Story Notes: Uncertainty Principle (from Diverse Energies)

So I may have jumped the gun a bit early on the release date for Diverse Energies! However, according to the publisher, it is available now. And I’m seeing it in eBook format on Amazon and B&N, so I suspect print copies will be forthcoming very soon. Check your local, indie book sellers first!

I’m looking forward to hearing from people who read the stories to see what everyone thinks. Rachel Manija-Brown wrote a very thoughtful review here which then led into this post about dystopias and genre labels. One thing I find intriguing is that where┬áRahul Kanakia was told to write an SF action story, I was told to write a dystopia, yet his story is way more classic dystopia and mine has little shades of it but is more actiony.

Given the discussion on that post, I thought I’d give folks who read my story “Uncertainty Principle” a little peek into the background of it and my thinking around the whole dystopia thing.

As you might expect, these story notes are full of spoilers, so they’re going behind a cut. Don’t read unless you’ve read the story or don’t mind knowing some things about it! (also, ‘ware spoilers in the comments.)

Several people have already said: is this a novel? It should be a novel! When can I have this novel??


“Uncertainty Principle” was never meant to be a novel, but the world in which it exists is the world of the novel I’m currently writing which stars Viola and Sebastian. When I first came up with the idea I thought the story would just be something that happened off to the side. Now I think that Iliana will probably be the protagonist of the second book. She’s definitely destined to be an important character.

This should have been a surprise to me. The novel I’m writing started off as a very long story back when I was at Clarion West. It grew out of my interest in time travel and my frustration at how people deal with time travel in other science fiction shows and books.

The time travel aspects aren’t the main focus of this story, though. It grew out of my thinking about dystopias and what they are and mean. Like much good SF, dystopian futures are about the now expressed in a fiction about tomorrow. For me, though, dystopias are very much in the present.

Just ask anyone who lives in a low income neighborhood. Kids who grow up there see TV or advertisements or are just told about how the world is great, just look at all the technology we have now and the great media and the nice clothes with magical technology inside them. That these things are not universally available is rarely spoken about amongst the people who push this happy version of the world.

Thinking on that led to the idea that a dystopia is about perspective. Thus, I wanted to write about a character that loses the economic and social comfort she’s used to in ways that are far more obvious than less SFnal explorations would be.

Iliana’s basic experiences are actually based on something I witnessed over the course of my life in the neighborhood where my grandparents lived: Bond Hill in Cincinnati, Ohio. When they bought the house in the 60’s (I think) that area was a suburb of Cincinnati. The city expanded, thus making it just another neighborhood. One that was and is predominantly black.

When I was a kid Bond Hill was a safe place and I ran around with other kids my age freely. We had limits of how far we could go, but they were measured in blocks, not feet. By the time I reached high school things started to turn. Now there’s far more violence than I ever remembered and people on the corners and at the all night grocery dealing drugs.

Kids growing up in Bond Hill today will have a radically different experience than I did.

These were the kinds of things in my head as I wrote Uncertainty Principle. And initially it was a huge, sprawling thing all over the place. I didn’t quite know how I wanted to get from the beginning to the end I’d envisioned, so I wrote a lot of scenes and branched off in a lot of directions that eventually ended up being cut.

I felt sorry for poor Iliana as I wrote, because each time I realized that the scene I was writing or the way I’d envisioned the plot wouldn’t work and had to scrap it, I felt like I was doing to her exactly what the people messing with time were doing: constantly changing her timeline! Maybe someday I will post some of the extra scenes so you can imagine what might have happened.

I remember a few off the top of my head. There was a whole scene where she met other time walkers working with Viola and Sebastian. The longest is a version where she lived with Victor and Elena for several years and then Victor got cancer. Iliana doesn’t want to lose yet another father, and that’s when she decides to post the message that gets Viola’s attention.

Sometimes writing is like that in general. You have an idea and an outline and you write and write, then realize that something isn’t working or you have a better idea or you just need to tighten things up. It just wasn’t until writing this story that the process felt so much like messing with the character’s heads!

If you have any questions or comments about “Uncertainty Principle”, please leave them below. I love hearing from readers. Also, let me know what you think of the rest of the book!

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