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Tara's Advice

[whitespace] Tara

New World Orders

Dear Tara,
I'm a born writer, I just know I am! All my life people have been telling me, "Franklin, you talk so smart, you should be a writer!" Specifically, I want to be a science fiction writer, because not only do I have a way with words, I've also got some really far-out ideas--people always tell me that. The trouble is, I seem to be having a bad case of ye olde writer's block, and can't come up with any good plots for a book. Can you give me a little push in the right direction, creatively? When "our" novel is a big hit, I'll give you a cut of the royalties. Deal?
Sincerely, The Next Isaac Asimov

Dear Next,
If we were in grade school, I'd call what you're asking me to do "cheating" and would rat you out to the principal before you could say "boo." But the stars must be in a benevolent alignment or something, because today I want to give you 110 percent. After all, one should support les beaux-arts, non?

OK, one trick lots of science fiction writers make use of is the so-called alternate future device. An author will pick an event in the past--for instance, the American Civil War--and imagine what the world would be like if history had turned out differently: i.e., in this case, what if the South had won? I just read a whole novel built around that very premise, and let me tell you, it was totally creepshow! Slavery in Y2K.

Now clearly I don't have the time or the space to write your whole novel for you here, but I can throw out a couple of story-starters, just to get your ball rolling. (Pick only one to start with.) Ready? Now, using all your imagination, I want you to picture how different life would be in a world in which:

1. There had been not one but two Emily Dickinsons.

2. Gnomes are real--and very needy, emotionally.

3. The guy who invented peanut butter, George Washington Carver, died in early childhood.

And finally:

4. Just as the first fish were beginning their long, difficult crawl onto dry land, there was some really mean extraterrestrial who went around kicking them back into the water. The fish eventually become really demoralized.

The possibilities are endless.
Flowingly yours, Tara the Talented

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From the August 2, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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