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 great empathy, I found 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, and still is, to write and publish a SF novel.
Although I had read SF before “Neverness,” afterwards I started to devour it. Nonetheless, I’m a very selective reader: I don’t finish 3/4 of the SF books I buy and, although I’ve read 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 subsequent episodes, and I typically don’t enjoy “Star Trek.” In truth, there are only a handful of good SF movies. I liked “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall,” both based on stories by Philip K. Dick, yet I must say I preferred the “Minority Report” book to the movie.
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 is different from 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 and another on-line critique group. Not only I find it useful to have other writers read my stories, but I think it’s crucial to read unpublished works to discover what works and what doesn’t. None of my short stories have been published, though one of my philosophical essays almost reads like a SF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.
Nobody can predict the future. 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 convey future technological developments. Therefore, each scientist and writer envisions the societal outcomes of technology in a unique way.
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.
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 mirror my soul.
A Few Relevant Books
Hacker, Diana; “A Writer’s Reference” (1999).
Provost, Gary; “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” (1985). Very 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.
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.
Representative Poetry On-line; good resource.
Robert J. Sawyer; excellent website.
Simetria FC & F; Portuguese SF.
The SF Site; good resource with lots of useful links.
Writers Write — The Write Resource — Books, Publishing and Writing; good site that includes the Internet Research Resources for Science Fiction Writers.