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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Science Fiction, part 1 Introduction

I'm back!  The first couple of days of my week are packed, and I don't have time or inclination to do any more writing.  I'm wiped right now from writing technical stuff all day.  But that might be the proper frame of mind to begin to approach science fiction.  In fact, it is exactly the frame of mind to wander into the realm of science fiction.  If you remember my personal rules of writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.

2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing - colliery: immerse your readers in the world of your writing.
If you haven't been paying attention, I've spent almost a month developing these rules for you.  Since I am a scientist and an engineer by trade, I have built up my understanding of writing like the engineering community solves problems.  First you bound the problem, then you solve it.  As long as you can properly bound the problem, you can usually solve it.  The same is true of writing and this is especially true in writing science fiction.  Perhaps the first bounding question should be just what is science fiction?  Let me give my own answer.  Science fiction is writing that presumes and interacts with a future.  Writing, broadly focuses on three general periods of interest: writing that interacts with the past (historical fiction), writing that interacts with the present (fiction), writing that interacts with the future (science fiction).  There you have past, present, and future.  Really simple, right?  The complexity becomes developing the worlds that you will immerse your readers within.  In every case of each period of interest, the overall point must be to immerse the reader into the world of your writing--rule number five.  I wrote at length about developing this world in historical fiction.  In engineering terms what we were talking about there is interpolation.  We were taking data from the past and interpolating, that is building the world from the data we had.  Interpolation is relatively easy and it is really very accurate.  The world a writer of historical fiction can build is easy to get right as long as the writer's data is good and plentiful.  In looking at the future, you can't interpolate, you must extrapolate.  Extrapolation means to take your data points outside the maximum bounds of your equations or data.  It means to move beyond current knowledge.  Notice, I didn't say you toss out current knowledge--that's fantasy, and I'm not writing about fantasy here.  In science fiction, we move beyond the knowledge we have now.  We extrapolate beyond our solution sets and equations, but we can never lose our grounding in those bounds.  If we do, we aren't writing science fiction, but rather fantasy.  There is more to come.  Tomorrow, I'll expand on this idea of extrapolation and begin to explain how you do it.

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