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Characters Come Alive at Human Equation Launch

10-12-2003

The general rule when it comes to readings at book launches is that they should last no more than 10-15 minutes. But when the person doing the reading is a gifted 19-year-old who transports his audience from their plastic chairs in a high school library to a boardroom on a space fleet’s flagship, that rule can certainly be broken.

And it was at the October 9th launch of The Human Equation. Kenneth Tam, completely at ease with an almost full house, entertained his guests for approximately half an hour with the voices of High Chancellor Harvey Bingham and First Lord Setter Caine, as a spotlight was shone on the volatile circumstances being faced by Earth some 700 years in the future.

The reading was followed by a Q&A period in which Tam responded to questions that ranged from how he chooses names for his characters, if he has a set schedule for writing, and if he prepared detailed outlines for his books, to whether or not his novel was making a statement about organized religion and if science fiction as a genre tends to present an idealistic view of the world.

 

Tam, who clarified that “picking them off the top of his head” was one of his favorite character-naming techniques (though not the only one), explained that he doesn’t have a set schedule for writing and doesn’t force himself to write everyday. “Sometimes the story just isn’t ready,” he explained, “and you have to wait until it’s ready to be told.”

Preparing detailed outlines is also something Tam avoids. “I know basically where the story is going,” he says, “and have an idea of how it will get there. But as a writer you have to be ready to let the characters develop the stories in a certain way. I sometimes find that I’m very surprised at how one character or another will shape a story and the direction in which they’ll push events. Or how someone I thought would play a minor role becomes very significant. ¬†You have to be able to go with those developments.”

“The most important thing is the story,” Tam explained afterwards. “I write because I love telling stories, and because I believe we can learn a lot from the stories we share.”

The book launch was covered by CKCO (the Kitchener-Waterloo CTV affiliate). Tam’s high school history teacher, John Fiorivanti, acted as MC.