The Science of Fiction

Fiction in general is rampant throughout this world. It is a byproduct of our storied nature; we must tell stories. Everyone tells stories, whether relating a memory, or making something completely from scratch. What I find interesting, is that most stories fit into certain veins, yet they go their own direction once there.

Sci Fi is more like a major artery with veins that go in every direction. There are countless genres and sub-genres as well, making the craft of writing Sci Fi akin to weaving a tapestry, or making up the intricate pattern of a birds plumage.

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(this is the plumage from a Rio Grande turkey I harvested this past winter. The details in these birds feathers is astounding. Great camouflage.)

But what makes it so interesting?

1. All of the sub genres

Sci Fi covers everything from Earth ravaged in war to space ships reaching the far edges of the universe. There’s a lot of space in between, and anything goes. I’m still waiting for a cyberpunk-alien invasion-space opera to be written.

2. The intricacy

Everything within Sci Fi has little nuances that make it what it is. There are usually no trolls in cyberpunk, FTL ships don’t have traffic signals, and steam engines run on steam. These tiny things fit different Sci Fi into a certain niche, making the experience whole.

3. Rules are made to be broken

As in point #1, rules are made to be broken. Replacing a nuance with a glaring anachronism (or something like that) is what makes some Sci Fi great. Like how Back to the Future replaced Victorian England with the California 1980’s. Sometimes blurring lines can make the contrast even sharper.

The Zen of World Building part II

Part 2 of our world building adventure will center around attention to detail. In the previous post we covered a broad spectrum of characteristics, but now let’s focus on some nit picky things. This won’t be long, but will definitely give you something to think about.

 

Characters

Some author’s worlds are completely reliant on their characters. If you haven’t read “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by  Caitlin R. Kiernan, it’s a great example of this. It’s steampunk, but you wouldn’t know that without the characters. They drive the story into that subgenre. The dancer has a steam powered leg, and her husband is a mechanic. No, it isn’t as romantic as it sounds.

Anyway, characters can sometimes drive your world. Think of Dragon Ball Z. If the Z fighters don’t have super powers, it’s just another kung fu manga/anime. The characters drive it to another level.

Setting

Mountains or Urban? Desert or Utopia?

A lot of world building depends on the setting. And just like i said last time, you have to take into effect the scope of your work. Is there a single setting? Are there multiple settings? Are there multiple planets? Universes?

Whatever the scope or setting is, it can make or break your world. A foreign planet without weird creatures, climates, and plant life is not going to be foreign to anyone. It could easily be Earth in the far future well past humans…

GASP…another setting…

Technology

Much of science fiction involves advanced technology. Much of it does not.

This is vastly important for world building. In a post apocalyptic future, is there still tech, or is a 12 gauge the top of the line weapon? Do the bad guys have some super weapon that trumps your hero’s EMP device?

Are we in the Matrix?

All of these are important questions when building a world.

 

Practice

What I am about to tell you may reveal my nerdiness in ways you would never possibly imagine.

Oh well.

Go find a group of people to play a tabletop RPG with, and be the Game Manager.

This will allow you to create a world, build a story, and have fun during the process. You will have to integrate your party’s characters, baddies, weapons, and all sorts of cool stuff. There are plenty of games out there, and not all of them are fantasy. Fantasy is fun, but there are other options. Go play a game!

 

I hope these posts are helping with our world building. Let me know if there is anything you want more fleshed out!

 

Genre Mixing

I’ll be honest, Sci Fi is not the only genre I like.

And I will probably try to write something that is not in some sort of Sci Fi subgenre someday. But here’s a good question:

What if I could mix Sci Fi with another genre?
Well I certainly wouldn’t be an innovator.

I think Mel Brooks is a genius. He is a comedian, but his movies are comedy set in another genre. Blazing Saddles is a western, Spaceballs is Sci Fi, Young Frankenstein is horror. And yet they are all comedies.

So what if Science Fiction was the permeating undertone?

SPOILERS IF YOU CONTINUE!

 

Some of you may hate this, but I am a big fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. When I was in grade school, I read those books as fast as I could, seeing the planet Pern in my mind’s eye, wanting to be a dragon rider. But the most interesting thing to me was that in the end, these novels are not fantasy.

They’re Sci Fi.

McCaffrey had this whole world planned out with Dragons and a seemingly supernatural enemy set in what seems to be a feudal time period in the planet’s history. But we find out that that what actually happened was that a group of people came to Pern on spaceships and genetically engineered an indigenous species to create the Dragons. Eventually they uncover the original ship, a supercomputer, and tons of data about why they are on Pern.

In my young mind, Sci Fi and Fantasy were very much two different things.

I read Tolkien’s books and they were far different from Star Wars or Star Trek.

Harry Potter is not Blade Runner or The Matrix.

But I wasn’t paying attention to one of my other loves: Comic Books.

Comic books have a wonderful way of mixing Sci Fi and Fantasy.

Aliens who have powers bestowed by yellow sunlight are susceptible to magic. A Norse god fights alongside a suit of high powered armor with a supercomputer.
They do it pretty well too.

So here’s the big point for today:

 

Don’t be afraid to mix genres. Keep Sci Fi as your starting point, but don’t be afraid to throw in some Fantasy or Thriller elements. Maybe even delve into myths and legends to help complete your story. Make some genetically engineered fantasy creatures to use as an army force.

Don’t be a genre snob. Nobody likes that guy.

 

Anyway, keep writing.

My NaNoWriMo has taken a turn for the worse and I fear I won’t catch back up. But I’ll keep writing and trying. How are your projects going? Let me know.

I also have a guest post coming up at livehacked.com in November, and you should go check out the website and get some helpful tips for marketing your book.

Have a great week everybody, keep calm and Sci Fi