There’s a strange thing that happens when writing about technology or supposition in science fiction-the soft stuff, anyway. It’s a kind of a block…a kind of a hmmmmm, a kind of a 'throw-the-damn-computer-across-the-room, who am I kidding’ event. I know you know what I’m trying to say. It’s when everything is going sooooo damn well and then our fingers stop, poised over our keyboard, our pen (which was going faster than our cramped fingers can keep up with) stops gliding across the page. We look down at what we wrote and we suddenly choke out a laugh. We say, “Dude! There is no way in hell anyone is gonna buy this bullshit.” Buy as in BELIEVE. 

We suddenly realize that we’ve gotten carried away with our own imagination and have gotten sorely away from reality in a very, big big BIG way.

Humph! But isn’t this fiction? Isn’t this the very reason we sci-fi writers write sci-fi? Well, yeah. It is. So then, why, why in God’s great green Earth do we do doubt ourselves, our imagination, our fantastical epiphanies dropped down like angels fluttering wings from above? Why do we care that we’ve gotten away from reality, so far from what could possibly be proved or theorized or have a smidgen of what we’ve just written be anywhere in Popular Science? I mean, we soft sci-fiers/apocalypiciers have got a sort of carte blanche for this sort of imagination inspired scribe, don’t we?

I’ve got the answer. It’s a two-fold answer.

We doubt that creativity is the key to a good read no matter how unbelievable it is; and, we doubt that what the masters can do, so can we do.

Concerning the first point, let’s look at some of the greatest movies of all times. Fifth Element, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens vs. Predators…just to name a few because there are waaay too many to list. 

Wow — can anyone dispute the ridiculous premises and sciences supposed in these freaking, amazingingly entertaining movies? Not a one of us. If any of us are in our right minds, we would scoff at the obsurdity of these jewels and walk straight out of the theater---or out of the room. I mean, seriously, shit spewing out of the Ark of the Covenant? Aliens and kick-ass giant warriors having war games in underground ice temples? A red-headed hot babe being the fifth element for some metallic, roach-looking alien species? Really? Really! 

I loved every minute of these movies. Why? Because of the way it was presented. NOT because it was believable. Who wants believable when you can join Alice on her psychedelic trip down the rabbit hole? Like Alice, a strange thing happens when we’re faced with a supposition: either take the pill that makes you small or take the pill that makes you big. I choose the take-me-away-from-my-boring ass-life pill (By the way, I’d guess that to be the big one. Who knows?). 

Isn’t that what we’re doing when we’re writing as fast as we can with that crazy idea in our heads about some quantum sonic wave travel (my crazy-ass idea) that premises our far future story? Hell, yes. That’s what we’re doing. And then we stop. We stop because the reality bug squirms its ugly head into our brain pan. And then we’re done. We doubt. Here comes the writers’ block. Here comes the angst. We’re screwed for weeks. 

We can’t get past it. We’re even too afraid to bring it up to our writer friends, our family, our secret special readers. We go away licking our metaphorical paws and hide. 

Oh, but our loved ones notice the change in us. And those damn busy bodies pop out with, “Hey, what’s the problem? You stuck?” Sonabitch. I hate being found out. Don’t you?

Which brings me to point two. We doubt that what the master story crafters can do, so can we do. 

Why are we doubting ourselves? If they, the masters, can do it—presuppose some kind of a hell of a malarkey straight from the blarney stone, why can’t we?

Let’s take a look at some of these greats and their “unbelievable” stories.

Frank Herbert’s Dune. Really? Giant sandworms that someone can actually ride in and out of sand dunes? Oh, yeah. I believe

I’ve been riding the great Earth beasts, called horses, all my life and I still have a hell of a time hangin’ on when my little filly is sure that large boulder we’re passing isn’t really a man-sized tiger ready to eat us. I can’t imagine going up and down sand dunes when I can’t even breath because of all the freaking melange. 

David Brin’s Startide Rising. Uplifted dolphin crews and a chimp…uhhh, okay. It gets really sick when you find yourself thinking some of those dolphins are hotties. I still find myself having a staring contest with those smarties when I’m at Sea World with the kids. Unfortunately none of them have ever said, hi.

H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. Time machine? ‘Nough said.

But, oh, how we love these jewels! These masterpieces. Loved every word of them. I could give a martian rat’s ass they won’t hold up to any real scrutiny. But who’s looking? No one. Hugo and Nebula awards are proof of that proverbial pudding. And we’re not writing hard sci-fi, are we? That’s another whole ball of wax. Quite frankly, it doesn’t interest me. I want the glam blam pow sci-fi.

So I guess what it all boils down to is this—believe in yourself and your story. If you believe, so will others. At least long enough to become involved with your characters and your plot and your wickedly constructed settings. The rest is just a kiss of the blarney. The luck o’ the Irish—if that involves luck that falls on the right side of the rainbow. There is that other side of Irish luck—wild mad parties that involve lots and lots of mother’s milk—which, yes, would be GUINNESS—and then the whole story just stays in your head instead of written down somewhere. Oh, enough of my family history. I digress.

Okay, so two points I hope well taken. 

Soft sci-fiers unite in this mantra…I BELIEVE, I BELIEVE, I BELIEVE, AND SO WILL OTHERS.

There is plenty of road blocks in writing, in getting that story out of our squishy, little brains. Let’s not let the reality bug be the stumble.



Anastasia Payne
08/01/2012 3:33pm

Hey, Syd, I like your site! You've got a number of very interesting thoughts recorded on the whole writing thing. I do hope you'll share some of your finished works. I only got to read one chapter from the middle of something. I was intrigued, and yet, that's all I got. Starving. I'm starving here. LOL love ya, Anastasia


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    Sydney Wright

    Apocalyptic sci-fi writer, mother, wife, designer, and seeker of wisdom and truth.


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