When it comes to sci-fi on TV or in the movies, I’m quite the nerdy fan girl. Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars… hell I’ll give any sci-fi show/movie a chance. Personally, I think it’s all due to a toddler-hood spent watching Button Moon.

What is Sci-fi?

I see science fiction as fiction that deals with big themes or issues within human nature and/or society, using futuristic, alien or advanced technological environments (or a combination of the three).

Sci-fi reading

For some reason I don’t think I’ve read that much sci-fi. Taking a quick look at Forbidden Planet’s top 50 sci-fi books list, I’ve only read five:

  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – loved it.
  • Fahrenheit 451 – I found it a bit underwhelming.
  • I am Legend – I didn’t like the ending.
  • Ender’s Game – great book.
  • The Man in the High Castle – I quite liked it.

I’ve recently brought Dune and the first three books of Asimov’s Foundation series, so I’m making an effort to get to know the genre better.

I suppose most of the books I’ve read have elements of sci-fi, horror and thriller – like Dean Koontz books – rather than pure sci-fi.

What I’ll be reading

This month I’m going to read:

  1. Lilith’s Brood (the complete series: Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago) by Octavia Butler
  2. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin

My WIP has elements of sci-fi.

One thing that sci-fi can help me with is description. I world build thoroughly, but one thing that great sci-fi writers are good at is showing the worlds that they have created – this is a skill I really need to hone.

Want to find out more about the genre?

In April, Juliet McKenna wrote a fantastic article about science fiction – and speculative fiction as a whole. I find it interesting to read that she also thinks speculative fiction can be harder to write than literary. This is the same remark I’ve heard from a literary fiction author.

At the time I thought, well, isn’t that how everyone writes? A huge amount of world building, background note taking and character profiles? No! Many writers just sit down and write something. There’s no detailed planning involved. No need to weave multiple POV threads – or to switch between planets or time frames.

Yes, it’s easy to write bad sci-fi, but it’s just as easy to write a bad literary fiction book. Believe me, I’ve read them. The difference is, a bad sci-fi book tends to represent the entire genre. “This book is bad, therefore all sci-fi books must be bad”. If someone reads a bad lit fic book, they don’t refuse to read the latest Booker winner.

Chris Beckett’s article on the underrated appeal of science fiction is interesting. He says:

“The assumption is made that the stuff on the “general fiction” shelves is the serious stuff—after all, it includes the literary greats—while the stuff cordoned off in those corners is, by definition, light, inconsequential, or even trashy.”

I prefer sci-fi to most literary fiction books that I’ve read. Lit fic tends to focus on the human condition, but focuses on one person. I find that dull. Sci-fi looks at the same themes, but on a much grander scale.

The Guardian published a good post on how to write science fiction. There’s also a great post over on Michael Bradley’s blog discussing things that new science fiction writers should know.