[GUEST POST] Amalie Howard on World-building in THE ALMOST GIRL

Amalie Howard grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. An aspiring writer from a young age, Amalie’s poem “The Candle,” written at age twelve, was published in a University of Warwick journal. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was selected as a Seventeen Magazine Summer Read. She is also the author of the Aquarathi series from Harlequin Teen (Waterfell, out now, and Oceanborn, available August, 2014), as well as The Almost Girl from Strange Chemistry (available now) and Alpha Goddess from Sky Pony Press (coming March 2014).

Science Fiction and Science Fact
World-building in THE ALMOST GIRL
by Amalie Howard

According to the laws of physics, time travel and inter-dimensional travel are both possible. Having been a science fiction fan for most of my life (Star Wars, Dune, Aliens and The Fifth Element all grace my top 10 movie list), when I wrote The Almost Girl, I knew the world-building and the concept of jumping between universes, had to be complex but relatable, especially for a young adult market. As a fiction writer, any world has to have rules, and those rules have to be consistent or the world falls apart. So step one was definitely research.

I hated physics in high school. Hated is probably an underestimation-I loathed it. During class, I took excessively long bathroom breaks. At home, I agonized over pages of homework I could barely understand. And yet, when I was researching worm holes and parallel universes for The Almost Girl, I found myself completely fascinated by the laws of physics-a nightmare realm that had instigated far more than its fair share of cold sweats during my teen years. I became sucked into a deliciously dark underworld of sub-quantum mechanics, astrophysics, advanced robotics, nanotechnology and claytronics. Nerdgasm? Totally.

Building off of Albert Einstein’s space and time theories, physicists throughout history have been hell-bent on reverse engineering the universe and explaining it at its most basic level-discovering the so-called Theory of Everything. Who knew that Hugh Everett’s “Many-Worlds Theory” was an interpretation of quantum mechanics where every possible outcome could happen causing multiple universes (though we wouldn’t be aware of them)? Or that Michio Kaku would come up with String Field Theory demonstrating that gravity could interact between two parallel universes? Or that Stephen Hawking would contend that wormholes exist in a phenomenon called quantum foam? Mind blown. Literally.

Using quantum theory and the microscopic gaps in the universe to allow two distinct points in time and space to connect, I could jump off of Kaku’s string theory, and bolster it with Kip Thorne’s theories of anti-gravitational quantum vacuums to engineer my wormholes, and then tie it into zero-point energy as my “launch” spots to jump between universes (for which I invented the term eversion). Ultimately, I had to take whatever theory I decided to use and make it work for my intended reader. I was looking for complex simplicity-something rooted in the laws of physics, but also accessible to my readers of any strata…meaning credible for savvy, erudite sci-fi readers and relatable for high-concept teen ones. It was a delicate balance.

Here’s an excerpt from The Almost Girl where I explain this element in my mythology.

A picture forms on the flat-screens in the center of the room. It looks like an hourglass broken up into small squares. “That is a two-dimensional drawing of a traversable wormhole. It’s basically a bridge in space with two different end points. Think of the universe as made up of an infinite number of universes. Some of these universes are coupled by a gravitational field, which means that we can communicate between them.” […] “How it works is a whole other story. We’re talking string theory and sub-quantum mechanics, basically the relationship between space-time, gravity, energy, and matter.”

~ The Almost Girl

As I indicated earlier, I also came up with the concept of “eversion” or “to evert,” which in my mythology means to jump between universes. It’s based on the words trans-inversion (reversal of position) and trans-eversion (turning inside out). I knew I wanted something unique that would work within my framework and wouldn’t be something too generic. I wanted the word to convey an inimitable sense of what it intended-not just something as ordinary as jumping. The word itself had to be a process, one of flipping inside out, and one that conjured thoughts of its own journey.

All in all, writing The Almost Girl was an incredible learning experience, especially as it related to science fact and science fiction. I learned that the world of physics is a fascinating one, and that there is so much more to who we are and the universe in which we exist. I learned that something you experience in high-school could evolve into something extraordinary when approached in a different way-even something as painful as physics (gasp). I learned that science fiction is an awesome space to be in as a writer-it’s a world of infinite possibility with so many opportunities to create. I’m pretty sure that we aren’t the only intelligent life out there, whether that’s in alternate or parallel universes, or in other galaxies. And until that’s proven, for now, I’ll continue to exist in the universes of my own making.

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