Why I Read and Write Science Fiction

Yesterday, I detailed my struggles with creative writing. And yet throughout the ongoing war with bad writing and my doubts relating thereto, science fiction (SF) has always been there as a sort of talisman, something to read and reinforcing my love of future- and technology-minded literature, both as something to read and something to write.

Why I Read SF

Not too surprisingly for a GenXer, I got sucked into SF courtesy of Star Wars and Star Trek. SF fans got me to read “real” or hard SF (as opposed to space opera), which generally meant “Golden Age” writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov. As I got older, my tastes, politics, and interests shifted a bit. I shifted to Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, and Frank Herbert, plus a lot of one-off titles that I often grabbed based on the cover art or the blurb on the back of the book.

The common elements in all of these novels (and short stories) included a focus on the future…often more technologically advanced and better in some social matters than the present. Perhaps that was what I needed in my moody and bully-populated adolescence: a focus on and belief in a better future. I absolutely needed that sort of attitude at that age because my contemporary circumstances sucked.

SF also featured a lot of brainy or intellectual characters as heroes, which was something I appreciated as someone who was small, thin, weak, bookish, non-athletic, and clumsy. Characters in SF weren’t always klutzy (though the works of Frederik Pohl were more obviously flawed than most), but they were clearly brain-forward and often the worlds they lived in respected that intellectual ability.

Why I Write SF

My fiction writing has tended to be in a science fiction mode. Even when I write “stories” (narratives might be a better description–see yesterday’s post) about more typical problems like personal growth or romance, they are often placed somewhere in a science-fictional, future world. Current problems don’t excite or inspire me. So I’ve tended to write about the future, with the message being that it will be better.

My ghost-writer buddy Laura suggested that I make that sort of fiction my focus, .

Focus on the message or the experience you’d like your reader to have. I write for my younger self. My main message that I wanted 12 year old Laura to receive was one of self empowerment/self belief and also belief in a very cool future. So I wrote into that. 

And really that makes sense. It’s like my blog, which provides practical career advice to my younger (22-year-old) self in the hopes of helping other English majors find a fulfilling way to use their skills and pay the bills. Perhaps I should go back through my younger years and consider writing stories that younger Bart would have loved and found inspirational. There are still kids being bullied in this world, and they’re being fed a ton of dystopian fiction. It would be nice if they read about a better future that’s worth living for, yes?

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