I have always been fascinated with science fiction, particularly stories set in far future worlds. Recently with the publishing of Future Destinies, my anthology of 10 short stories dealing with speculative themes of the far and near future, I have somewhat realized my dream of creating my own ‘worlds’.
Many authors whom I have held in high esteem, have been more than guides for me. The eerie worlds of A.E. Van Vogt (Slan, Destination Universe, The World of Null-A), and the prolific Robert Silverberg Across A Billion Years, etc, Brian Aldiss (Hothouse and A.I. Artificial Intelligence aka Super Toys-Last All Summer Long), and Arthur C. Clarke, (2001: A Space Odyssey and Reach for Tomorrow) have made an impact; Jack Vance, too, for his very many colourful and ingenious characters, settings and original concepts too numerous to name. These authors, though of an earlier generation, set a standard for me on how to weave a tale and I continue to admire them for the vivid description of their worlds within which the characters act and react to crises and stimuli to advance the plots and teach valuable lessons.
Short story writing is a difficult art. The format and limited length really teach a writer to apply word-economy and adhere to good story-structure. To give the reader that sense of far-world mystery, a gripping plot, powerful characters and vibrant setting in less than 5000 worlds, is certainly a challenge! I think even the seasoned wordsmith experiences difficulties.
Adding SF concepts to the equation, makes the task even more complex. Hard SF, Soft SF, Apocalyptic, Cyberpunk, Space opera—all these variations within the genre and beyond force the writer to make important choices. There are many cross-genres like SF/humour, SF/horror, SF/fantasy, which add to the complexity. Also, writers have to decide how much science to inject in their stories, how to introduce the science without concepts appearing staged or info-dumpish. This is harder than it sounds. A too techno-rich tale has the power to kill a story’s spirit—while not enough science will have readers wondering how it fits into the SF category.
Robert Silverberg, in his brilliant, “Exploring the craft of science fiction”, defines SF loosely as:
“having an underlying speculative concept, systematically developed … [allowing] an exploration of the concept’s impingement on the universe as we know it.”
I feel the best approach for an editor of a SF anthology is to put as much variety in the collection as possible, to satisfy the range of readers from hard SF fans to space opera.
I have written a series of articles presenting tips on writing speculative fiction. Visit my blog for more details:
I hope you take the opportunity to read Future Destinies.