Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded"

James Alan Gardner is a 1989 graduate of the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and has had several science fiction stories and novellas appear in publications such as Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He is the author of Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant, Hunted, Ascending, Trapped, and Radiant. He was the grand prize winner of the 1989 Writers of the Future contest, has won the Aurora Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded, and reported the following:
I’m happy to say that page 69 of They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded is actually a pivotal moment in the book.

Quick background: Gun’s protagonist is a university student named Jools. She and her roommates gained superpowers in the first book of the series (All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault). Jools is now “human-best” in everything. For example, she doesn’t have superhuman strength but she’s as strong as the strongest human weightlifter. She’s also as fast as the fastest human runner, as agile as the best human gymnast, and as knowledgeable as the best human surgeon, physicist, historian, etc.

In other words, she has a huge breadth of knowledge. This lets her see cross-connections between disciplines that no one else is aware of. If she’s not careful, her mind fills with brilliant new inventions that combine principles from many different fields.

But does that breadth add up to super-intelligence? The question matters because on this particular version of Earth, people with super-intelligence tend to become Mad Geniuses: supervillains of the sort who create hordes of zombie dinosaurs or fire-breathing robots in order to conquer the world.

Is Jools in danger of going mad and becoming a supervillain? Or is she simply a very smart person who’s unlikely go maniacal?

Page 69 starts addressing this question. Jools and her teammates have got their hands on what looks like a super-gun made by a known Mad Genius. They don’t want to pull the trigger; for all they know, the weapon shoots nuclear bombs or lethal plague germs. But Jools wants to see if she can understand what the gun does and how it was made. Without admitting it out loud, she wants to know how smart she is. Is she just a clever human, or might she be a dangerous super-genius?

On page 69, Jools and her friends set out to break into a lab and analyze the gun. The page starts a scene in which a great many secrets begin to be revealed.

So hurray for page 69! It advances both the plot and Jools’s character development. Pretty good for just one page.
Visit James Alan Gardner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue