Many years ago I read a book that changed my perspective of the literary world. Although I had read fiction before, I read–for the first time–an enjoyable and exciting book that included an intricate philosophy. Because the whole concept of the book was a quest for immortality, with which I feel a great empathy, I considered it a masterpiece. The book was David Zindell’s “Neverness.”
In “Neverness” I found that, in addition to music, there was another form of art in which I could express myself. I decided to start writing science fiction to expose my philosophy and, like everything else in life, have fun and provide entertainment. My ultimate goal was to write a novel.
Although I had read SF before “Neverness,” afterwards I started to devour it. Still, I’m a very selective reader: I don’t finish 3/4 of the SF books I buy and, although I’ve read all the SF classics, there are only a handful of books that I consider true masterpieces. My top 10 SF books are (in no particular order):
- Dying Inside (Robert Silverberg)
- Hyperion (Dan Simmons)
- Neverness (David Zindell)
- The Demolished Man (Alfred Bester)
- Use of Weapons (Iain Banks)
- The Forever War (Joe Haldeman)
- Ringworld (Larry Niven)
- The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)
- Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)
- Dune (Frank Herbert)
My favorite SF movie is “Aliens,” one of the few sequels to improve on its predecessor–which was quite good, actually. I loved the first three “Star Wars” movies but not episodes I-III, and I typically don’t like “Star Trek.” In truth, there are only a handful of good SF movies. Even “Dune” was poor, despite being an entertaining book, and I thought “The Matrix” trilogy was plain silly. I liked “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall,” both based on stories by Philip K. Dick, yet I must say preferred the “Minority Report” book to the movie. Though I often find myself watching them, I’m not a great fan of the Sci Fi Channel’s films.
Writing Short Stories and A Novel
I had only written short tales before, so my first attempts at writing a novel were a complete failure. Writing fiction involves developing empathy with the reader and creating emotion, which makes is a lot different than writing scientific papers or philosophical essays. I had to learn how to make a story successful and one can argue I’ve been learning the basics of the craft until now.
I’ve written a diverse set of short stories, and I joined an Internet hard SF writing group. (I’ve since joined another group, actually.) Not only I find it useful to have other writers read my stories, but I think it’s crucial to read unpublished works to discover what works and what doesn’t. None of my short stories have been published, though one of my philosophical essays almost reads like a SF story.
The dramatic concept of my novel is not an original one: a clash between despotism and freedom, loosely based on my One-Man Rule essay. There are, however, many unique features in my novel. According to chaos theory, one cannot predict the future in the long term. Thus each science fiction writer or futurist has his or her own particular vision of the future. SF is about painting images of the future to make people aware of futuristic technological developments. Therefore, each scientist and writer envisions the societal outcomes of technology in a unique way.
In my novel, the action takes place early in the 22nd century. I spent months thinking how humankind will evolve to create a complex and engrossing setting for my story. I ended up with an universe where humans have godlike features: no aging, diseases, or poverty; we are architects of earth and other planets. Yet humans always face the danger of other humans. Although androids and AIs can be designed to serve humans, they can also be programmed to kill humans. The conflict of my book concerns humans and their struggle for survival and freedom.
I tend to dislike stories where the nice hero gets the gold and the girl in the end. My characters, both in my novel and in my short stories, are more along the lines of Alfred Bester’s or Sven Hassel’s. I enjoy fast and furious SF: fast-paced action and furious characters. My book’s ending is demoniac and terrifying, somewhat reminiscent from a Stephen King novel.
Passion is the basis of art. As in my music, I feel that the most important thing is to love what I’m doing. I don’t work to be famous or to make money but to express my art, to create forms that are the mirrors of my soul.
A Few Relevant Books
Hacker, Diana; “A Writer’s Reference” (1999).
Provost, Gary; “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” (1985). Surprisingly useful.
Strunk, William; “The Elements of Style” (1918). An essential book, available online.
Swan, Michael; “Practical English Usage” (1995).
Zuckerman, Albert; “Writing the Blockbuster Novel” (1994). Clearly the best book about writing books. It’s short and goes straight to the subject of how to write in order to sell.
Major SF Magazines and links
Baby Names!; great place to find good character’s names.
Critters Workshop; the best I’ve come across.
Fernando Pessoa; the greatest Portuguese poet ever.
Guide to Grammar and Writing; a useful website for writing all types of texts.
Representative Poetry On-line; good resource.
Robert J. Sawyer; excellent website.
SFF Net; good for general writing.
Simetria FC & F; Portuguese SF.
The SF Site; good resource with lots of useful links.
What the Bible Says…; surprisingly useful if you want to creat a religious character.
Writers Write — The Write Resource — Books, Publishing and Writing; good site that includes the Internet Research Resources for Science Fiction Writers.