Turning Science Fact Into Fiction.
‘Earth Girl’ is a young adult, science fiction book written by new British author, Janet Edwards.
‘Earth Girl’ Synopsis
Jarra lives on Earth, because she has an invisible disability; a compromised immune system. If she leaves Earth, she will die. Anyone with this disability is called an ‘ape’ and considered to be intellectually subnormal by the ‘norms’ or ‘exos’ who are not affected and have the ability to freely transfer to any planet.
Jarra refuses to be limited by her condition and after creating a fake background for herself as a normal child, she joins a class of ‘norms’ on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities the migrating ‘norms’ left behind.
She soon makes a name for herself in a daring rescue, but her life becomes complicated when she falls for a ‘norm’ classmate.
As dramatic events unfold when a violent solar storm reaches the Earth, Jarra is suddenly forced to make some life changing decisions.
Introduction to Interview
I have been fascinated by science fiction from childhood. Since then, one way or another, science has always been in my life; so I like to see how it is used in fiction.
I particularly enjoy reading science fiction stories where science is used in a believable way and to explore interesting issues. This is something Earth Girl does well.
What I particularly liked were the inventive ways certain scientific phenomena, such as genetic mutation, cell regeneration, the habitation domes and solar flares (to name some) were used.
So, in order to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to ask Janet, about the fictional science in her book.
I would like to know how much research you did into our current scientific ideas and technologies and how you then went about creating your own science for the book.
I started to say I hadn’t done very much research, but actually that isn’t true. I didn’t sit down and do research for a month, but for every scene in the book I probably spent a few minutes looking something up, or used something interesting that I’d read.
There were certainly times when I researched something for a couple of hours, just to be happy about writing one sentence, or even to make sure I was happy about NOT saying something.
The science is mostly a logical extension of the things we have now, or think we will soon be able to achieve, apart from portals of course.
People have already created plans for solar arrays for example. There’s the complication of the Earth Data Net crash and the near collapse of civilization as well, so some things are far more advanced than others.
When you are over 700 years into the future, it seems very likely civilization would have hit major problems at some point and some knowledge would have been lost. Historically, some knowledge has turned out to be wrong, so this future civilization won’t necessarily be right about everything they believe.
They would also, quite possibly, have decided to deliberately not use some technology because of bad experiences.
I also found the protocols for the digs fascinating. How did you go about creating those?
With the cities being abandoned at the end of Exodus century, there’d be vast expanses of ancient ruins.
Given the impossible scale of it, and ancient relics and clues to lost knowledge being constantly destroyed by time, archaeologists wouldn’t work the same way they do today. They’d use the future equivalent of construction site equipment. Falling skyscrapers and collapsing underground areas would make things very dangerous, so safety would be a big concern.
You’d want to minimize the number of people in a dangerous area, and have a way to pull someone out of trouble fast. You’d want someone monitoring the location of all the teams and coordinating rescues.
I chose one set of ways for them to do these things. There’d be other possible ways as well, but you can only have one in a book, so you make one decision and build on it.
Jarra’s disability (invisible until she transports from Earth) and all the prejudices involved with this condition, from those who are unaffected and Jarra’s attitude towards them brings out some interesting scenarios.
Had you considered the extent to which this condition could be explored in the book before you began writing, or did they develop as you went on?
I didn’t plot the book in advance. Jarra told me her story and I meekly wrote it down.
Jarra does, of course, have her own prejudices, and her goal is to prove things to herself as much as to the offworlders.
Staying strictly in first person viewpoint, means I’m restricted to showing things to the reader through Jarra’s eyes, with the extra limitation that sometimes Jarra doesn’t want to admit something to herself.
It would have been a lot easier to convey some things by writing the book in third person, but I think I’d have lost a lot of the immediacy.
The plot is very complex. How did you manage to keep it all under control and not make errors in continuity?
The first three quarters of the book weren’t a problem. The last quarter of the book got a bit complicated, so I wrote it in two pieces.
The emotional scenes between Jarra and Fian (the ‘norm’ classmate she has fallen for) were written first. The action sequences second. I then fitted the two sets of scenes together.
I tend to describe this as writing a book sideways.
I’m currently working on the first draft of book 3 in the trilogy, and that’s much more complicated because I’m trying to bring every thread together for the climax.
You used quite a few made up words, which were ’totally zan’ (I interpreted as ‘great’, ‘wonderful’ and nearly began to use myself). How did you decide what words to use and did you worry that these words might confuse your readers?
You are exactly right, ‘totally zan’ means wonderful. I feel that when you are writing a future world, you have to consider the impact of that world’s history on how people speak and the words and phrases they’ll use. For example, using the phrase ‘missing the boat’ wouldn’t be appropriate in a society where people haven’t used boats for hundreds of years. Jarra’s future Earth is stricter about nudity than ours, some colony worlds are less strict than ours, so that’s reflected in the words some characters will or won’t use.
Made up words are a slightly different issue. I wouldn’t normally use many of them in a book, but you’re reading Jarra’s thoughts and her voice is part of her character. She grew up in residences run by Hospital Earth, with very limited privacy, and she and the other children would use a lot of slang to keep their conversations private from staff. They’d use the same slang words as the children in offworld vids because of their desperate desire to be like them. When Jarra talks to her lecturer, she’s far more formal.
Yes, I did worry that the words might confuse readers, which is why some of the slang is shortened words like ‘amaz’ for amazing.That makes it easier to understand and shortening words is a natural progression over time. For example, Londinium is now London.
I also worried that some people might actively hate this style, so the slang words are probably most frequent in the first couple of pages to let readers see it and decide against the book if it isn’t for them.
The book is written for a young adult audience (although due to the device of using Jarra as the narrator, it could easily be a crossover). How did you create Jarra’s narration style and the way she saw and thought about the world?
I had the central idea of the book, which was originally intended to be a short story.
Over the next year, I did some thinking about the future Earth with its history and society.
The short story idea was about Jarra being abandoned as a baby, but I never wrote it, because the story and viewpoint character didn’t feel right and there was too much to fit into a short story.
At the end of a year, a new character started talking to me. Jarra wasn’t a baby, she was seventeen, and she wanted to tell her own story!
‘Earth Girl’ by Janet Edwards is published by Harper Voyager and is available both in print and e-book.