Science Fiction is my favourite genre. I’d love to write a really good SF novel. Better still, I am going to write a brilliant SF novel, you just wait and see.
As a child, I would be taken to Tyldesley library every Saturday morning where I would gather my stock of books to last me a whole week. I can’t remember how many I was allowed to borrow at a time but however many it was, it was never enough. Which meant that I had to read everything I borrowed. This was a very good discipline because it prevented me from falling into the habit of abandoning books without giving them a chance. Just like my Friday evening visits to the cinema, I made the best of what was on offer.
My go to books were the bright yellow sleeved Gollancz ones. I worked my way through them from Aldiss to Zelazny. Two particular favourites that I remember were Samuel R Delany and Theodore Sturgeon. Happy days.
I also like Fantasy. Traditionally, Fantasy involves swords, elves, dragons and similar things whereas SF has spaceships, robots and technology. Many of these are interchangeable but the defining element is often said to be magic.
The problem with magic is that it has to be carefully defined for it to be a useful plot element. It’s too tempting for a writer to suddenly conjure up a new piece of magic to help his protagonist out of a tight spot. That kind of behaviour plays havoc with dramatic tension and has the reader relaxed and waiting for a new miracle at every crisis point.
The SF equivalent is, of course, technology. Star Trek provides plenty of wonderful example of how not to use technology in a story. Suddenly deciding that reversing the dilithium crystal polarity to save the Enterprise from doom can be a bit weak unless you’ve tried it at least once before and shown the reader or viewer some potential negative consequences.
It’s easy to be lazy when you’re inventing your own technology or dreaming up magic spells. That’s why I think that the very best of both genres ranks with the very best writing ever. I also recognise that the opposite is undoubtedly true.
The most recent SF book I read was Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It’s superb. Highly recommended, as is his Nebula Award winning Children of Time. One of my all time favourite SF reads is the Algebraist by Iain M Banks, though every book he wrote contains much to savour.
As for Fantasy, it’s hard to look beyond the Hobbit. Some might say this is the book that shaped the genre for all time. However, I can’t not mention Joe Abercrombie and the First Law series. Joe is in a different class entirely to every other Fantasy author.
So, one day I’ll have my own masterpiece to add to the pantheon of SF. All I have to do now is to write it and convince Gollancz to publish it.
Watch this space.