Get Started In Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy, by Adam Roberts
One of the notable aspects of writing and reading is that one frequently reads about writing, and that is certainly the case with a book like this. If you are a writer who likes to read about writing, then this book and others like it will no doubt be somewhat familiar to you. And admittedly much of this book was familiar to me, though that is not a bad thing. Books about writing and self-help books share a lot in common, namely that what they are urging people is to do something, and while it is hard to get people to do something, the gulf between aspiration and achievement in both areas is wide and while writings obviously have strong limits when it comes to getting people to do things, it remains the most effective means we have of communicating what needs to be done to those who can hopefully be thereby encouraged to go out and do it. It is hard for me to judge the relative success of this book as opposed to others, since I am already someone who does write such works on occasion and found it to be a review–a helpful review to be sure but a review nonetheless. If that is the case for you, do not despair, as it has worthwhile exercises and an approach from someone who is a successful but by no means extremely famous author in speculative fiction.
This book is about 200 pages long and it is divided into ten chapters. The book begins with a section about the author and a suggestion from the author on how the reader can use this book as a means of encouraging writing in science fiction, as well as revision, as editing is a major focus of the author. After that comes a chapter on how to write (1), followed by one on the definition of the genres of science fiction and fantasy (2) as well as a look at how the nature of the genre affects how we write them. This is then followed by a discussion on how to find original ideas (3), which has never been a particular area of difficulty for myself although it may be for others. There is a discussion of how one is to structure their story (4), before a more general discussion of storytelling in science fiction and fantasy (5). There is a discussion on writing dialogue and description well (6) before the author discusses writing character (7). The book then ends with seven key SF and fantasy tropes (8), revision (9), and getting published (10), as well as an appendix of an SF Plotto (i) and an index.
In reading this book I was struck by some of the themes within my own writings, past and near-future, regarding science fiction, in my fondness for dealing with the question of aliens and alienation. One of the reasons at least why I am profoundly interested in the genre of fantasy or science fiction is the way that human beings deal with the alien and the unfamiliar, ranging from new planes and species for people to interact with, whether successfully or not, or the alienation of traveling to the different country that is the past and dealing with being in an outsider in an alien world of one’s ancestors and their peers, or traveling to the future where one is similarly an alien in a place one does not know the customs of. In all such cases, the empathy of human beings is tested, as well as the opportunity to learn from those who are on the other side of various chasms from ourselves. Admittedly, I am fascinated by how we can make the alien familiar and the familiar alien, and that alone is enough to make me at least somewhat interested in fiction that seeks to do the same over and over again, even if there are definitely cliches in how such things are done.