The Burden of Knowledge

meThese days, many readers combine science fiction and fantasy into a single genre. It would be convenient for me personally if they were the same thing. But they’re not.

You see, my challenge as a SF writer is to expand your mind without insulting your intelligence. There are all kinds of mind-bending things I would like to write about, but I have a handicap: a formal education in science.

The fact that I was a hard-science Physics major should help me write science fiction, right? Yes and no. It does give me a technical vocabulary and some knowledge of how matter and energy work. The problem is, suspension of disbelief starts long before a reader opens my book. It starts with me: I have to believe in the book to write it. This means that because of my background I want to explain everything scientifically, to justify it to myself and help my suspension of disbelief.

g&g

So I try to walk a narrow path between extremes. In Gamers and Gods I have post-mortal Greek and Egyptian gods, but they are limited by their incarnation into a quantum computer. So, a mix of fantasy and science. On the one hand, I extrapolate a level of consciousness beyond humans, but with its own limitations - as the ancient Greek storytellers did. But I mix this in with predictions of how quantum computers might influence online gaming in the future, and to do that I have to talk about logic, software, loopholes, qbits, and all the technological wizardry that we might have to play with in a few decades.

TMCIn The Metaspace chronicles I do the same kind of mixing. I have a “wizard” who calls himself a psionic engineer trying to rebuild a technical civilization. He uses “magic” — but it is all done by manipulating properties of space like its curvature, spin population, or energy distribution. I mix sword-and-sorcery with post-apocalyptic to produce a story line which is neither pure fantasy nor hard SF but a little of each.

If you want to call it a formula, fine. But it works for me, at least to the extent that it permits me to proceed. And the readers have not been displeased.

—MRK

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