Here are five reasons to suspect that your science fiction novel may be Sci Fi Noir:
- The action is described in the first person by a lone wolf protagonist on a quest to find a truth somebody wants hidden. Sure, Mike Hammer had Velda and Pat Chambers but ultimately it’s our hero’s quest so the resolution rests on their shoulders alone.
- You protagonist gets beaten to a pulp regularly. This is a great staple in noir, our hero can usually handle themselves in a fight but occasionally they get overwhelmed and end up bruised, unconscious, shot, tied to a chair or all four. Noir detectives don’t come much tougher than Humphrey Bogart and even he frequently found himself bruised, unconscious, shot and tied to a chair and still able to wise-crack his way out of it.
- There’s a McGuffin in your plot. A McGuffin is an object or goal that your main character desperately wants and which is also sought by his enemies. The Maltese Falcon is the classic example in Noir as is the glowing box in Kiss Me Deadly, to which Tarantino played tribute in Pulp Fiction. In The Nostradamus Code it’s a computer file containing information that could ruin the career of a world leader.
- Femme Fatale or Homme Fatale. A lot of fiction includes love interests but Noir fiction includes a love interest whose loyalties and motives are not entirely obvious from the outset. I love you but you may be in league with my enemy. The relationship is usually dangerous and confusing but irresistible. Vivian Rutledge in The Big Sleep is an example of a femme fatale (beautifully played by Lauren Bacall in the original film version).
- Your novel takes place in a gritty urban setting. Noir hardly ever takes place in the countryside in the summertime. Not even in the city when it’s summer. It has to be a city (preferably overcrowded and in a state of decay for Sci Fi Noir) and cold enough to wear a coat. The Nostradamus Code is set in New Stockton which is a city on a distant human outpost which has suffered a major economic collapse. The buildings are so tall that they block out the sunlight meaning that it’s usually dark and cold enough to wear a coat at all times.