Hello! The Eye-Dancers is a Young Adult sci-fi/fantasy novel, now available as an e-book. As the author, I have decided to create this little space on the Web. It is my hope that this platform will be a meeting place for people to talk about, critique, and learn more about the book. And also a place where other topics are discussed as well, from comic books to the Twilight Zone, from creative writing to quantum physics, from personal memories to short stories and many things in between! Hopefully there is something here to interest everyone . . .
The story of The Eye-Dancers takes place in western New York State, where I was born and spent the first twenty-five years of my life. Many of the characters, events, locations, and themes in the story are inspired from my years growing up in my old neighborhood in the suburbs of Rochester. This was, in short, a labor of love, and I hope that comes across in the pages. Nowadays, I live in the hills of central Vermont with my wife, Sarah, and our regal cat, Luke. But the magic of childhood, of the adventures I shared with my friends growing up, has remained with me well into adulthood. The Eye-Dancers is for anyone who likes to imagine, who wonders, “What’s really out there?” “What is across the void? Another reality? Another world?” It seems to me that when we’re young, our minds are more free and more open to discover the nature of things. The Eye-Dancers asks some probing questions about what we term “reality,” and the four main characters in the novel (Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski)must travel on an extraordinary journey to search for the answers.
For a snapshot of the book, please take a look at Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three.
Michael S. Fedison (“Mike”) — author of The Eye-Dancers
What motivates us to create something? If you’re a painter, why do you paint? If you’re a chef, why do you experiment with new recipes? And if you’re a writer, why do you write?
There are many answers to these questions, of course. Perhaps you want to paint a beautiful scene, something that inspires you. Maybe you want to mix in various ingredients that, at first blush, do not seem to mesh but you strive to complement the yin with the yang. And maybe you want to write a personal essay, a brutally honest and difficult piece dealing with an old wound.
But what if you are seeking recognition from others? You want your painting to be showcased in a gallery. You want your recipe to be featured in a magazine. You want your novel to be the next big thing. What then? Before you begin, do you step back, analyze the market, pick and sift through possibilities, trends, genres? Perhaps. It depends.
Since I am a writer, and not a painter or a chef, I can speak from experience only about writing. And let’s take a look at that word–genre.
When I published The Eye-Dancers, the various retail sites where it’s available all required basic information regarding the book. Obviously, these details include author name, sale price, blurb, and things of that nature. But they also required a genre, a label, if you will, with which to tag the work.
Let me step back. At the point of conception, when The Eye-Dancers was only an idea, a potentiality, with no guarantee that it would ever be completed, did I think of and consider the book’s genre? Yes and no. I did not select a genre ahead of time and say, “I want to write a book for that market.” I had a story–the story came first. But I knew the book would center around four adolescent boys, about to embark on a dimension-shattering adventure. And I knew the plot would take readers on a wild ride, complete with ghost girls, swirling, hypnotic eyes, dreams that are much more than “just” dreams, and alternate worlds and endless blue voids. Given all that, the novel was clearly Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Or is it? Since the protagonists in question are twelve years old, some would further classify the book as middle grade.
When I summarized the plot to a friend, he said, “Yeah, but remember, most young adult readers like to read up, not down. Why don’t you make the characters seventeen instead of twelve? And girls read more than boys. Maybe you should make one of your main characters a girl.” I just shrugged my shoulders. If this were a purely marketing project, perhaps he had a point. The problem is–ideas don’t work like that. Creativity doesn’t work like that. I have tried to alter ideas before for reasons other than the story. It never works. The Eye-Dancers is a story about Mitchell Brant and Joe Marma and Ryan Swinton and Marc Kuslanski–all boys. And all preteens. That’s how the story came to me. That’s what I had to write, and to share.
Apart from the issue of the characters’ age and gender, there is also the sci-fi/fantasy element. But there again, is it science fiction and fantasy? Of course it is. The premise is based on parallel worlds and quantum physics and the ability to communicate across the void. And yet–to me, at least, to classify The Eye-Dancers as strictly sci-fi/fantasy doesn’t tell the whole truth. For instance, there are many mainstream aspects to the story. One of the driving forces that urged me to write The Eye-Dancers was a desire to get inside the four main characters’ heads–to present them as three-dimensional, flawed individuals who are thrust into a dangerous and life-altering predicament, one that will force them to confront their own insecurities, biases, and points of view.
When I first told my mother about the book, she said, “Oh, really? But I don’t like science fiction!” I said, “Mom, don’t worry about the label. It’s not a story about space ships and little green men [not that there’s anything wrong with such stories! I happen to like them!]. It’s a story about adolescence, growing up, learning new things. Hopefully it challenges people to view reality in a more layered way. A lot of it actually feels mainstream. Really.”
This is true of so many novels. Today, more than ever, we like to put a sticker on the fiction we read. Steampunk. Dystopian. Urban Fantasy. Soft Sci-fi. The list goes on and on. Such labels have a purpose, of course. They serve as guideposts to would-be readers, telling them ahead of time what to expect. If a genre (or subgenre) tends to have several dos and don’ts attached to it, a reader feels safer purchasing a book in one of his or her preferred categories. At the same time, so many stories cross multiple genres.
Reading a novel is often like looking through a window, but also, simultaneously, seeing your reflection in the glass.
On the one hand, you are peering into a new world, complete with imaginative vistas and unexpected twists and turns. On the other hand, the characters in the story share some of your own struggles. When you laugh with them, cry with them, care about them, you do that because they speak to you on some innate and mysterious level.
The window into this “other” fictional world has, in turn, become a mirror, reflecting your own.
It is certainly my hope that The Eye-Dancers can create in readers this window-and-mirror duality. For the twelve-year-old who knows, firsthand, what Ryan feels when he desperately seeks favor and fears rejection, sure. But also for the fifty-three-year-old office worker who recalls his own struggles in middle school; for the thirty-four-year-old engineer who often looks at her universe with the same logic-oriented lens as Marc; for the ninety-year-old great-grandmother who remembers her first kiss, all these years later, and is right there with Mitchell when he experiences his.
It seems to me that writing about adolescence is not a narrowly defined subgenre at all, but rather, it addresses a period of life that we’ve all gone through, can all remember, and can all relate to.
Is The Eye-Dancers a Young Adult Sci-fi/fantasy novel? That’s what it says on Amazon. Heck, that’s what it says in the headline of this very website!
But, first and foremost, I believe it is what any creative writing project should be, above all–a story. A story that came to me, unasked for, unplanned.
In the words of novelist Jose Saramago, “The novel is not so much a literary genre, but a literary space, like a sea that is filled by many rivers.”
Thanks so much for reading!