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James Palmer's Journal - Day

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

9:38AM - What is Science Fiction and the Secret of Writing

According Guy Hasson's essay in the latest Strange Horizons, science fiction is like going to the bathroom in a stranger's house. This expansion of the whole "the Golden Age of SF is when you're twelve" thing has been said before, but Hasson manages to make an interesting point about fiction in general and SF in particular:

"Stories are a part of us. They strike a chord. Good stories touch something that already exists inside us. If they don't—if they don't recall some important event in our lives, if they don't echo a past emotion, if they don't reveal something about ourselves that we didn't know, if they don't reinforce something we know already exists, if they don't magnify a feeling that's too small for us ordinary people to spot, or if they don't hit upon an unseen strand that runs through society—then the stories don't work. If a story does not touch something that is already within us, even if its technique is flawless, then it falls short and vanishes into the realms of disinterest."

I think he's hit the nail right on the head. This is the reason why some stories thrill us and others cause us to forget them and toss them aside. It's also the reason why anyone thinks they can write. They read a story and say, "I could have written this story better," or "Why did they waste paper printing this crap?" Then there's the endless Tolkien ripoffs, the glorified fanfic of media tie-ins, the... Well, you get the point. Which brings me to The Secret of Writing: There is no secret. No magic formula. Only certain things that have worked for certain people. Cancel your subscriptions to Writer's Digest, it isn't worth it. If you want to be a writer, you will write. And you will get published. You may not get paid very much, you may not become well-known, but you will do something. Now get back to work.

Current mood: working
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