In any book, the author must introduce the characters, the situation, and the basic elements of the setting, but in fantasy and science fiction you might have a viewpoint character in the first chapter who isn't even human, living on a planet that isn't even in this universe. The very laws of physics might be different, never mind the differences in culture, history, civilization, and everything that goes along with that: systems of measurement, idioms, naming conventions, philosophical principles, mathematics, science...speculative fiction strives to introduce and immerse a reader in a world that might be completely different from that with which we are familiar.
Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.
Science fiction seems to have faded. At least, when I go to a library, or a bookstore, or more likely browse the Amazon Kindle library, I find a lot more good, really original fantasy being put out by new names and in modern times than I do science fiction. I can’t claim to know why this might be, but I do know that it hasn’t always been this way; my dad has often said that when he was younger it was the opposite, with fantasy in a kind of rut, and science fiction the blossoming flower. This present situation is perhaps why I find that I read today much for fantasy than I do science fiction, which is really shame, since every time that I pick up one of these older science fiction novels I invariably enjoy it.
The world is a dangerous place. That's true any time, and at any point in history, but certainly this year the point has been emphasized repeatedly. Although it is often easy to imagine that either it is hubris to think that we live in important times, or alternatively that what is happening right now must be a matter of grave and unprecedented significance, the objective truth is that this year has already seen more uncertainty and tumult than usual. So, naturally, I read a book written to scare people.
It's a question I get all the time: will you ever write an IGC story? A sort of autobiographical account of your time as an agent of the Intergalactic Coalition, with special emphasis on your last six thousand years or so of service here on Earth?
There are certain novels that you can read again and again, and you’ll always get something a little different out of them. It can be because you’re at a different point in your life, or because you’ve read other things and are approaching the story with a different context, or simply because the story is that intricate and beautifully written that, like any other great work of art, there are always more mysteries to be revealed. When it comes to literature, these are often the books that first got you into the genre, and that you come back to time and time again. These are the books that are thumbed through and dog-eared and well-worn. There might be pages trying to fall out, maybe even a tear here and there. These are well loved books.
I love classic, hard science fiction (we've talked about the difference between hard and soft science fiction before). Verne, Wells, Asimov: I've read most of what they wrote. These stories, exploring scientifically rigorous possibilities and ideas, hold a unique place in the huge volume of work classified as science fiction. To use the MICE quotient, these are idea stories, through and through. I'd heard about Ringworld in a few different places, and decided that this was something I needed to read.
I know, I know. I only do one review a week, and Tuesdays are reserved for other thoughts and writings and musings, so that you don't get bored of reading my reviews. Reviews are supposed to come out on Thursdays. Well, don't worry: you'll have your book review on Thursday. I think I deserve a pass, though, since this isn't a book review. Now, I don't review a lot of shows or movies, mostly because I don't watch a lot of shows and movies, but also because this is supposed to be a writing website, not a video production website, and therefore book reviews seem more appropriate. Shows and movies are still story-telling, though, and exceptions can be made.
No, I'm not above using cliche titles, when they serve me. Because I'm so very fond of stirring up controversy, I'm going to talk about something that divides more people than religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin: movie/book adaptations. Fair warning: we're going to talk about some big name franchises, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and others, so if you don't want to risk potential spoilers from either the book or movie versions of any of these, you might not want to read this post. Otherwise, let's mire ourselves in controversy.
Broadly, I classify my writing as speculative fiction, which includes the genres that are typically shelves under both the fantasy, and science fiction categories. Yet, you will notice that the majority of my works, both published so far on the site, and in progress, fall in the fantasy genre. Considering that my "real" job involves working with advanced, experimental satellites, that might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, and indeed I've gotten a lot of questions recently about why I don't write more science fiction. So, I've decided to try to provide an answer, other than the fact that I'm not nearly as skilled or imaginative, to why I'm not the next Isaac Asimov.