Do I Write Science Fiction or Fantasy?
I once asked a friend of mine who reads a great deal of Science Fiction and Fantasy what he saw as the essential difference between the two genres. He thought for a moment and said that Science Fiction “could happen” while Fantasy “could not.”
I think I know what he meant. In Science Fiction, the writer is cognizant of the physical laws operative within the story. If an SF writer were to describe space travel, Newton’s Laws of motion and gravity would be obeyed. Even here one enters a grey area: some writers would insist on using the speed of light as a fixed limitation while others would imagine a way around it.
In my high school years, I grew up on this genre and my love of science, in large measure, grew out of that reading. Several friends had urged me to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I resisted for a long time. When I did read it, it was as if a new world had opened up for me. It recaptured for me what I had experienced as a child on first reading The Chronicles of Narnia. There was a sense of nobility, beauty, and “rightness” about those imagined worlds that I had missed in my Science Fiction reading, which instead, seemed sterile in comparison.
The longer I thought about it, it came to me that I was encountering an unspoken presupposition that was embedded in most SF literature, that of a materialistic universe where all that mattered was atoms and molecules; chemistry and physics. In addition, I found that the more modern SF also grew more cynical, growing increasingly hostile to the very things that I loved in Fantasy. As a consequence, I read very few modern SF stories (although I do try them once in a while) and spend much more time reading Fantasy.
So how has this impacted my writing? I think, in The Halcyon Cycle, I write Science Fiction that reads like Fantasy. I spend a good deal of time thinking about the physics and chemistry behind my imagined world (I think some of my readers would argue too much, in fact), but I also have many of the elements of a Fantasy story (swords, nobility, right and wrong which transcends worlds and physical laws for example).
Check out The Halcyon Cycle Books … http://bit.ly/2qzzi4P-Author
For your convenience I have also reproduced the questions and answers here. I welcome any questions you might have. Thank you Andrea!
Why do you write?
I love to read Fantasy and Science Fiction. First and foremost then, I write books that I would like to read, but no one else has taken the trouble to write them. Specifically, I like books that are plot-driven and keep me riveted wondering what happens next. But I also like books that ask the Big Questions, as people do in real life. Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? Why should I try to be good?
When did you decide to become a writer, and what was that process like?
For a large fraction of my life, I was a researcher in chemistry and much of my writing appeared in technical journals or as patents. My career as a novelist had a curious start. I was a member of a book club and during one of our sessions I mused how I would love to write a novel. One of my friends said, “Well why don’t you do it?” The gauntlet was thrown down and I had to do something about it. It took me four years of attending writer’s conferences, and writing in my spare time while still holding a full time job before my first book came out, the first edition of the colonization epic The Halcyon Dislocation.
So, what have you written? (Include everything you have published)
As I mentioned I have more than sixty technical publications on chemistry and about 175 US patents, but I’m sure your readers are not that interested in them. In terms of novels I have written three (in the order of publication):
- The Halcyon Dislocation (two editions)
- Questioning Your Way to Faith
- The Battle for Halcyon
The Halcyon Dislocation and The Battle for Halcyon are the first two books of a four part series that I call The Halcyon Cycle. They deal with a science experiment that transports the island University of Halcyon to a parallel world. In the story we experience how various members of the university deal with the trauma of the dislocation and the challenges of surviving in a new world.
Questioning Your Way to Faith is a much shorter book that arose because of requests I received from some of my readers. In terms of a time line, Questioning Your Way to Faith is set before the dislocation and involves two university friends having an extended discussion about whether or not Christian belief is reasonable.
Where can we buy or see them?
My books are available as either e-books or as trade paper backs at most major bookstores and online outlets. In alphabetical order here are some links:
- Amazon/Kindle http://tinyurl.com/qbyw5b8
- Chapters-Indigo/Kobo http://tinyurl.com/odmn6j6
- Google Store http://tinyurl.com/qbnxs6j
- iTunes http://tinyurl.com/pkteyj5
What genre are your books?
My books are Science Fiction that read a bit like Fantasy. I say that because my books have a strong science component and I worry a lot about whether events like the dislocation are feasible. Having said that, once the University of Halcyon is in the new world, technologies begin to fail (because modern technology requires enormous infrastructure) and then one has much more of a Fantasy-style landscape.
Do you do any research for you books?
I try hard to get the details right in my books, so I do quite a bit of research to make sure that the phases of the moon are correct, the fish found off the island of Halcyon are correct for that locale and that events like the dislocation are not unreasonable from a physics perspective.
Are you working on at the minute?
I’m working on the next book in The Halcyon Cycle which I have provisionally called Descent into Abaddon.
Do you mind telling us about it?
Not at all. I listened to a wonderful lecture a few years ago that described how our relatively low atmospheric pressure limited the size of land mammals and also the size of flying birds. My next book is centered on a continent so far below sea level that the high atmospheric pressure removes these constraints.
What is your favorite book that you have written so far and why?
I would probably say The Halcyon Dislocation. I like the Crusonian aspects of being marooned in a new world and all of the discovery that entails.
How often do you write a week?
I write in fits and starts. When one has several books in print, one has many duties. I work better when I work at something for a concentrated period of time.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No I don’t set pages per day. I like long books, so I aim for more than 100,000 words for my books.
What do you find is the easiest thing about writing?
There’s nothing easy about writing well. Of all the hard things that must be done to produce a good novel, I find imagining new worlds and new inhabitants of those worlds easiest.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I suppose it takes me roughly four years from start to finish to write a book. However that’s highly misleading since I start the next book right after the first draft is complete, so there is a good deal over overlap when I’m writing the first draft of one book and editing the last.
Do you ever get writer’s block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through it?
Writer’s block, in the sense of reaching an impasse in a story is not usually my problem. My problem is sheer laziness. I have many duties to complete and I get caught up in all of these urgent matters and let my writing time slip.
What is your editing process like?
I have friends who have taken a great deal of time as “beta readers” who critique my book and often see blind spots that I as a writer have missed. I always enlist the services of a professional editor to complete the edits. I can’t stress how important it is to find an editor who is not only technically competent, but has a genuine love for your books.
Self-publishing is a very broad term that includes vanity publishing. I prefer the term micro-publishing. By that I mean running a very small publishing business with an emphasis on the quality of the books produced and a severe eye on the costs.
Why self-publish or micro-publish? In my journey, I have seen many writers who spend years producing a novel and then spend years writing to acquisition editor after acquisition editor trying to interest them in their work. Often the writers eventually give up in discouragement without ever having provided their book to the people who really matter—their reading public. [For more on micro-publishing check my blog http://wp.me/p4cZo4-1l .]
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Force yourself to be a “finisher.” Make sure you sell some version of your book to your reading public to get feedback from them.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
In my role as a research scientist I had a chance to see the Print-On-Demand technology develop. I think this trend will continue and will favor the smaller publisher. Traditional publishing will not disappear but will continue to be under increased cost pressure because of their extensive infrastructure.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
- The best books become part of our intellectual scaffolding. Remember as a writer you are an artist first. You want your books to be entertaining, but also to make a difference in your readers’ lives.
- Don’t mistake sales as the primary indicator of your success.
[On re-reading this second point, I realized that my brief comment could lead to misunderstanding. Sales as a primary indicator for success can be highly misleading for an author starting out for two reasons. First of all, selling books is an annuity business and so sales build over time. That is to say, you have many upfront costs (Realistically one should charge at least minimum wage for all the time one invests writing and setting up one’s business. Many writers mistakenly think they are getting as bargain if they can find a traditional publisher that will pay them an advance and a royalty. Often these writers haven’t accounted for the enormous time they invested in preparing the manuscript for consideration by the traditional publisher.), but sales only begin once your book lists. However, once your book lists, it stays listed for a long time and generates an annuity stream. Secondly, there may be two reasons why a book doesn’t sell: (1) the book is poorly conceived and written; (2) the author is not well-known and so few readers get as far as even trying the book and so they never find out if it’s good or not. Unless one is well-known for other reasons (e.g. you’re a U.S. President), being unknown will always be an impediment when you start out. To distinguish these two barriers to sales, one needs to get the book into the hands of readers and get feedback.]
What is your favorite book and why?
My favorite books (on an equal footing) are C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I re-read the Narnia books because of the profound spiritual insights that Lewis offers. I re-read The Lord of the Rings because of the sheer beauty of the work. Even though I know the plot almost line for line, I love the beauty of walking through the vale of Ithilien and the terror of the Mines of Moria.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I’m always delighted to hear from my readers. They can contact me by email directly or leave a comment on my blog.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JB0IWE6
Effective communication means not only speaking and writing cogently and precisely but also developing an understanding of how our words will be perceived by the listener or reader. Words are filtered or perhaps interpreted through the Worldview of the listener.
Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew have written an interesting book on Worldview subtitled An Introduction to Christian Worldview. In order to understand their points it’s useful to begin with a description and history of the key term “Worldview” detailed in their work.
Goheen and Bartholomew in Living at the Crossroads (LATC) trace the concept of Worldview back to Kant’s Weltanschauung, a term which was developed further by the idealist philosopher Friedrich Schelling. Weltanschauung, or Worldview is denoted as a comprehensive and cohesive set of beliefs that underlie and shape all human thought and action.
In other worlds, to use a metaphor, Worldview is the set of glasses through which we see the world. Often, as glasses, if they have been on long enough, we don’t even realize they color everything. This realization is important from two perspectives:
- If you are speaking to someone with a different Worldview, communication will be difficult because the very words themselves will be re-translated by the Worldview.
- If one seeks to minimize one’s bias, it is important to understand one’s own Worldview and how it colors what one hears and reads.
Now although we all have a Worldview, I do not at all insist that all Worldviews are equal. It matters a great deal how closely the Worldview mirrors reality and since Worldviews are often contradictory at points, it is unreasonable to believe they all map into reality equally well.
I share Goheen and Bartholomew’s Christian Worldview and it was interesting to me to read how the Christian Worldview intersects and reacts to two other Worldviews currently prevalent in the West: Modernism and Postmodernism.
In Chapter 6 they trace the rise of Modernism through Reformation and the development of modern science from its Christian roots to the point where by the end of the eighteenth century is firmly based on confessional humanism. This transformation is summarized in one graphic and Modernism is based on four principles (page 91):
- Faith in progress
- Faith in reason
- Faith in technology
- Faith in a rationally ordered world
To my mind, these four faiths of Modernism also point to the great weaknesses of this perspective:
- How do we define progress? Progress becomes things we can measure: Gross Domestic Product, Average Income, and Life Expectancy. These are important, but are these the most important?
- Reason is very important, but what assumptions do we bring to reason and what concepts of right and wrong do we bring to reason?
- Science and technology are two-edged swords. They can give us polio vaccines and hydrogen bombs. Is our capability outstripping our ability to control our self-interest and quest for dominance? Where do our restraints come from?
LATC tackles Postmodernism in Chapter 7. Goheen and Bartholomew point to Jean-Francois Lyotard and his “incredulity toward metanarratives” (page 109) as a defining characteristic. He and other Postmodernists are saying that Worldview defines everything. In other words reason must be distrusted when it comes to defining reality. LATC quotes Kenneth Gergen: “We are not dealing here with doubts regarding claims about the truth of human character, but with the full-scale abandonment of the concept of objective truth.” One of the few things Postmodernism shares with Modernism is their hostility towards Christianity. After that they are opposites.
- Postmodernism can never completely vanquish or obliterate Modernism because Postmodernism doesn’t really work at any level that touches on reality. It may claim the sympathies of many, but eventually in public discourse, data and reasoned argument will still win out. So Modernism will not disappear.
- Although Christians (and presumably people of other Faiths) are able to participate in government at some level, Modernism will not let them be fully enfranchised since key political issues such as education of our young will always exclude their heart felt input. This is shown in the following figure. We can vote, but real choices we care about will never be on the ballot.
In summary, I would rate this book a 3 stars out of 5. I’m glad I read it, but it did not become part of my “go to” library.
If you have read this book, I’d love to hear from you and find out what you thought.
Thanks for reading,
A Note on the Kazmaier Rating system
4-5 Stars: I will read this book over and over again.
3-Stars: I’m glad I read the book, but am unlikely to read again. If I do read it again, I’ll bump it up to 4 Stars.
2-Stars: I wish I hadn’t read the book.
1-Star To my mind this book is so poor, I’m stupider now for having read it.