Why I write sci-fi

Over the last several days I’ve been trying to piece together where my interest in science fiction grew from. As a child I was a voracious reader, but I don’t really remember reading much science fiction. I saw the Star Wars movies and watched some Star Trek: The Next Generation with my dad when I was really young. While they were cool to my young (5-6 year old) mind, they didn’t really capture my imagination.

Same with Jurassic Park. I saw it in theaters in 1993 and, while it is technically science fiction I suppose, I just thought of it as a really cool dinosaur movie. And I still hadn’t really read any science fiction, even though I was a regular at the local library (I vividly remember bringing home stacks, literally STACKS, of books from the library every couple of weeks and motoring through them. But I don’t remember any sci-fi standing out).

Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin changed all that. I stood in line with my father for a couple of hours to see a little film called Stargate  in 1994 when I was nine years old. It captured my imagination. It set of sparks in my head that I’d never experienced before. I wanted to be Kurt Russell’s character (the depression and suicidal tendencies kind of went over my head at the time, he was just a cool soldier guy!). I wanted to visit this far off world.

I watched a bunch of science fiction movies after that. Blade Runner, Alien, Logan’s Run, and what seems like a million more. In 1996 Emmerich and Devlin again resonated with me in their send-up to War of the Worlds, Independence Day. Looking back on it now I can see the plot holes and action-driven nature of the plot, but it nonetheless captured my imagination.

I read Frankenstein, regarded by many as the first properly science fiction novel, the same year. I picked up some H.G. Wells too, and began to explore many of the classic science fiction writers. My first Clarke book came the same year, a tattered old paperback copy of Rendezvous with Rama that my father bought sometime in the mid-1970s.

But 1997 was my first exposure to new science fiction. 1997 is when I mark my true infatuation with science fiction as literature; while I had dabbled in reading some of the old sci-fi greats before that I saw it more of a movie form than a literary one. Peter F. Hamilton changed all of that. My parents bought me the two-part paperback edition of The Reality Disfunction for my 12th birthday. I remember reading the first half, Emergence, in one day. To this day I don’t think I’ve read another book in a single day (especially one of that length; even split in two each half of it weighed in at about 500 pages).

That was a game changer. I was voraciously reading science fiction and science fiction alone from then on. Asimov, more Clarke, Heinlein, Alistair Reynolds, William Gibson, and a myriad of others all crowded into my head with their visions of the future. Gibson in particular struck a chord, as I covered in the previous blog entry to an extent.

In 1998 I began my first venture into writing science fiction by joining an online writing collective where each contributing author built an entire civilization and wrote stories within it and interacting with the other civilizations. Sadly I believe these early writings may be lost forever, I would love to go back and see my 13 year old take on writing science fiction, but it nonetheless let me sink my teeth into science fiction.

Over the years since I’ve floated away from science fiction in my writing, or rather tried to get away from it. Even as I wrote short stories and even attempted longer pieces that weren’t at all science fiction, I found sci-fi ideas rolling around in my head trying to crowd out all else.

I sat down to write The Selenian Quarantine primarily because my brain wouldn’t let me write anything else. I was in the midst of a piece of literary fiction when the idea grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I spent an entire day staring at a chapter heading of From Within a Deep, Dark Place, literally my entire waking day, unable to even think about that novel. Ideas for science fiction kept crowding out any efforts to think about that work.

So I’ve decided I have to get it out of my head. And that’s why I write science fiction I suppose: my brain won’t shut up about it. As good a reason as any, I guess. 🙂


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