Fear in Writing: Fiction is (Science) Fiction

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fiction is (Science) Fiction

Guest blogging today is Alex J. Cavanaugh, Science Fiction expert and Avatar junkie.  His book, CASSASTAR, comes out this fall!  Without further ado, here he is.
Many people set apart Science Fiction as a separate entity from mainstream fiction. However, the fact remains that all science fiction must tap into the same core elements that all genres use to create a compelling and worthwhile read.

The bulk of Science fiction stories take place on Earth or beyond our world. Stories centered on our big blue marble provide a comfortable and familiar setting. If we are writing about a galaxy "far, far away", we can flex our creative muscles in terms of setting. A whole new universe may need to be designed replete with aliens, languages, advanced technology and beyond.

No matter where our epic novel is set, all readers must still relate to the story. They need to feel a connection to our characters and setting. The same forces that drive humans must also drive our characters or they will seem alien to the reader (pun intended). They must possess similar needs, desires, and emotions. Create a world that is absurdly alien and no one will identify with the concept. We’re on the right track if we can remove the sci-fi element from our story and it still works as mainstream fiction.

Most sci-fi is merged with another genre to create a compelling story. As an example, let's look at some sci-fi movie mash-ups. At their heart, we have westerns (Serenity, Outland), horror (Alien, Event Horizon), thrillers (Minority Report), acion-adventure (Aliens, Total Recall), romance (Starman), and even comedies (Spaceballs). Science fiction books are no exception. Most take a common genre, listed above, and add their own spin.

Science fiction writers abide by the same rules, focusing on character development and storyline. The only difference between mainstream writers and us is we get to satisfy our inner geek!

- Alex J. Cavanaugh
Blog: Alex J. Cavanaugh
Thank you, Alex!  Fantastic information!  Make sure to click over to Alex's blog and keep up with the release of his novel.
A little more info: the artwork is by Stephan Martiniere, and you can reach more of it by clicking his name, or though Alex's blog.

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  1. I hadn't thought about the merging of these dramas before--really cool! Sci fi is a great mix with those other genres, even comedy. Thanks for the insight, Alex!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Thanks for letting me guest post today, Michele.

    Elizabeth, consider every dci-fi book you've read or movie you've seen and you'll find two genres in evidence.

  3. Yeah, and that's why I find watching Sci-fi so entertaining. Now, when are they bringing back Stargate Universe?


  4. That's true! So many have said that Star Wars was actually a western.
    Good post, Alex!

  5. I've heard that, too, Diane. But I hadn't diseected it this way before! Interesting look at a genre that is far out there to me!

    (And no, thank YOU, Alex.)

  6. The thing that really interested me about Firefly/Serenity was that they created this whole, in-depth science fiction universe...but only with humans. Many planets and cultures and ships and governments, but no aliens.

    I'm a big sci-fi fan; actually, the first "book" I started writing at age 12 was sci-fi. If I could only read one genre until I died, this would probably be it. :-)

  7. Great interview Alex! I'm fascinated by the imagination that Science fiction writers tap into. Creating compelling stories is one thing, adding extraordinary alien characters and languages is another mouthful!

  8. Welcome, Summer--this post must be perfect for you!

    And I agree, Tamika--an extra level of creativity I just don't possess. Or maybe just haven't stretched myself to try.

  9. Ann, I just wished Stargate Atlantis hadn't ended.

    Diane and Tamika - thanks!

    And good for you, Summer! I agree.

  10. Great post today. I have a realsitic sci-fi combined with a suspense thriller. And yes, my inner geek is allowed to roam free.

    Stephen Tremp

  11. Stepen, gotta keep that inner geek happy!

  12. So what makes it truly SciFi? I would consider Stephen's techno-savvy books SciFi, but that's just because they're out there to me, though I suppose in the realm of near-future possibility. What about Greg Iles' The Footprints of God or William Gibson's Spook Country? Do those count?


  13. Love the SciFi post Michele!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a lovely comment! I couldn't agree more! We need to start our own group for sure!

  14. It's lovely seeing Alex over at Michele's place :)
    Lovely post as well, very appealing to us sf geeks ;)
    As most of you probably noticed the main genres I cover over at my blog are sf and historical movies. I prefer those settings in books as well.

  15. I believe anything with a scientific advancement would count. Think of Frankenstein - that has sci-fi elements.

    And thanks for checking out my guest post, Dez! Everyone needs to visit your cool site as well.

  16. And here I thought science fiction was just science fiction. It's always good to look at things from different angles. Enjoyed your post.

  17. Loved all the movie examples. Serenity/Firefly and Outland (with Sean Connery) have great characters, and Westerns, with a lone hero fighting for justice on the frontier, are a perfect fit with sci-fi. Alien was a fantastic movie too, but I was always put off by the idiocy of everyone except Ripley. How could she be the only one to realize letting a crewman with an alien attached to his face on the ship was a bad idea?
    Great post!

  18. Kristi- I only wish I came by more often. :)

    Dez- I love exploring different ideas, and even different genres. Glad to know you're an Alex fan!

    Mason- Isn't it? I was as surprised by Alex's insight as I was by my realization that I have actually read 2 SciFi books!

    Lorel- We all think of Alien, you're right Lorel. My favorite SciFi movie is Event Horizon! I love Sam Neill.

  19. George RR Martin has a text (it might be one of his commentaries in Dreamsongs) where he explains that a magazine he used to write for used to print the sample openings of two stories on the back cover. Nothing differed in the texts except the trigger-words - mesas and six-guns in the left-hand story, craters and ray-guns in the right - and both the protagonists were called Buck Something. The magazine's selling point was that it would never print a Buck Something story, only undeniable, immutable science fiction.

    GRRM, on the other hand, spends the rest of the text pointing out that the story's got to work whether Buck Something is in a western setting or sf or fantasy or something else altogether...

  20. Mason, you learned something new!

    Lorel, you're right about Alien and the stupidity. That's why Aliens is my favorite!

    Hamp, GRRM was on to something, wasn't he?