Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The "Right Way" To Write Sci-Fi

As you know, I've recently made the decision to focus my writing efforts on Science Fiction. I have always loved the genre, but for a long time have been reluctant to fully embrace it despite my long time adoration.

I mean, when I think about all the stories that stuck out for me as a kid—Dune, The Giver, Anthem, Star Wars, Gattaca, Minority Report, X-Men—they all have sci-fi as that common thread. Then as I grew older that love still remained, coming around to Star Trek, Firefly, Hunger Games, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ready Player One, Sword Art Online, Attack On Titan, Thor: Ragnorok, and even the reboot of Ghostbusters. Science. Fiction. It's a thing I love. I have always had IDEAS to write in the genre, and yet I would shelve those ideas often before I finished them.

Really, it was fear.

Because I bought into this idea that there's One Right Way to Science Fiction. And I was definitely not "doing it right."

Honestly, being female was part of it. Science Fiction "isn't for me." Even when people don't say it out loud, you feel it in how the stories are told and how women are often tropes at best and sexist cliches at worst. You feel it when you mention you LOVE a franchise, and there's always that one guy who gives you that look like, "Yeah right, she is just pretending to be a nerd." And then that dude proceeds to grill you all night in order to prove you don't belong because you can't remember the name of every episode of the series.

The fear also came from "not being a scientist with a doctorate in every type of science in existence." Which is silly, but the way the genre has gone, the way society has grown so savvy in tech/science...holy crap have readers/viewers grown, shall we say, "discerning" in how they interpret the scientific elements of fiction. If you are Impeccably! Scientifically! Accurate! for every ounce of your story, someone is gonna let you know. Maybe lots of people. Very loudly. (And if you're a lady who stretches the science to fit the fiction?.....oh are you in for it.)

I know I'm not the only one afraid to write sci-fi for these reasons. It can be incredibly intimidating! But there was a point when I had to be honest with myself, and myself was so happy when I was writing sci-fi. I get excited to sit down and build the universe in my head. It still takes effort to block out those "I don't belong" voices, but when I do it's amazing.

I realized I'd fallen for this dumb idea that there's this One True Way to write sci-fi. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. That same dude grilling me about every episode of my favorite show? Yeah, that guy is also the voice saying, "Only THIS type of sci-fi is good, and the rest of it is trash." And we all believe him because he says it so confidently, as if his opinion is the most important in the entire world. Because he's read all of Lovecraft, you know. And you haven't.

But why are we believing him?

This isn't to say that guy has no taste (his taste is as valid as mine, and mine is just as valid even if I can't map out every section of the Enterprise), but we have to start embracing the idea that there is SO MUCH SPACE FOR NEW STUFF in sci-fi. We are talking MULTIVERSES.

So here I am, giving you permission to write the sci-fi you wanna write. Is it too much fiction and not enough science? WRITE IT. Are you indulging in all that science you got a degree in but not sure what your plot is? WRITE IT. Is there "too much romance" in you sci-fi? WRITE IT. Is it diverse? DEFINITELY WRITE IT. Is it super classic traditional? WRITE IT. Just write the sci-fi. We need to stop listening to whatever voices are telling us to stop writing sci-fi, because this genre is rich with topics and stories and there is room for all of us.

Once I stopped worrying about the "right way" to sci-fi and started focusing on my own way, I realized this genre has too long been strapped down in expectations. It's high time for a sci-fi renaissance. I think it's already starting to happen. So get on this bandwagon and have some fun! Find those people who are ready for new, different sci-fi. Find the ones who are intimidated like you are, and help them dip their toes into this awesome storytelling tradition. Let's start bringing more people IN, instead of scaring people off.

And remember: It's fiction. Plus science. As long as you have the two in some combo, you have Science Fiction. Be proud of it, wherever it lands on the spectrum between the two words.


  1. Hah, I so identify with this. I too loved fantasy and scifi growing up, and used to write a lot in those genres as a kid, but now I often feel "silly" when I try to write them. :'(

    "even if I can't map out every section of the Enterprise"

    Haha, one of my favorite books as a kid was a Star Trek (TNG) encyclopedia with maps of the main decks of the Enterprise-D. It was SO baller.

  2. "That one guy" is the sort of person who you just want to smack some manners into.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I needed to hear this! I enjoy reading and writing sci-fi but I struggle with some of the more complicated technical parts, so tend to focus more on the plot and the characters than say, the engineering of the space ship.