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Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Nicole Kronzer

on 15 April 2011

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Transcript of Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Writing Science Fiction
and Fantasy info mostly out of Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Kilian Theme: Power, and who
should use it? Fantasy def: Science Fiction def: a story that couldn’t happen without its scientific content. Conditions are flatly contrary to scientific fact. Characters:
Move from a state of
ignorance to a state of knowledge Plot: put believable characters in believable situations and make their lives unbelievably difficult. Hard Science Fiction:
It’s the domain of the physicist and the engineer.
Writer needs clear understanding of present-day science as well as its implications.
Be careful about turning off your reader with too much exposition.
Ex: “Well, Fred, as we all learned in grad school back on Vega II, extreme plasma density in a presupernova stellar core creates semitensility within 1,000 miles of the chromosphere, which means that from now on we’ll have to use a lead-based sunblock.” Alien Invasion:
This requires a lot of coincidences: to be useful enemies, the aliens have to be able to live on a planet like ours, have to be about our size, have to travel in spacecraft, have to be technologically advanced but not impossibly so, have to be able to communicate in ways we can at least guess at, and have to act on intelligible motivation. What’s more, they have to be willing to schlep across interstellar space and lower themselves into our gravity well just so they can beat us up and take over an ecosystem they know almost nothing about.
If you must do an alien-invasion story, make the aliens as strange as possible. Alien Contact:
If the aliens aren’t aggressive, they’re still out there somewhere; maybe they land in an Iowa cornfield, or we meet them orbiting Sirius XI.
The story then revolves around efforts to communicate, to empathize with nonhuman ways of thinking, and to avoid a disastrous misunderstanding.
Again, make your aliens as alien as possible. Interstellar Empire:
Hundreds of science fiction writers (of European descent) have imagined that the social institutions of medieval Europe would be beautifully adaptable to running interstellar empires.
But few of these interstellar empires ever have much economic or social reason for existence.
So if this sub-genre appeals to you, watch out for that. Interstellar War:
Star Trek is this.
Watch for wars waged for no reason. Give us plausible reasons for fighting across such distances.
Keep in mind that anyone controlling enough energy to cross several light-years should be able to turn any planet into talcum powder. Highly catastrophic war, baby. Space Opera:
This sub-genre is simply interested in living, and making a living, in space.
War or aliens are often involved, but needn’t be.
Often the space opera deals with small traders trying to keep the mortgage on their battered old freighter while the big companies (or interstellar empires) threaten to drive them out of business. The Colony:
Basically, the settlement of America (pioneer days) on another planet or imaginary world.
The appeal of the pioneer colony story is in seeing how the combination of brains, grit, and high-tech can make a hostile planet livable—while evolving new societies. Military Science Fiction:
The focus is on life and death of soldiers in future wars, especially in space.
The mood may be pro or anti-war.
Military SF concentrates on technology, training, and the kind of culture that supports (and betrays) such soldiers. Near-Future Politics:
Sometimes, there’s only a hazy boundary with some kinds of mainstream fiction.
Or, it may give us a political soap opera set in the near future only for convenience. Near-Future Wars:
Often about nuclear wars. World War III, that kind of thing. Far-Future Societies:
We look at societies grown old and interestingly decayed, or new societies arising from their ashes.
The premise is that civilizations are cyclical, so if we start with a primitive society we can trace its technological progress—and its spiritual progress as well. Mutants:
Usually mutation gives remarkable powers: telepathy, esp, recognition.
The mutant may pay a price, usually a social one: everyone else is scared of mutants and wants to kill them.
Think X-men. Nanotechnology:
Foresees molecule-sized, intelligent computers that can do anything from grow house-sized diamonds to sucking the cholesterol out of your blood-stream. Post-Holocaust Barbarism:
A world flung into backwardness (because of a nuclear weapon?). World Disasters:
Gives you a chance to trash institutions and countries you don’t approve of, but it also may reveal more about your social anxieties than you intend. Utopias and Dystopias:
Societies that are “perfect” (and the struggle to keep them that way) or
societies are inventively and ruthlessly repressive, and
it’s the hero’s job to escape it or overthrow it. Wild Talents:
Telepathy, Teleportation, and More.
The fun lies in exploring the unexpected aspect of our wishes.
When you’re tempted to write about a dream come true, be sure that dream turns into a nightmare as quickly as possible.
A wild talent story should entice readers into looking again into their fantasies, and making them thank heaven they have only tame talents. Time Travel: Moral for authors of time travel stories: cultures are tough organisms that recognize only the technology that suits their own values and needs. Parallel Worlds and Alternate Histories:
The parallel world gives us the present (or future) resulting from some changed event in the past.
The alternate history gives us an era in the past that’s different because of such an event. Cyberpunk:
Near-future consumer electronics in a world of huge gaps between the rich and poor.
Cyberpunk portrays a capitalism triumphant, but not very affectionately; the sympathy lies with the marginal young people trying to build lives in the waste dumps of the global economy. Elements of a Successful Sci Fi or Fantasy story 1. Introduce your main characters. 2. Foreshaddow the ending. 3. Show your main character under stress. 4. Show the hero, show the villain. 5. Show what's at stake. 6. Establish the conflict. 7. Establish the tone of the story. 8. Use scenes to tell your story--avoid exposition. 9. Develop your characters through action and dialogue. 1o. Include all the elements needed for the conclusion. 11. Give your characters real motivation. 12. Develop the plot as a series of increasingly serious problems. 13. Create suspense. 14. Show your characters changing. 15. Take your characters to the depth of despair. The Opening The Body of the Story The Conclusion 16. Present a final, crucial conflict. Throughout the story... 17. Ensure that everything has a reason. 18. Know the conventions of your chosen form. Plotting your Sci Fi or Fantasy story 1. Nothing should happen at random. 2. Plot stems from characters under adversity. 3. Each character has an urgent personal agenda. 4. The story's plot is a synthesis of all of the character's
individual plots. 5. The plot begins long before the story. 6. Foreshadow all important elements. 7. Keep in mind the kind of story you're telling. 8. The hero must eventually take charge of events. Epic quest fantasy:
involves a created parallel world
think: Lord of the Rings Historical Fantasy Urban/Contemporary Fantasy Fairytale Fantasy Humorous Fantasy Science Fantasy Timeslip Fantasy Allegorical Fantasy Dark Fantasy:
a combination of fantasy
and horror
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