If Dire Strait’s “Heavy Fuel” is the song that keeps me working when I’m doing work I halfway enjoy, The Police’s “Synchronicity II” is what runs through my mind while I’m at my day job. (This is probably not a good thing. The line “he knows that something somewhere has to break” is not a refrain that keeps one on task.) That said, I would like – in all science-fiction seriousness – to share one of my favorite songs. “Come Sail Away” by Styx was one I long enjoyed just for its being so much fun to sing along with… but the day I accidentally paid attention to the lyrics, I actually yelled “oh, my god, it’s about aliens!!” (I hope that my inattention coupled with my exuberence makes for an endearing quality. If not, I’m simply a dork. That’s okay too.)
I’ve been thinking about my progress as a writer and how I recently sprang a bit of a surprise on my writers’ group (what ho, Minnows!). I generally have them critique science fiction… over the past year I’ve subjected them to one fantasy and four sci-fi tales (okay, and two fairy tales, I guess that’s like three fantasy stories). My latest effort though (which I neglected to warn them) was a tale of present-day suspense. A few of them read it with an eye out for some element of aliens, mind-control, or time travel. Alas, they were treated to nothing more than dark alleys and murder. (For the record, I’ve never actually written about mind-control or aliens… my science fiction is usually post-apocalpytic or merely futuristic but without any of of the cool elements that earmark the genre.) Then I got thinking about the novella I’m posting here. Without the time-travel element, it’s historical fiction. The one coming up after that? Fantasy.
And here I am billing myself as a sci-fi author. At some point, either with my writers’ group or with some of my readers here, I’m hoping to start a conversation about what a story has to have to qualify as science fiction. (Hold on to your hats, at some point I’m really going to write that essay about science fiction and nationalism.) But in the meantime, feel welcome to throw some ideas at me. Do you like science fiction? (If not, why? I’ll be honest here, there’s some elements of science fiction that I can’t stand.) Is there any particular ingredient that you think makes-or-breaks a sci-fi story?
I’m mostly rambling, but wanted to lead in to some topics I’ll tackle in the future. And, you know, maybe start sneaking in a disclaimer… maybe I’m a writer without a genre. (See above: that’s okay too.)
2 responses to “Thoughts on Genre”
I would love to write a science fiction book, or even short story, but I don’t think I have enough of a science background to make it convincing. I was recently wondering exactly what makes something sci-fi. I haven’t really read much, but in movies, it’s one of my favorite genres. So, if you figure something out, I hope you’ll share, because I think I’m as lost as you!
Aha! Ok, I’m glad I read your blog so I now know the answer to that particular submission. 😉
I’ve been a SF fan for almost 40 years now and the things that bug me are probably the same things that bugs me about any fiction: predictability, lack of logic, inconsistencies in the story line, breach of science. Not that I can see those in my own stories, hence my reliance on the Minnows!