I have always read science fiction. Some of my very first memories of the craft were of gathering a few dollars and used books together into a plastic sack and biking down to the Bookworm. One summer I managed to get the same initial investment of cash and paperbacks to last the entire three months, voraciously devouring book after book then returning them for half credit and a few more peeks into worlds that might never be. The Heechee. Man-Kzin Wars. Foundation. Ringworld. Footfall. And stacks of Asimov’s, Amazing Wonder Stories, Fantastic Tales, Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Now, I don’t read nearly as much; likely due to the fact that I have a real job and have relented to adult responsibilities. However, I still read as much as I can.
When I started my current novel project last summer, I had very little concept of how to write a story. Since then I’ve been applying myself to the learning, but I have had a hard time finding modern books on the subject of the writing of science fiction. In my college days I managed to con an English professor into letting me take a course of my own devising, Science Fiction Writing. For a textbook, we managed to locate an old copy of Robert Silverberg’s book Worlds of Wonder.
This book is part memoir and part instruction manual on how to craft a good story. Silverberg takes us through a wide variety of stories, from those that are tight and almost pure plot, to those that rely heavily on the character to carry the experience. After each short he breaks down what he liked about it, and more importantly why he thinks it’s good.
I found this book to be particularly useful for the groundings of how to write good speculative fiction. Having him draw examples directly from the stories (that I had just read!) gave me a good image of what a practical application of the theories he was talking about looks like. One word of caution for the modern reader; the material in these stories is significantly dated. Some universal themes still ring true, but a lot of what makes speculative fiction great is commentary on things that matter to the social body in the moment. I would recommend this book for anybody who wants to dive deeply into the craft of writing speculative fiction, but with a healthy supplement of modern day short stories and recently published work. As a collection of entertaining tales goes, it’s pretty spot on as well.
The deeper into this writing journey I get the more I realize that I will need to read a lot more than I write. Fortunately, I have never failed to find a good engaging story. The community now is healthy, vibrant, and I have nothing but hope for the future. Happy reading!