Children of Science Fiction

I think readers who float by this page may just have had some SciFi in their background. I mean from back when it was more acceptable to read Marquis de Sade than SciFi. When SciFi was what you read under the bedclothes when everyone else was asleep. When you wandered around going “wow” and it didn’t have anything to do with recreational substances. When your folks wrung their hands and said “they’ll grow out of it” in that hopeful, uncertain tone of voice.

If you recognise that, then known this, puny earthlings; I enjoyed this writer’s blog/advertorial and may have laughed out loud once or twice:

http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-things-science-fiction-needs-to-bring-back/

I think Urban Fantasy inherited some of the fun from SciFi, and certainly, that’s where the core concept question of UF came from:  the “what if you put paranormal and normal side by side” is a classic SciFi structure.

What do you think?

Is it possible to keep all the good stuff – the startling plot twists, the sense of awe, the deep questions, the fun … and also have characters, plot, pacing, believability and relevance?

And is there a parallel between ‘golden age’ SciFi and the current state of publishing – that there are a lot more books out there than there are good books out there?

I’m interested to know your take on it.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

8 responses to “Children of Science Fiction”

  1. larry says :

    I began reading SciFi/Fantasy when it was considered a single word, sitting in what’s now Middle School with “one ear” listening to the teacher, and both eyes on a paperback or pulp magazine. John Campbell, H. Beam Piper, Phil Dick, de Camp, and later Azimov and Heinlein (among many others) were part of my “required reading list”. This was a time when a story could be told in 150 pages, enough to fill a 3-part pulp mag. serial. Also the time when colleges didn’t require composition/grammar tests — you were there, it was assumed you knew the basics…

    Now, thousands of books later, I could probably write pages on the subject, but will try to keep my comments a bit shorter!
    Then & now, books reflect the times and the audience, though there are far more poorly written books now than then. Then, written copy passed from typewriter to editor and back again several times, and authors had to sell. The early “Golden Age” audience was single male with a technical background (nerd?) — I re-read the old books from time-to-time as a comparison and, having lived through many of the “ages”, gain some understanding on how things were then vs. now…

    I admit to some puzzlement on the popularity of the “Twilight series”, “Hunger Games”, and the “Divergent series”. Perhaps I’m losing some perspective as the years grow on me, but the books (and movies) obviously reflect their audience, or they wouldn’t sell…

    I’m a bit wary of Mr. Brockway’s “mindhump” — far too often, surprises are sprung without logical build-up or even hints, which I really don’t appreciate. That being said, any good book (and even more so with a series) will be constructed with hints & tells, along with high-points that a reader will re-read. I appreciate authors who subtly hint of future events, letting my imagination run free to guess conclusions. Surprises, which turn the series in directions beyond my imagination are even more appreciated, as long as those surprises have a firm foundation in story logic.

    SciFi isn’t necessary in Fantasy, there are several good episodics with a limited or narrow focus, but it does become necessary when the author is building a larger universe — a universe where early hints are answered and new hints are delivered. Very few current authors are adept at universe building — most merely splash characters on the scene, and hope that their interactions are enough for the reader to digest…

  2. lincoln brown says :

    I read the golden age of sci-fi when I was younger mainly in the sixties and seventies. I also pulp fiction,mysteries horror almost anything I could get my hands on and I believe you are right. That’s probably why I read a lot urban fantasy now. It brings me back to when book’s were your entertainment you had three channels on tv, b-horror movies on Saturday with a funny host ( bowman body) and new books seemed to come out weekly and you were so excited when your favorite author had a new book come out, mine was robert e howard being a kid and not knowing he had died years before and on the current state of publishing I read more e-book writers then writer’s whose books come out mainly in print form I guess the correct term is established authors the e-book authors bring back that feeling of wow that’s great.

    Mark Henwick wrote:

    > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com Mark Henwick posted: “I think readers who float by this page may just have had some SciFi in their background. I mean from back when it was more acceptable to read Marquis de Sade than SciFi. When SciFi was what you read under the bedclothes when everyone else was asleep. When”

  3. katherinejames88 says :

    *And is there a parallel between ‘golden age’ SciFi and the current state of publishing – that there are a lot more books out there than there are good books out there?*

    I think the golden age of sci-fi posed more questions relating to our future. While modern day sci-fi poses questions more related to our present.

    So, modern sci-fi asks “what if right now there was…”

    While golden age sci-fi asked “what if in the future there was…”

  4. Jason says :

    Well, I had to think about this a lot. I would definitely call myself a child of science fiction. When I discovered them in the library around 12 years old or so I could not get enough of them. The ones I remember most are Andre Norton’s Witch World, Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant, and anything by Robert Heinlein. These books and others always gave me something, there is always a little bit of truth in fiction the key is recognizing it when you see it. I am not the same person I was before I discovered these kinds of books, I had a lack of male role models growing up so I consciously and subconsciously decided which characters I wanted to be like and tried to be more like my heroes in these types of books. Some things I learned; situations don’t matter as much as what you DO with them and there is always a choice even it that choice is to do nothing. From Christopher Stasheff’s Warlock series I learned about anger management and how we can hurt the ones we love and they can hurt us because we give them the keys to ourselves. I learned about true courage in many books but the one I keep reading over and over is The Deed of Paksenarrion, Many others really stretched my head, looking at my book shelf I still have ‘Alas, Babylon’ on there and I remember the book ‘I Am Legend’ with its ending “[I am] a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.” It took me to a dark lonely place that book mainly because the ‘good guys’ didn’t win in that one. Relationships in sci-fi have basically defined my understanding of how these things work or at least they did till real life kicked me in the you know whats. Luckily I began to see that relationships take real work and don’t happen in just a length of a book.

    Now to answer some of your questions; I think many of these things mentioned in the article are still present today but the good ones are buried in a sea of commercialism. And we are mostly an instant gratification generation most are not willing to wait and use your imagination to be part of the story. It is like we need everything spelled out to us instead of interpreting it ourselves. Subtle is not what most writing is about these days. I think the Paranormal genre has leaped in front of sci-fi for most people because it takes less imagination than strait sci-fi but I find myself liking the one that combine many of the elements from the article no matter what genre. The trouble is how do you tell from the cover? Or even the little snippets provided? Surprise is one of the best things but you have to be open to it or it will not be fun for you.

    For example, I have read many reviews were they critique the fact that the book had lots of sex in it or too much overall, but when you look at the cover it is clearly what they advertised. What if the cover was sexy but the book had NO sex then they would complain about that. I like new and interesting so I only get disappointed when there is the same old same old or the characters don’t GROW, nobody stays the same under such adventures and situations.

    I recently read a scene in this book were the main characters used a dump truck to escape werewolves in wolf form chasing them by dumping the load on them going down the road. THAT was original and cool to me, maybe not likely but I can IMAGINE it happening so I go with it and enjoy the book.

    Wow, I have said enough and I may have wandered to far afield from your post, but I enjoyed this post, thanks.

  5. Daniel Dobbelstein says :

    Hi Mark,

    SciFi hmmm what is it, i think the term has changed alot over the years. Way back people called Jules Verne a maniac, because he wrote about ships under water and a cannon shooting people to the moon. Now we can fly to the moon, and we definitely have submarines.
    Now people write about missions to mars, the possibility of time travel and tricking Einsteins relativity theory to travel faster then light.
    Star Trek for instance, about which there are even today valid scientific theories and research. Antimatter we already created, well only a few molecules but still.
    What will people in 50 or 100 days say about what we call scifi today?
    Science Fiction, Fiction based on science changes as quickly as our basis in science today.
    Probably there is many books out there that are not the height of grammar or very good, but i think that will weed itself out, as they are not getting bought alot.
    Back in the 50’s they had those small booklets, that where considered trash by society, and there was alot of them. Some sold and the authors might even have written some good novels and books, those that did not sell, vanished.
    Same is bound to happen to those that publish books through ebooks, that are not up to par.
    As a sidenote, i also believe that many of the media we use today, is going to weed itself out. Things like Facebook etc, people have so many accounts they can’t possibly keep track of all that. And the successful services have already started to weed it out, by buying services that are less successful and integrating them into their own.

  6. Mark Henwick says :

    This is an interesting thread, and one I think i should come back to.
    I’m away for a couple of weeks, with uncertain connection to the internet.

  7. Liz Walters Syreen says :

    I especially liked #3….

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