Science fiction writers – must try harder?

From what I’ve read science fiction as a genre is at a bit of a low ebb, which as a writer of science fiction is not the best news.  On the other hand if my twitter feed is anything to go by erotic, romantic and historical fiction are more and more popular (or to hit the real jackpot; erotic, romantic, historical fiction).

wreckageOne piece of science fiction that has done well recently is ‘The Martian’.  I saw the film last week and read the book a few months ago.  Both have been successful and I would guess have been seen and read by people who are not devotees of the genre.

When I look at the above I start to ask why?  As a writer of science fiction, I also read a lot of science fiction (despite my wife trying to persuade me to read a wider range of books – and yes I know she’s right).  And most of what I read is about wars of one sort or another, either between humans or between aliens and humans.  Now I know, generally, at the base of any good story you need conflict and what could provide more conflict than wars, invasions etc.  I just wonder at a time when the world is once again in a scary and uncertain place, more so than it was ten years ago (or at least it seems that way to me) and the future seems less certain, that readers don’t want to be confronted with the same in the books they choose to buy.  Perhaps, they want a bit more escapism from the current realities of life?  Maybe that’s, partially at least, why ‘The Martian’ has been successful.  It’s a story of one man’s determination and battle to survive but not in a war situation.  He and everyone else are working together for a successful outcome, including two nations (USA and China) who are in competition with each other.

northumberland1So, when I ask ‘science fiction writers – must try harder?’ I mean that we have to rely less on wars, battles and fighting to be the cornerstones of our works.  It’s not that they can’t be there, it’s that the wars, battles and fighting should not only be what the stories are about.  The stories need to work harder than that, be more than that, if they are to appeal to wider modern audiences.  For me the best science fiction does that.  Asimov in the foundation and Empire series achieved that.  Also, in the last year or two I have read most of the work of Michael R Hicks and the Kreelan Empire series.  They deal with a violent marshal culture of an alien race and the conflict between them and humans.  And yes there are battles, there is war and fighting.  But where it works for me, is that it goes beyond that, delving deep into the lives, history and culture of those aliens, explaining why they are as they are.

So perhaps, it is a wake-up call for the writers of science fiction to try harder when it comes to engaging with a wider reading audience.  Oh, and I include myself in the ‘must try harder’ bracket.

As always comment are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

7 thoughts on “Science fiction writers – must try harder?”

  1. What a valid observation – I read books to escape reality, not have it thrust down my throat. I know I’m not unique in this, just as I know others thrive on reality and realistic fiction, but perhaps the balance between the two needs to be more equal, so that there are opportunities for readers to find the type of fiction of their choice.

    1. Many thanks for the comment. I think science fiction has a lot to offer. I also enjoy fantasy, but if I have a criticism with that it is that it can often be too predictable or formulaic and if we’re not careful scifi could be the same.

      1. Agreed, although as a fantasy reader and author, I try to find things that aren’t formulaic, and that’s what makes for a stand out read, be it fantasy or SF. On the other hand, there are plenty of readers out there who seem to like reading the same plot over and over – I’ve lost interest in paranormal romance for that very reason, but as a genre it’s booming.
        I do think SF should keep on evolving though – that’s rather the point of it, isn’t it?

          1. Thanks for the comments. I’m not so worried about immigration within reason, I think the UK has always absorbed other cultures and adapted. I just think when it comes to building houses and other ‘changes’ we seem to have developed the attitude that everything has to stay the same.

  2. I don’t think only Sci-Fi authors need to “try harder”; we all do. There’s no room for mediocrity in the self-publishing world. An engaging story is what keeps people turning pages. There is so much opportunity for speculation and rich storytelling in Sci-Fi, and I’d love to read more of it.

    Can I ever so heartily recommend “Jane Carver of Waar?” The most enjoyable science fiction I’ve read in a long time! You have to be who you are as a writer, but that one really did it for me in terms of world (and culture) building, characters, humor, and – of course! – sex. All the good stuff is there!

    1. Thanks for the comments. I agree, and as self published authors we may have to try even harder. Also thanks for the recommendation, I’m always looking for new authors.

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