What is “rational speculation”? Well I look at it as a way of applying the rules that govern the universe to new things that I’m speculating could exist. This means that when I apply this rational speculation approach to a particular book, whatever is new will be governed by the same rules that govern things like gravity, or electromagnetic waves. The new thing can be supernatural (beyond what we think of as natural), but it will follow these rules. Things like conservation of energy and force at a distance relationships, or does the geology really work this way?
The story of The Balance takes place in a fictional place called, The Land. While this place doesn’t really exist, the features and other characteristics were drawn from a number of different places—the Land is very much like a real place. For example: I situated it in a spot on the Earth to be near different ocean currents, but lifted its geology from another place. Within the story I try to be consistent with the laws of physics to the maximum extent possible, while creating new abilities for some of the characters. Phoebe, for example, is a Sensitive, created to have the ability to connect with other people’s minds. We don’t create Sensitives today, but I can imagine that elements of certain brains might develop, or be caused to develop, a structure and signal that make it possible to do so. In the world of The Balance, the Order would have zeroed in on these characteristics to enhance and amplify this ability. Phoebe is the product of over 200 years of this kind of development. The story uses this and the fact that the Order was banished to underscore that Phoebe isn’t aware of why she feels so strange, she just thinks of herself as a freak and wishes it would all go away.
Still, if we are to accept that this characteristic could exist, then we ned to apply the rules of physics to understand how it might work. Her ability isn’t magic, its speculative science. That means that there are rules that will govern how a Senstive’s mind and powers will work. I surmised that they would work like any other transmitted force, using the 1/r2 (one divided by the range squared) loss of signal strength. That means that if you double the distance from her mind, the signal strength would decrease as the square of the distance, so at double the range the signal would be one fourth as strong, at ten times the range it would be one one hundreth as strong. The Order might well have designed ways to enhance this range, much like using an antenna. An antenna focuses the energy of a transmitter to provide amplification (or gain) and can extend the range, but antenna are also governed by rules, like the limit of the focused beam being proportional to the wavelength of the energy divided by the diameter of the antenna. When I wrote the book, I factored these kinds of things into how I designed the Sensitives and how I would have seen the potency (or range) of the sensitives increase over time.
This is just one example of rational speculation. I don’t always constrain myself this way. For example: the book “Disobedience” is a supernatural thriller. It’s slated for some time in the future. I still rationalize about why things happen, but in that story I use powers that I speculate would require some deity-like being or demon to be involved who is not constrained by the rules. But for the book The Balance and for I Am, I try to stick to rational speculation—as much as possible.
Another example: for the book I Am, I projected the orbit of a comet and placed in in time so that I can tell where each important object in the solar system is on every day of the story. This was more than just for fun. I wanted the main co-character, an astrophysics student, to be able to track the orbit as the story progressed, and I wanted to be able to time other events of the story such that the comet’s arrival and its passing of certain events would coincide.
Does this make me crazy? Maybe, but I think obsessive is probably a better term. I want to create good fiction, in the plot, the characters, the writing, and the rationale. But the world should make sense, too.