(Hi, this is ZNZ doing a guest post! The reason I’m under a different name is that I just created a WordPress account for the purposes of this post, and WordPress, for some unfathomable reason, doesn’t accept three-letter usernames. But I’m not bitter.)
I am, and will always will be, a fantasy writer, to the exclusion of everything else ever. This is only partially a conscious choice. I’ve never wanted to write, say historical fiction, or romance, or contemporary fiction. But there are other genres that I would write if I could. Such as, for example, science fiction.
I read science fiction, sure. Reading was never the problem. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favoure books of all time. I’ve read lots of science fiction. I love science fiction.
Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that my first novel was an attempt at science fiction, entitled The Key to the Universe.
This story was about two girls. One was named Lin, the other Anne. Lin lives in outer space, and Anne on Earth. Lin, for no adequately explained reason, is in charge of taking care of the key to the universe. Which she loses, because apparently in addition to being a supergirl who lives in ouer space, she is supremely careless. Did I mention she was also a Mary Sue?
Anne was basically Everygirl, and she was a Mary Sue as well. For no adequately explained reason, she has the super power of being able to hold the key. Lin is the only other person in the universe who can do this. Anne is then kidnapped by vibrantly coloured evil space monkeys who, for no adequately explained reason, want the key, which, for no adequately explained reason, they can’t hold either.
The evil space monkeys take Anne into outer space. They lock her up in a torture chamber. Meanwhile, Lin is in a bookstore and subsequently – for no adequately explained reason – a public school, trying rather ineffectually to find the key.
I thave no idea how I managed to stretch this out to fifty thousand words. It had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn’t using contractions. Stilted dialogue FTW? It may also have had something to do with the bit when the robot begins reciting the dictionary.
This was actually a valuable learning experience. I learned a lot about writing – like, There’s a reason contractions are there. Use them. I gained valuable writing experience, and it’s helped me to stop writing Mary Sues and blatant lapses in logic.
But the main thing I learned from it was a huge important realisation which has affected the way I view writing and science fiction.
It went like this: “Cake, science fiction writers have to do actual research.”
Because one of the most egregious aspects of my novel? The science. The fact that I had no idea how gravity worked (Lin and the monkeys turn their personal gravity on and off. ‘Nuff said, yeah?), or how genetics worked (the monkeys again), or what black holes even really were or how they worked (people walk around in black holes)and I seemed to have a tenuous grasp of the fact that outer space hasn’t got air or gravity and can also kill you if you aren’t wearing a space suit. (Lin walks around in space without air tanks or a space suit.)
Thing is? I knew that there was a lot of it that I was getting wrong, even as I wrote the scenes in the café in the black hole. I knew that I didn’t know how any of this worked. But I couldn’t be bothered to research. And listen, I know that there’s such a thing as soft science fiction, and that there are things that can be forgiven. The things I did aren’t among them.
And there it is, folks. I have never attempted science fiction since, because I realised that writing science fiction really did involve doing a modicum of research.
If you write science fiction, I admire you beyond all comprehension. Because I tried to write science fiction, and my failure was extreme. Even disregarding the Mary Sues and the blatant lapses in logic and the wordcount padding . (Though I did like the monkeys and the cheerful telepath. They were fun characters.)
And that’s why I don’t write science fiction.