I Don’t Like Sci-Fi (But That’s What I’m Writing)

You know the age old saying for writers, “Write what you know”?  Yeah…I probably should’ve thought of that more when I started writing fiction.

I’m not one to really stick with writing in one genre.  I’ve got one series in the works that is a high fantasy/romance piece.  I’ve got another one that’s historical fiction/adventure.  But the one genre I seem to keep going back to is science fiction.

And that’s the one genre I know next to nothing about.

Fantasy stories aren’t a problem for me.  Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are the books I read annually and practically live off of when I need a good book.  Historical fiction and adventure stories are what I grew up reading as a kid, so there’s no unfamiliarity there.  But science fiction?  Not a chance.  Honestly, the only science fiction books I remember reading ever are two Star Wars: Clone Wars books I read a few years ago.  Other than that…nothing.

The problem I had with sci-fi books was that I couldn’t relate to the stories.  I love space travel, I love imagining the future.  Heck, I grew up wanting to be an astronaut (who else does their first research paper on Neil Armstrong?)  But when it came to actually sitting down and reading them, I always got stuck after a few pages.  Often the stories I *tried* to read were filled with scientific words I didn’t understand or had plot lines that focused more on the technology instead of the characters.   Sci-fi films and television shows weren’t a problem for me-I loved Star Trek and Star Wars.  But the sci-fi books I had seen were just too difficult for me to understand or too boring for me to continue with.

Now for friends and family I have, sci-fi is *their* genre.  They love it and can’t get enough of it.  They enjoy the technical lingo and terms and love to debate the various technologies (the favorite debate is The Enterprise vs. The Death Star.  Who would win?  And no, you can’t factor in The Force.)  Taking the technology and terminology out of sci-fi would be like taking the word “science” out of science fiction.  All you’re left with is…fiction.  It no longer is it’s own special story.
So as I’m writing sci-fi, I’m thinking of two audiences my stories are geared towards.  The non-sci-fi fans (like myself) who have a hard time understanding or being interested in the science of it all, and the sci-fi fans (like many of my friends and family) who live and breathe all the amazing technologies that are mentioned.  How can these two audiences be brought together?  
I think I found my answer by observing the sci-fi stories I do like.  Grant it, they’re mostly movies, but a story is a story, no matter what form it takes.  I asked myself why I liked stories like Star WarsStar TrekDr. Who, and the like.  And this is what I discovered:
  • Science fiction creates a sense of wonder.  What will the future be like?  What impact will modern technology have on our society?  What if the impossible suddenly became possible?  
  • Science fiction is inspiring.  Many of our current gadgets and technologies were developed by people who were inspired by science fiction stories.  You never know what technology you imagine will inspire a future-scientist or engineer.  
  • Science fiction stretches the imagination.  Remember the cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope?  That’s a lot of different alien species, all with their own looks, language, and culture.  With regular fiction, you’re often times just describing humanity-something we’re all familiar with.  But describing an imagined species takes a lot of creativity.
  • Science fiction looks deep at humanity.  Whether it’s the morality of advanced technology or the question on whether the past or future can (or should) be changed, science fiction often makes us take a look at hard, difficult questions we may not want to ask.  Stories like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or I, Robot take a look at technological progression not through rose-tinted glasses but through a crystal clear lense where our future may be more difficult than we think, and it’s our humanity that may be the deciding factor on whether things will go good or bad.

Taking these few observations has made me look at sci-fi in a new light.  Could it still be boring?  Like any story, yes.  Writing can be good or bad in whatever genre it’s written in.  But as long as we look at what science fiction really is-not a long list of boring terms and slow plots but a gem of exploration, observation, and imagination-then a sci-fi story can win over both fans and non-fans alike.