Archive for June, 2016

Why I Do It

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

meMany of you ask why I do it. Why do I write science fiction?

I ask myself the same question. Maybe with a different emphasis: why do I write science fiction? I mean, I read it. I watch television shows and movies based on it, like many other people. But why do I write it?

The cynical answer would be that I do it for the money. But if that were my main motivation, then there are other genres that would be more efficient at generating income. Whether you call it Scifi, SF, or speculative fiction, science fiction is a relative small piece of the fiction pie, money-wise. Far more money is made writing romance fiction and thrillers. Maybe this is because good science fiction, almost by definition, needs to have some good science in it, and most people seem to prefer books that won’t make them think about much science. Or maybe because violent conflict and love are things we are obsessed with and want to read about. Most good scifi includes such things.

Do I do it for the fame, then? Shakes his head. Name ten famous scifi authors. Hint: I’m not one of them yet.

The answer I keep coming up with when I ask myself that question is, because I have been inspired by it and I want to pass on that inspiration to others. I think the first SF novel I read was Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein. I read it in sixth or seventh grade, and the idea of owning a space suit captured my imagination so strongly that my Halloween costume that year (back when most were hand-made and not bought) was a couple of cardboard boxes with holes cut out for my arms and legs and some plastic for a face plate. It didn’t look much like a NASA space suit, so I told everyone I was supposed to be a robot. But in my heart I was an astronaut.

A lot of us like to read historical fiction, and it can be fascinating stuff, especially for romance, because we will always have a nostalgia for “the good old days” that is unaffected by our knowledge that those good old days included human slavery, widespread disease and illiteracy and nearly constant war. But reading about kings and princesses cannot really inspire us to emulate them, because it’s sort of difficult these days to become a king or a princess. We can identify with the handsome prince or the beautiful-but-strong princess, but when we are finished we put the book down and go on with our lives.

Science fiction is different. It looks forwards, not backwards, in history. And there will be a need for more astronauts, so it’s not crazy to want to become one. Well maybe it is for me, because I’m way too old to get into the space program. But you get my point. SF doesn’t encourage us to dream about what we could have done in the past. It inspires us to dream about what we might be able to do in the future.

I’d like to be a part of that.


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