I'd like to introduce you all to one of my favorite indie authors: S. Alex Martin. He writes futuristic sci-fi that is guaranteed to blow your mind, but more on that later. Today he's kindly agreed to explain the ins and outs of writing good, meaningful science-fiction. He has some helpful and thought-provoking things to say on the topic, so stop what you're doing and tune in. You're going to want to read this:
All of us, at one point or another, have thought about what the future holds in store. To ask “What if…” is one of the most human things to do. Our curiosity drives us to explore and create and leave an impact on the world. We look ahead thirty, forty years and try to envision where our own lives will be, but it’s also important to look further ahead, beyond the horizons of our own lives.
Science-fiction plays an important role here; specifically, futuristic science-fiction, where events are grounded in reality. Perhaps we explore worlds yet-unknown, use technologies yet to be invented, or question our role in the cosmos as we seek to inhabit them.
I’m someone who grew up fascinated with astronomy, whose love of space exploration and its impact on humanity only grew through the years. So it comes as a surprise to many people when they find out I’m an author of futuristic science-fiction. Naturally, the next question is, “What are your books about?” I always find it difficult to answer this question. Simply put, the answer is pretty complicated.
When most people think of science-fiction, they think strange planets with grotesque aliens (or humanoid, for that matter). They think of battles in space, of giant laser cannons, and evil empires, and robots taking over the world. Admittedly, all of this makes for flashier, more exciting science-fiction.
But people often forget about the quieter side of sci-fi. For me, it’s the quieter side that’s so fascinating. Where human endurance is tested, where our technological endeavors are celebrated, rather than vilified. I think it’s important to keep humanity in the equation. When I say that, I don’t mean, “aliens are invading Earth and it’s up to the chosen one to save the world.”
Try exploring what makes us human. Show how the characters live in their world, how they’re impacted as individuals. Show them making discoveries of their own, both externally and internally. What makes them human? (or whatever species they are). Explore what led to them being where they are at the beginning of the story, and take them on a journey where they come to discover something about themselves or the world around them.
The more your reader can connect to your characters on a human, emotional level, the more engaged with and moved by the story they will be overall.
If you’re writing a story with space travel, choose carefully. How fast can spaceships travel between stars? Me? I prefer a safe in-between compromise. Faster than realistic space travel (The Martian; 2001: A Space Odyssey) but slower than near-instantaneous “popping” between stars (Star Trek; Star Wars). I’ve come up with a feasible explanation for why space travel is an easy couple-week trip between stars.
It’s important to choose how fast ships can travel, because travel time will directly affect the story’s plot and pacing. If bad things are happening on a planet, and it takes the hero(es) months or years to arrive, chances are they won’t show up in the nick of time to save the day. On the other hand, if space travel happens instantly, then you’ll want to account for that.
Long story short, travel time matters when stories are set in space!
Planets. Not every planet is Earth. You’ll want to consider how people get food and water, how societies function across different planets, how people from one planet view people from another planet. Why were certain planets chosen to inhabit, and others not? How are people sustaining themselves on a barren desert world? How are they breathing? How long do they live? How are their bodies different from people on other planets? Is non-human life struggling or thriving?
Thinking about survivability and lifestyles, what technologies can each planet support? Do they all have the latest-and-greatest tech? Or is there some standard baseline that new settlements on other worlds begin at, and they build from there? Does the planet that settled that world have oversight? Or do they let the new world choose its own way of life? Is a planet settling other planets for the sake of building an empire? Or what motivates them to spread through the cosmos? Answering these questions can add even more depth to your backstory.
When I write science-fiction, I strive to develop a framework for where humanity could go over the next few millennia. I research ecosystems various planets could have, maintain technologies that are consistent with individual settlements on different worlds, and establish political and scientific structures that build into the history and goings-on within the story. My goal is to inspire readers to question what the future may hold for humanity, and what they can add to the world.
If you ever choose to write science-fiction, keep in mind what you want people to discover, what you want people to get out of the story you tell. Will you put humanity at its lowest point, struggling to rise from the ashes? Or will you take to the stars and put humanity into a golden age of exploration and discovery? Whatever you choose, build your world consistently. Blend in flavor and wonder and excitement. Science-fiction holds so many opportunities, and the future is wide open. So ask “What if…” and set your story in motion. It could change the world.
Earlier I mentioned that S. Alex Martin is a favorite author of mine. I think now you can all understand why. Not only is he an author who knows how to write well, but he knows how to write with a purpose. His books, Embassy and Resonance, really took a hold of my mind because they feature a bright, exciting future in which humanity is making strides forward rather than tumbling into more death and destruction. This is a rarity in fiction nowadays, but something that I think we could all use a little more of.
So let's hear a round of applause for Alex Martin! If you enjoyed this post, which I know you did, then don't forget to show him some love on the web. Find him on:
His Awesome Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Amazon
Some links are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for supporting a poor writer.
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