Musings on Science-Fiction

I know it has been absolutely ages since I last posted a blog post, but this is in part due to the fact that I have been on holiday for two and a half weeks. I am also shamelessly behind on reviews, but I will catch up on those at some point, I promise. I just don’t know when yet.

With that brief news out of the way, I found myself pondering science-fiction literature recently, mainly because I have started Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars).

Both my husband and I love Fantasy and Science-Fiction, but for me it is in that order, and for him it’s the other way around. This does not just cover our reading habits; we are both seasoned gamers, but I prefer fantasy-based games (such as Baldur’s Gate, Diablo and Dungeon Keeper) while he always gravitates towards the sci-fi games (he’s very much into Elite at the moment). Even in tabletop roleplaying I would much rather play Dungeons and Dragons, whereas he keeps raving about an obscure game called Paranoia, which is sci-fi based.

It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, but I can’t help but wonder whether this is just a random thing and I should put it down to taste, or whether there is something else going on. I can’t really put my preference for Fantasy down to a lack of scientific education in my childhood, because the subjects I graduated in at secondary school included biology, chemistry, physics and maths. I actually briefly flirted with the idea of studying astronomy at university, until I went to the open day and saw that the introduction was for the physics/astronomy course. At that point my childish fantasies (ha!) came tumbling down and I realised that astronomy didn’t really mean getting a telescope and staring at the stars all day (or night, I should say). No, it meant a lot of physics, and while I wasn’t bad at physics (provided I could be bothered to do my homework), I didn’t love it with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

Anyway, I have dabbled in science, but it just doesn’t interest me beyond a general ‘wow, science can do some pretty damn cool stuff’. My husband, on the other hand, studied engineering of some kind (electronic? I should probably know this), works in IT and volunteers at the local Astronomy society, where he has got the main telescope back to work again. I don’t know what his childhood was like in the sense of what he was encouraged to do and what he read, but I think for me I was nurtured into liking Fantasy long before I was exposed to anything sci-fi-like.

When it comes to writing I can quite confidently state that it is unlikely that I will ever write a science-fiction novel, and I first realised this when I started reading Red Mars. It is an interesting book (review will follow, eventually), which relates the initial stages of the colonisation of Mars, which includes the initial stages of terraforming. And while reading all of that, I could not help but admire the writer for his thorough research in everything to do with Mars, long-distance space travel, terraforming, psychology, engineering and whatever else is covered in this book. I never knew that the Mars equivalent of a geologist is called an areologist, or what it would require to give Mars an atmosphere, amongst other things.

And that is the very thing that puts me off writing sci-fi: oodles of research. I am an inherently lazy person, and any research I have done for my previous two novels (which wasn’t much) was restricted to looking up things like horse colours on wikipedia, or doublechecking that a gallop really is faster than a canter, and a canter is faster than a trot. I’m not saying it doesn’t show that I’ve done little to no research (my lockpicking stuff is pretty much made up on the spot), but Fantasy allows for much more freedom to get away with that. Red Mars could not possibly have been written without doing all the various bits of research that have gone into it, but if you want to write a book about magic? No amount of research will ensure you get it right.

In the end that still doesn’t answer why I like Fantasy better than Science-Fiction, but at least I know that my own writing will stick to the former.





7 thoughts on “Musings on Science-Fiction

  1. Green Embers

    I am a mix. I like both in no particular order. I am like you, I am definitely on the lazy side when it comes to researching things, so in my own writing I turn my sci fi into science fantasy πŸ˜†

  2. paulinemross

    I was definitely into scifi in my younger days, but I find fantasy much more liberating. It’s no fun being constrained by all those boring laws of physics (give or take the odd faster-than-light or time travel device). Some people do research for fantasy, too, spending hours working out the exact amount of fodder needed for one horse on a military campaign and how much rest they need. It’s really not necessary; my world has a breed of horse which evolved to gallop all day carrying a man in armour while living on nothing but fresh air. We don’t need no stinking research. πŸ™‚

    1. Erica Dakin Post author

      Haha, you know, I never even picked up on that. It’s the kind of stuff I might worry about in my own writing, but am oblivious to in others. They probably ate grass anyway! Kallanash has grass, surely? πŸ˜‰

      1. paulinemross

        Yes, Kallanash has grass (big grass – head high, with giant plumes, like pampas grass). But it also has a LOT of fresh air for the horses to live on. πŸ˜‰

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