January 9th, 2008

To sci or not to sci?

Mike Marano and I frequently have long old-fogey phone chats in which we bemoan the death of science fiction. Mike says we were of the last generation that could walk into a store and buy new books by the Sturgeons and Besters and LeGuins. I say that a lot of the books that shaped me - books like Fahrenheit 451 and More Than Human and The Left Hand of Darkness - wouldn't have a prayer of being published new nowadays. Or any other science fiction book that focuses more on societies and characters than technology or the military.

Unfortunately, these long-into-the-night grump sessions have, ironically, resulted in me wanting to write science fiction. It's what I grew up reading (I really wasn't a huge horror fan as a young reader), and what I've always thought I'd write some day.

I'd like to write about a future L.A. that's fractured into city-states, only blocks apart but each with its own distinctive culture. I'd like to write about a master manipulator who creates a functional matriarchy. I'd like to write about a machine that is far more emotionally complex than the organics around it. And - god help me - I'd like to write humorous science fiction that doesn't depend on farting aliens or silly names.

What I'm not interested in writing about is a group of soldiers fighting insect-like bugs. Or elves with laser guns fighting mechanical dragons. Or worlds in which technology and capitalism have been completely fetishized while characters with the depth of a cartoon deliver lots of convoluted slang.

And then, of course, there's the little matter of not knowing the market place at all. I do occasionally try to read new science fiction...but I always walk away dissatisfied. It's invariably like getting half a stale candy bar when you wanted a three-course meal.

I suspect I'll end up having no choice and writing some of these things at some point this year, but what I'll do with them after that...PKD only knows.