Today's Speculative Fiction Writer is aspiring MG and YA Science Fiction author, David Powers King. Please give him a warm welcome.
Aspiring Advice: What Makes Great Science Fiction?
Good morrow, friends and fellows. When Ellie asked if I could be a guest, I had to say, "Yes!" I mean, come on. She's got the coolest sci-fi vibe (her space suit proves it). Since it was pointed out that I've been focusing on fantasy for quite a while now, it's time to give science fiction some love. Your wish is granted. Here we go!
What makes great science fiction?
That's kind of a loaded question, isn't it? I won't claim to know the answer. I can give a possible answer, but before I do, it's important to know what this genre is, exactly.
My writing career began with science fiction, but after a while, I gave fantasy a try. What I discovered was that fantasy was a little easier for me to write, even though the storytelling concept isn't much different from that of science fiction. So what's the difference between science fiction and fantasy? Plausible Fact - plain and simple. With fantasy, we often deal with the unexplained, mystical, and magical. It may have a system of rules or measurable properties, but these rules often defy laws that govern our existence as we know it (burn metal inside our bodies ... who does that?). Science fiction, on the other hand, adheres to the laws of our known universe, or in the very least, there's a sound theory behind the mechanics and technology that we may not have - but we could have it, later on in the future.
Good science fiction has a reasonable explanation that makes the impossible sound possible, no matter the setting and theme. Time travel, deep space travel, androids, nanotech, cloning - you name it - they all have grounds to become a possibility (some are now). It's been said that science fiction is a precursor to science fact, so if there's a plausible theory for that wormhole over there, I'll drop my disbelief and jump right into it!
If the science is spotty or ill researched, I'd send a prob in first ...
Getting an audience to suspend their disbelief = good science fiction.
So what's great science fiction, then? The above must be there - maybe not intricately detailed, but the science and theory must be present. After that, it's up to the characters and how they handle the science that's given to them (or mishandle, which could be every bit as interesting). No matter the advancement or setting, it's people (or other sentient beings) who use these theories and places to make their story. How does their science shape them? How does it drive their motivation and goals - their fears and dreams?
What makes great science fiction? Great characters.
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Science fiction really isn't so different from any other genre. If the characters are real, unique, genuine, and totally flawed, the stories they belong to will be read and enjoyed, regardless of genre. The genre is more or less the setting, the tools by which the characters use to deal with their problem. Whatever genre you write, know your characters and make your story great.
What do you think? What makes great science fiction? What are some of your favorites in among the genre? Is it the science or the characters that make it your favorite?
I'm David, and active galactic nucleus' have superluminal jets!
Thank you, David. A fascinating guest post that shows that whilst the science behind the story must be probable or consistent, science fiction isn't all about facts and figures. Like any other genre, if you don't have great characters it won't work.