I Can Already Hear The Screams
Space opera is generally optimistic in nature, although sometimes it can take a very dark turn, especially New Space Opera.
I tend to lean toward the happy, unbeat endings, myself. I prefer them in my reading, too.
But sometimes the characters and situations just won’t let me take a story in that direction.
That’s what happened with The Maker of Widowmakers’ Arm.
From the get-go, the Ptolemy Lane series has drawn heavily upon the tropes of hardboiled pulp fiction of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Hardboiled is often mixed up with Noir, which I cordially dislike. I heard one author describe Noir as fiction about “losers losing.” Couldn’t put it better myself. Ewan McGregor, after his Star Wars stint, tended to pick psychological Noir thrillers with sucky endings, for example.
Hardboiled, on the other hard, doesn’t have to be so grim and stark. I like to think of Hardboiled as the opposite end of the spectrum from cozy mysteries. Hardboiled can deal with grim topics–sex, drugs, betrayal, revenge, greed, etc. And the main charcter is usually a professional sleuth in one shade or another–Perry Mason was a sleuth, defined by his actions, even though he was a lawyer.
Where the “hardboiled” element comes in is usually via the main character’s cynical outlook on life. They’ve seen and done it all, can’t be surprised by anything life hands out, and look to move through it on their own terms.
Unlike Noir, though, Hardboiled fiction can have an upbeat, positive outcome. The good guys can win. There actually can be good guys, even while the main character’s morals are shaded in grey. The movie The Last Boy Scout is a great example of a modern hardboiled story with a great positive ending.
For two of the stories in the Ptolemy Lane series, I managed to pull off that positive ending.
But in The Maker of Widowmakers’ Arm, I needed to demonstrate a fact of life in the Fringes, which required a grimmer, darker story. The themes are tough, the story very hardboiled.
I don’t plan on too many of these bleaker stories in the future, but sometimes they just have to be told in order to get the overall series story heading in the direction it needs to go.
The Maker of Widowmakers’ Arm was released this morning on all retailers.