Linda’s blog July 27th
I recently suggested that we writers should occasionally step out of our comfort zone and try a genre we haven’t attempted before. And it was while reading an Ian Rankin book, that I realised I’ve never given a thought to writing Sci-Fi.
I’ve never watched Star Wars (I think you can get a medal for that!) and I don’t tend to watch or read anything that has paranormal or fantasy about it. I like my reading to be realistic, something I personally can relate to, even if it’s about spies or set in the Arctic!
But then I picked up an Ian Rankin that I hadn’t read called Westwind and was surprised to discover it’s a spy story, written and set in 1990. This is an extract in which The Guardian of March 13, 1987, is quoted:
There is not a square inch of the globe that cannot be photographed or monitored. Somewhere, deep in a vault in the Pentagon and its Soviet equivalent, there is a photograph which if magnified will reveal your house and the make of car you are driving away from it. Oh, and be careful what you say on your car telephone.
Many sci-fi writers have come up with ideas that have subsequently become reality. Here are a few examples:
- What is considered by some to be the very first sci-fi novel A True Story was written in the 2nd century by a writer called Lucian. It includes travel to other worlds, extraterrestrial lifeforms and even artificial life. Wow!
- Other critics say Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the first work of sci-fi, written in 1818. That contained tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Mary Shelley was just 18 when she wrote it.
- Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon was published in 1865, more than a century before the Soviet and American moon missions. The lunar exploration in this book includes three astronauts, a spacecraft very similar to future command modules, retro-rockets to slow descent, and splashing down in quite a specific area in the Pacific Ocean.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was written in 1931 and describes later developments in medicine, psychology, genetics and social science.
- Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was published in 1968 and had tablet computers, teleconferencing, face and voice recognition, orbital space stations and AI.
Other sci-fi authors who had and have fantastic imaginations include Edgar Allan Poe, H G Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K Le Guin, P D James, Margaret Attwood, Douglas Adams, Michael Crichton and Marie Lu. And I must pay credit to two of my writing friends (Jack Bold) who, six years ago, wrote the dystopian novel Quota which is set in 2031.
Grant Spencer, a high-ranking government official, is looking through population reports:
He found the latest demographic reports for China, India and Brazil. These countries had abandoned population controls two years earlier, deeming them unnecessary, as their average population age had risen beyond sustainability without more young people. The flu pandemic of the 2020s had hit China hard and exacerbated the male surplus created by their ill-conceived one-child policy of the late 20th century. It showed the mistake of playing god.
There are many, many different types of sci-fi novels. I had a quick look and found 40+ sub-genres of sci-fi (including steampunk, cyberpunk, time travel and virtual reality) and 20+ sub-genres of fantasy writing. So, if you’ve ever thought that you’d like to look into the future, there are plenty of opportunities.
Do you have any ideas of what life might be like in the future, realistic or fantasy? Improvements in communications and travel; alternative education systems; better healthcare; different types of accommodation? Whatever the material changes, I’m willing to bet that emotions and feelings will be familiar, and those are what bring our characters to life.
Whether sci-fi is my cup of tea, I’m not sure. Although I do have an idea: I have a sundial in my garden, the sort you have to put together yourself. I set it up in the sun at 11am one morning and when I went back a couple of hours later, the time, in my garden at least, was 9am! Watch this space.