only 1,000 years of history were available for this bias to play out in favor of the clans of lusty females. My “fuzz up” excuse is the artificial nature of the first generation of bioengineered VR-Gs whose women were created, in the first place, by cloning VR-G males and giving them just enough female DNA to bear children, but mostly I just don’t dwell on the inadequacy of 1,000 years for evolutionary purposes. My second nagging “fuzz up” is astronomical. I created my faster-than-light solution for space travel, called Reality skimming, during a geeky phase, and wanted the science to be plausible. But I rely on a “fuzz up” to make approaches to space stations much faster than it really should be.  The bottom line is, it is more exciting to have characters land and interact than to call in vital news during an interminably long and boring approach under sub-light power. I justify the “fuzz up” a bit by making Sevolites (the pilots) an impatient and action-oriented race distrustful of all technology-mediated interactions that can be tampered with by Lorels. But the bottom line is, I just didn’t want to write about people with big emotions talking to each other on the radio when I could have them punching, kissing, raging or weeping in person.

Have any “fuzz ups” in your work that you’d like to confess to? Or ones you’ve encountered in the work of others, and are either bothered by or happy to accept as I did Loki’s Asgardian appearance?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mishell Baker permalink*
    May 9, 2011 7:48 am

    My recent flash piece “Break” is one giant fuzz-up, really. An ancient Egyptian love-curse cured by aspirin? What the…

    I think you can get away with pretty much anything if it’s good fun. 🙂

  2. May 10, 2011 3:44 pm

    Never underestimate the power of aspirin.

  3. May 12, 2011 9:25 am

    My first thought when it his arm went all frosty and then back to normal was: is he part Frost Giant? What exactly had Odin gotten up to? I figured maybe his mother was a Frost Giant. Then it turned out his father was one, so…maybe his mother was Asgardian…? He looked decidedly different from his friends, so maybe he was actually half. I was trying to come up with some sort of logical explanation and that was the best I could do.

    Fun movie. Some seriously witty lines. Actual character development. Interesting special effects. Overall, the “fuzz up” didn’t bother me much. It was just enjoyable. I think that so long as you have fun with it and your audience has fun with it, it shouldn’t be a major issue so long as their is some way it could be possible, if not probable.

    • May 12, 2011 1:00 pm

      And in the care of Thor, maybe your thought process when the arm started changing was exactly what the creators wanted the audience to be thinking. To create tension for future sequels to resolve. I agree it was a great movie. If you are going to go larger than life, just GO! It was great for that.

      More generally speaking, things that might look like “fuzz ups” could actually be tension-creators for the next installment. Certainly in series at the very least.

  4. May 15, 2011 5:13 pm

    Fuzz-ups. I also like the term- handwavium. In my sci-fi series there is artificial gravity on board all ships. I sort of explain a manipulation of gravitons through a generator on board each ship which help people stick to the floor. But… it all works with handwavium🙂

    Good plot point when it breaks though…

  5. savantefolle permalink
    May 16, 2011 5:52 pm

    The characters in the Jules-Verne Saga use graviton sandals inside the ship (very funny when the Martian-bred heroin tries on a pair set at normal Earth gravity). I invented those sandals before actually learning that graviton were highly theoretical particles.

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