I’m changing things up a bit this month for several reasons. 1) I haven’t actually written a new poem. Sorry. 2) Easter is coming up, so I’ll be taking the day off from blogging. 3) I’m in the middle of a writing series (Writing Blog Posts!), so I’m not about to skip over that post. As a result, I’m skipping poetry and diving right into books! The rest of my schedule will proceed as normal, with a bonus post on April 30 featuring the five races in Last of the Memory Keepers. Without further ado, today’s post is centered on one of my new favorite genres—science fiction!
I tend to be really picky about my books, even more so when it comes to sci-fi. During my time in Nottingham, when I was studying for my M.A. in English Literature, I took a class on speculative fictions. It was supposed to cover fantasy through sci-fi and ended up being all sci-fi, and all books picked out by one professor. Turns out, the class made me avoid sci-fi stories for nearly a year. Not fun.
But I eventually found a sci-fi book or two that I actually enjoyed. Here are just a few of the reasons I like sci-fi as a genre. (When I say sci-fi, I will mainly be focusing on space opera.)
1) They’re unconventional.
You know those books with neat little paragraphs and chapter-by-chapter structure? Forget it. While a lot of books still have conventional format, you might end up with a book that’s set up like a record of chat room conversations and video surveillance records.
You prefer all your characters to be human? Too bad. Sci-fi is peppered with talking raccoons, time travel, and tribbles. I’m still waiting for a story with space dragons. Come on! (Anybody have any recommendations?) After all, why not? As a writer, that’s one of my favorite questions to ask.
Why not? What if?
Unconventional is just another word for possibility. Sci-fi may not exactly be the easiest to read, but part of it is because…
2) Sci-fi stories are full of potential.
There’s something about the opening speech in Star Trek that makes me excited.
“Space: the final frontier…”
Sci-fi just goes to show that there’s so much that we don’t know about, so much left to explore in the universe through…
3) Space travel!
One of my favorite things to do is go for bike rides, and each time, I like to see new places, pushing the boundaries of where I went last. Sci-fi offers that kind of travel. But through many, many different varieties. Whether it be faster than light travel, worm holes, or teleportation, there are plenty of ways to get to other planets or even solar systems.
4) Sci-fi shares some characteristics with fantasy.
Science fiction is not a completely new genre. In fact, it stems from a long tradition of fantastical elements, which gradually morphed into stories that we know today, thanks to authors like Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Like fantasy, sci-fi has foreign aspects from non-human races, strange plants, and animals, and of course travel.
Sci-fi even includes a little bit—okay a lot—of social critique. While fantasy often critiques the past, sci-fi critiques our expectations of the future because of the decisions we make in the present. Though I may not be a fan of the plot, I really like the world building in Avatar, especially with Hometree and the Hallelujah Mountains. I also really like the concept for a character living a dual-life in their sleeping vs. waking life. There should be a word for that.
Then there are those confusing stories that you don’t know if they’re fantasy or sci-fi like Star Wars or Thor. This only results in the ever-confusing shelving issue I have. I go to look for a fantasy novel and wind up with sci-fi. There may be some overlap, but they are not the same.
Half the time, I don’t know what some scientists or mechanics are talking about in sci-fi, but it sure is fascinating. I like that a lot of the technology is built on fact, so there’s all this potential.
The only thing is, with science developing so rapidly, some of the technology either becomes real, or the principles become obsolete. Other times, the facts are faulty. I’ve always wondered how people could travel faster than light, and still end up in the same time. After all, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, faster-than-light travel would result in a jump into the future.
Then again the Earth did turn out to be round when, for thousands of years, it was believed to be flat.
6) Sci-fi is packed full with culture.
I don’t actually like the way alien races tend to be portrayed. Please, enough with The War of the Worlds and Independence Day. While these stories may have been groundbreaking during their time, it’s getting tiresome. “All aliens want to kill us.” Oh, please.
Rather, give me the cultural aspects that come with different races. Sure, there are definitely misunderstandings and even hostile meetings, but there are discoveries too. There are languages barriers to overcome, customs to learn, foods and new atmospheres to experience. In fact, I’d like to see more sci-fi with cultural aspects, including culture shock. The only ones I’ve read with it thus far has been The Left Hand of Darkness and A Princess of Mars.
7) Space is awesome.
I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy. When I was a kid, my dad would drive my brother and me out to the middle of nowhere, and we’d sit on the hood of his car to watch a meteor shower. When I was a teenager, he’d set up the telescope, and we’d admire the rings around Saturn and see if we could spot Jupiter’s moons. And one day, I may even find Andromeda, the only galaxy visible to the naked eye, with our telescope.
Sure, space is also really creepy. Bone’s sums it up pretty well when he says, “Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” And while I’m pretty terrified of the idea of endless nothingness, it’s still fascinating. There are countless galaxies, nebulas, and black holes out there. Is it bad that I find black holes fascinating?
8) Bonus! (And because I’m not good with math.)
Sci-fi can reference literature and made up stories.
Spock (Star Trek) is a Sherlock-esque character and even quotes him. Star Trek: First Contact references Moby-Dick. Illuminae references “O Captain! My Captain!” (Leaves of Grass) and other books yet to be written in that fictional universe.
Whoever said sci-fi couldn’t be literary?
Film references: Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, Avatar, Independence Day, Star Wars, and Thor.
Literary references: H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes collection, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, and Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” (Leaves of Grass).
Let’s chat! What is one of your favorite genres? What are some of your favorite characteristics of sci-fi? Did I leave any out?