Being a Better Writer: Science-Fiction

Hello readers! Welcome back! I trust you had a good weekend?

I certainly did! Shadow of an Empire picked up another Five-Star review, which while not being a title that fits with the genre today’s post is about, is certainly something that I’m happy about regardless. The reviewer in question stated that they found Shadow of an Empire while looking for fantasy books that had deeply developed hard magic systems, and to that end they were incredibly impressed (and thoroughly enjoyed) just how deeply the magic was laced through the world, characters, society, and setting.

They also expressed sadness that there was only one title to date in the series (well, they probably don’t know about the short in Unusual Things, or weren’t counting it because it was, after all, a short). And to that I say “I have plans.” But I need to finish up Starforge and the UNSEC Space Saga first.

Okay, news done. Let’s get down to details with today’s (admittedly) broad topic of a post: Science-Fiction. First of all, what do I mean titling a post with such a broad, generic term?

Well, as long-time readers of the site may recall, I’ve done genre posts before. Such as the post on Westerns, or the one on Mysteries. And doing a genre post on Science-Fiction has been on my list for a while because, well … There’s a lot of disagreement out there about what Science-Fiction is.

Yeah. Again, what is the internet but a location for people to argue over whose lack of knowledge is greater? Even outside of the internet though, the subject of “What is Sci-Fi” in the last decade has become a topic of much debate. And I don’t mean “debate” in the terms of “Let’s sit down and have a calm discussion” either. More often than not the “debates” over what Science-Fiction “truly is” devolve into people speaking or shouting past one another … or threats and disparaging comments made about the parentage or life of anyone who disagrees.

In other words, if you’ve heard of how the internet, from Twitter to conventions, has become a “battleground for Science-Fiction and Fantasy” in the last decade, the argument over what Science-Fiction is most assuredly plays a part in that debate.

So why talk about it then? Well, because I happen to believe that one entire side of that argument is wrong. At which point I’ll forewarn that this means I’ve “entered the debate” and taken a side that could see all kinds of disparaging things thrown at me or said about me. But it’s not just that one side is wrong, but that the debate has become so fierce that there are a lot of people out there that legitimately don’t know what Science-Fiction is anymore. The term has become empty, or misused. The term has been diluted and at odds with itself through its various definitions.

Which in turn has led to no small amount of confusion among both readers and writers alike. It’s hard to go a few days anymore without seeing a discussion of Science-Fiction online where someone doesn’t bring up a book only to have someone else say “Well, that might be a nice book, but it’s not Science-Fiction and therefore not germane to this discussion.” Or bring up something that they’re working on writing, only to have someone post “I’m sorry, but that’s not Science-Fiction. If you want it to be Science-Fiction you’ll need to dump these elements and do this.

Of course, by hopping into this “debate” there is some risk, in a small way, that I’m simply contributing to what the webcomic XKCD as the “standards” problem. But I’ll try not to, as after all, Science-Fiction has been around for centuries, and a fixed definition for decades now (newcomers trying to change it notwithstanding). So with all this said, let’s dive in, starting with the answer to the following question: what is Science-Fiction?

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Being a Better Writer: Epics

We’ve got a one-word title today readers. Buckle up!

No news. Not today. No, we’re going to dive right in. Today’s topic actually was one of several inspired by my attending of Life, The Universe, and Everything this year, as I met with a number of young, aspiring authors who declared an interest in writing an Epic of their own. Even if, some admitted, they weren’t quite sure what an Epic was, or what went into a book that made it an “Epic” while other books were just “adventures.”

Today’s topic went right to the list the moment I returned home that evening. Because I love Epics, and would enjoy seeing more of them out there. And … there really isn’t that much about them out there.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty on the classic Epics, like The Odyssey or The Illiad. There are whole college course dedicated to those works that you can peruse online.

But those aren’t modern Epics. They’re not generally what someone means today when they tell you that they read this great book, and mention the genre as being Epic Fantasy. No, the modern Epic is something a little different. And … not that oft defined, though talked about frequently enough. Which in turn can lead to confusion or difficulty for a lot of young authors who know the genre that they would like to write towards … but aren’t quite sure what that genre entails.

They’re like those young authors I found at LTUE. They know what they like, and what they want to do. They can name books that they’re fairly certain are Epics … but they’re not one hundred percent certain what makes one book an Epic and the other simply an adventure.

So, let’s dive into it. What makes an Epic an Epic? And how can you prepare to write one?

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