Inventing Reality: A Guide to Writing Science Fiction
Why write science fiction?
With a million other things to do in the world – let alone dozens of other types of stories that you could pen – why write science fiction?
There are plenty of reasons.
Perhaps the most obvious of them is an enjoyment of writing:
n Joy of creating - Writing science fiction involves creating whole new worlds rather than using the often mundane one in which we live. Imagining our future, a distant exoworld or an alien civilization is a game far more sophisticated than golfing or solving crossword puzzles.
n Living your dreams and visions - If you're the imaginative type, writing can give tangibility to your far-out thoughts about living on a space colony or traveling back in time to the Age of the Dinosaurs.
n Joy of learning - Quality science fiction is based on science fact. So you've got to get those facts right, and that involves researching, exploring and self-education, all of which are enjoyable activities in themselves.
n Creative freedom - In science fiction, the boundaries are virtually nonexistent. You can write about any subject. The same can't be said for other genres.
n Escape burdens of life - The act of writing, particularly when it's science fiction for lovers of the genre, is like going to a place where you feel “safe.” Some people meditate, others take walks. Writers sit at a keyboard.
n Catharsis - As with painting or creating music, the art of writing allows people to express those ideas that have no other way of being expressed. With science fiction, those ideas often are at the very edge of what can be expressed.
n Companionship and kinship - Writing science fiction can open you to a whole community of writers, readers, editors and critics who share your passions and views. As Scifan editor Jim Harris wrote, “Reading science fiction for most of my life has been like being at a dinner party and always just listening to the other people talk. To write a science fiction story would be like formulating a reply to all those years of listening.”
Beyond personal enjoyment, mastery of a craft is another good reason to write science fiction. Such mastery can help fulfill your need to write. You write because you “need” to write; it is an urge that drive you on, like the need Sir Edmund Hillary had to reach Mt. Everest’s summit. Why did Sir Edmund climb Mt. Everest? “Because it was there.” Why do you write? Because you have stories to tell.
Those who write science fiction also can change and influence the world:
n Social commentary - Science fiction isn't really about fending off aliens with zap guns. At its best, as SF author and critic Alexei Panshin wrote, “…its attraction lies … in the unique opportunity it offers for placing familiar things in unfamiliar contexts, and unfamiliar things in familiar contexts, thereby yielding fresh insights and perspective.”
n Express and share your love of science and our natural universe - Good science fiction often demonstrates (usually subtly) a child-like wonder and awe at the world and universe around us.
n Interest kids in science - Science textbooks can be dry, but a good science fiction tale isn't. Many of today's scientists and engineers were inspired to those careers because they read H.G. Wells or watched "Star Trek" as children.
n Shape and redirect scientific thought - Science today is influenced by the science fiction that scientists read as kids. As physicist and co-founder of string field theory Michio Kaku said of science fiction, “For us it’s more than just fantasy. It’s like, what if? What if we can become a scientist to prove this thing is possible? It’s a challenge.”
n Shape and influence the genre as an art form - Through an ongoing conversation with other science fiction writers and readers, you can help determine the issues and topics that the profession addresses.
As a writer, you also can earn money:
n Amateur hobbyist - For most writers, your research can lead to blogging, your reading to reviews and your writing to publication, all of which can earn a few (but be forewarned, only a few) extra dollars.
n Career - If you truly master your craft, within a few years you may become a professional writer, editor or academician, all of which can provide enough dollars to spend your working hours doing what you enjoy most: reading, writing and talking science fiction.
Finally, writing science fiction can allow to "achieve immortality". Good writers are remembered for their work and read for generations to come. With science fiction, those who write about colonies on the moon, Mars and exoplanets may very well be remembered centuries from now by those space colonists as the literary visionaries they were.
You do it
If you're going to be a writer, you've got to do one thing: Write. Set your stopwatch or egg timer for 10 minutes, and until the buzzer rings write about a classroom of children, living on a moon colony 100 years from now, reading a story written by you about what living on the moon would be like.