A friend o’ mine is about to embark upon a program of self-loathing and torture a bit of sci fi writing. He turned to me for advice. A few questions have been asked, and I figured answering in public may perhaps be useful in case anyone else in the cantina plans to embark upon the same soul-destroying madness career.
One of the questions was this: “What kind of stuff do you like to write?”
Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say like. Love is a safe word. It’s the right word for the kind of tempestuous, tumultuous relationship a writer has with their fiction. Like is too mild, too constant a word for this passion we share, this rollercoaster of high and low and in between emotion. So. What do I love to write?
I don’t actually know.
We’ve been experiencing a separation of over a year now, fiction and I. I’m shacking up with non-fiction at the moment. It was a polyamorous relationship, but we got a bit exclusive and froze fiction out. I haven’t time to devote to both. And when that changes, and fiction once more returns for some smouldering nights of amore, it won’t quite be the same, as we’ve both changed.
So, to rephrase the question along the same lines, but this time answerable: “What kind of stuff did you love to write?”
Um… things… and stuff…
I loved to write things one might classify more as fantasy than science fiction, but although it contained things like special powers and beings like unicorns and dragons, I did try to ground some of it in science. (Hence the current freelance career as a science writer. Research rather took over there. Heh heh heh whoops.)
I loved to write about trying to save the universe. Well, don’t we all, right? Few things more exciting to write about than the universe in peril and the plucky people trying to save it.
I loved to write about good and evil and how you can’t tell them apart at a glance sometimes.
I loved to write about how things got to be the way they are. I loved delving the past of my story worlds, searching for the origins of civilizations and relationships, and conflicts and such.
I loved to write about people. Sometimes they weren’t human people, but they were people nonetheless. I loved to write about good people trying to do the right things, and bad people bad ones, and just when we thought we knew them and could figure out what they’d be up to next, I loved watching them do something unexpected and sometimes seemingly out of character. Because people and situations are complicated, and you can’t always predict them, and you haven’t always got them right.
I loved to explore relationships: between people, between civilizations, between enemies and friends, between folks and land, and folks and objects.
I loved finding out why things were the way they were, and people were, and worlds were.
I loved exploring worlds, and showing their wonders, and why they might just be worth dying for. I loved speculating about what different worlds would look like, and what relationship people might have to their universe when their sky had two (or more) suns, multiple moons, a different hue.
I loved asking hard questions, like what is good, and what is evil; what’s right and wrong, real and unreal, and all sorts of other things that may seem black and white and simple, but turn out to be grayscale and fiendishly complicated.
I loved writing about art and literature and wine and wonderful things that make life full and rich and amazing.
I loved writing about things I didn’t know about, because learning them was a majority of the fun.
I loved writing about myths, and things influenced by myths, and putting a twist in the myth.
And all of these things, I’m sure, I’ll love writing still. But I’ll certainly love writing about science more. And some of the things I assumed, I’ll have to question, because my perspective on a great many things has changed.
But above all, I’ll love the speculation, the what-if and could-be and not-utterly-impossible-but-very-improbable; and I’ll love the fantastic characters; and I’ll love the raw power of writing worlds into being. Which is rather what SF is all about.