I know we like to believe we hold the keys to the city of invention, and we are the ultimate force that defies physics and logic on a hourly basis, but here's the thing: you, especially if you're treading water in a whole new genre pool, have no idea what you're getting into. Just as fantasy-paranormal writers have cardinal rules outlining the behaviour of nasties, the weapons available to fighters against nasties, and the general course of worldbuilding, science fiction, the new shabang, has rules of its very own. And the thing is, well, it overlaps with science sometimes. I know, I needed to sit down after that too.
But you can't well go treading through
space the internet, searching for reason amidst technical terms and mathematical equations and theories with really long words/phrases and maths. For God's sake, man, we're writers, not physicists! And if you get lost, well, in space no one can hear you scream.
But you can't well go treading through
So, as a YA writer in need of some layman's terms, when you stumble across YA writers who, sometimes weekly, lay those terms out for you, you grab a fistful of their hair and you let them drag you through the universe. Enter: The Intergalactic Academy. If you aren't following these guys, do it now. Sean Willis and Phoebe North, if you asked them the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, Everything, would cooly reply 42, and you could just as well ask them to define their problems with female roles, logic, plot, pacing, anything, about Sci-fi and they would cooly reply 42 reveal the answers.
As a self-proclaimed Head Girl of the Intergalactic Academy, I figured it was my duty to give the new, or even seasoned and a little disillusioned, students a quick rundown of the school's most incredible parts. It's hard, since the whole school is shiny. (That was a Firefly reference. I couldn't figure out how to make it more explicit. Sorry.) But I'll forgo the reviews and interviews, and get right down to the articles.
1. Your Space Travel Might Be Terrible If...
Sean Willis goes into "the fundamental aspects of space that almost every SF author overlooks". It's pretty bloody amazing, and he brings up Newton's First Law, and debunks every scramble in deep space by the team to adjust their trajectory after engine failure; the fact that space is frictionless, our spaceships can't be shaped like jetliners, and can't manoeuvre that way; and that we have no sense of scale, really making you scratch your head about people jetsetting across the universe, even a significant fraction of the speed of light, makes zero sense, as well as the quick response time of rescuers to distress signals across the galaxy.
"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Sparked by Jay Kristoff's Goodreads status: Calling your book a dystopian when it's actually just a romance with dirty windows is kinda like lying. Phoebe North discusses how lately, science fiction in YA has been labelled 'dystopian' by publishers; how she doesn't classify poor worldbuilding (a popular argument against the integrity of the novel) as poor science fiction but just "science fiction with poor worldbuilding" and is therefore reluctant to take away science fiction badges from authors like Ally Condie and Lauren Oliver; and how she's still concerned about science fiction's strong reaction to girl coodies (linking Debra Doyle) in YA, since girls dominate the marketplace.
I quite liked the quote included from Debra Doyle:
We start by positing the existence of a body of sf readers and writers (numerically perhaps fairly small, but nevertheless extremely vocal) who are deathly afraid of getting girl cooties. “Hard sf” is their science fiction of choice, because it has the fewest girl cooties of any of the sf subgenres. No subjectivity, no mushy bits, none of that messy relationship stuff getting in the way of the classic sf values of hardness and rigor (and no, I don’t think the elevation of those particular values is coincidental.) Admixtures from other genres are allowed provided that the secondary genre also provides the reader with a low-cootie environment. Westerns don’t have girl cooties, for example, and neither do technothrillers. Men’s action-adventure is about as cootie-free as it’s possible to get. And so on.
“Romance, on the other hand, is absolutely crawling with girl cooties, and any sf which contains, or appears to contain, romance elements is going to be viewed with alarm by this set of readers. It’s often possible to offset the presence of girl cooties by including a sufficient number of explosions and fistfights and rivetty bits, or (in cases where even violence and rivets aren’t enough) by the inclusion of an appendix full of knotty-looking equations — but the readers are ever-vigilant and you can’t fool them forever. The incorporation of romantic elements into a work of sf, therefore, has to be done with considerable care, not to say deviousness.
3. Defining Genre: Science Fantasy, featuring John Carter.
4. Defining Genre: Space Opera
5. Defining Genre: Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic
6. Your Science Might Be Terrible If..., featuring genes and human evolution.
7. Points to Consider When Writing Your Future Neo-Victorian Society Pt. 1
8. Points to Consider When Writing Your Future Neo-Victorian Society Pt. 2
9. The Minority Checklist in YA: Some Cautionary Advice
and guest posts:
10. How the Awesomeness That is Firefly Inspired the Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer
11. Creating a Killer Virus: How We Fall and Research, Megan Crewe
And after that heavy linkage
...my two cents.
Find the informed. Seriously. You might avoid those snarky, but-they're-all-doing-it-wrong people on the bus or you roll your eyes at them at the bookstore, but when it comes to Goodreads.com, io9.com, TVtropes.org, and basically any one of these sorts of forum/review spots, sit down and shut up. Just read, soak in what they're saying.
Often enough, they know what they're talking about. You might think it's pretentious that they draw diagrams and scan them or they fashion them in Paint to debunk the core concept of a novel, but they have a point. And you mightn't agree with me, or think artistic license overrides this, but it is science fiction. And the science does precede the fiction.
But now I want to turn over to you. Thoughts on logic and facts in science fictions? Have you been over at the Intergalactic Academy? Where do you get your facts from?