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The Purpose of the Science Fiction Novel

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Where fantasy goes into uncharted territory, the kind of story that could not exist, science fiction, a term made famous by the likes of Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein, goes into charted territory. Let's make sense of that last statement: Science fiction is based on truths, questions of reality, and questions of survival. Its purpose is to go where other fiction can not. Unlike horror, it tells something far more dangerous because it could happen. Unlike mystery, there is not always someone at the other end of the gun, maybe "something" instead. Like mainstream work, it proposes fascinating philosophies on mankind in the past, present, and future.

When reporters talked of space stations maybe they were onto something. When Star Trek characters could talk to each other on small, hand-held phones, most thought it was too good to be true. Now we have cell phones, computers that can talk, computers that can think in some ways, and a variety of other ideas that were often suggested in science fiction.

But the science fiction novel has its own place outside of the realm of Star Trek and Star Wars. For one, the legend must be created in words, not film or TV images. Second, the writers behind it are often as much philosophers as authors. Lastly, science fiction is its own frontier, a place for free thinking.

The thesis for all this would be that the science fiction novel engages a reader in a "This is how it could happen." The purpose is, as in all writing, to say something different. Long before "War of the Worlds" and even longer before Star Trek and Star Wars, people looked to the skies with hope, emboldening their legends with all kinds of flying creatures-angels, demons, sometimes aliens-who could do things they could not . That is exactly the purpose of the modern science fiction novel-it says we, the human race, can do something that right now we can not.

The final purpose of the science fiction novel is always to make a mark on society. Star Trek could only go so far. When one looks at a science fiction novel, however, sometimes it seemsingly is a race to the finish instead of a treat on life in the future. Something is always happening; it happens fast. Take Philip K. Dick, for example, who once wrote 11 novels in 2 years (he used various drugs, much like Hunter Thompson, to improve writing speed). However, there is nothing superficial about the science fiction novel. This is because even films have a hard time capturing the legion of ideas presented in the classics, like "The Man In the High Castle," Philip K. Dick's best novel. If any film does capture the purpose of science fiction, it's "Blade Runner," considered to be one of the best films of all time, based on the Philip K. Dick story "Do Andods Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Where it can be hard to pin down the modern science fiction novel, it can easily be seen that writing one can be a lucid ride into the unexplored. One of the best in recent memory is "Hyperion," a science fiction novel that won the famous Hugo award. Here, Simmons explored what is real, much like Philip K. Dick, and did it as though he was poet, forming a tale of seven pilgrims to a far away world, much like "The Canterbury Tales."

Some of the finest novels of the 20th century were labeled "junk" because they explored taboo subjects or had sexually revealing covers. Without the likes of Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and the hundreds of other talents, maybe there would have been no Star Trek, Star Wars, or Battlestar Galactica. Without the junk science fiction novel bought for a nickel in the 1940s and 50s maybe mankind would never have dreamed of stepping on the moon in the 1960s.

What Makes a Writer a Writer?

We like the moooooon (heavily annotated Harvest Moon, 10/6/2006)

An interesting discussion on LinkedIn is swirling around the topic of when a writer can call themselves a writer .. As I've watched the discussion unfold, some interesting ideas have cropped up. They are worth considering.

A writer is someone who has been published offline.

Considering that a large segment of the writing work available is almost exclusively online today, this definition just can not hold true. While it is almost guaranteed that someone who has broken into hard print is a very good writer, it does not preclude someone who has never had their work published in traditional media from being considered a writer.

A writer is someone who knows their grammar, punctuation rules and how to spell things correctly.

I'm not prepared to say this is true because I know that publishers, magazines and newspapers all hire copy editors for one very good reason. Not every writer on the team has good spelling skills. No writer's punctuation skills are perfect. And everyone has certain words they almost always type incorrectly. I've been a copy editor. It's always easier to see others mistakes.

For me, I have to watch dropping the "r" on your, adding a "d" in college and several other persistent misspellings. There are words I consistently add extra letters to and others I drop letters from almost every time I type them. And most of the time, they are words, so spell check does not catch them.

At the same time, if a writer can not tell the difference between when to use your and you're or its and it's, it will be an obstacle to achieving a higher pays scale. Excellence in every aspect of writing is essential if you want to be taken seriously.

A writer is a professional who makes a consistent income from writing.

This can be true. The definition of consistent may vary. I know that I began by approaching only a few hundred dollars a month from writing work. I had some months where I had no income from that source. At the same time, I was consistently seeking work. As a writing professional I took action.

  • I actively built my portfolio.
  • I built a free website on Office Live.
  • I focused on bridging the gap from when I studied journalism to what the market demands of writers today.
  • I applied every piece of knowledge I gained into strengthening my ability to write compelling materials.

To put the title "writer" on a resume, suggest you need to be more than someone who has started their own blog. Despite the fact that I have a ghostwriting tips blog, it is not this blog that makes me a writer. It's the fact that people read this blog and actually benefit from it that supports my claim that I am a writer.

A writer is someone who can explain different topics in language that the average person can understand.

This truly is a skill that not everyone possesses. In some ways, every writer needs to have a teacher's heart, the ability to break things down into understandable packages. Some writers are gifted with the ability to reach very young minds. That's why there are writers of children's books. Other writers just can not get down to that level, yet remain effective writers for a different audience.

A writer is more than someone who starts their own blog.

There are good blogs and so-so blogs. To truly claim to be a writer, the blog can not be riddled with grammar errors. A few spelling and punctuation errors are forgivable, especially as most blog writers can not afford a separate set of eyes to edit their work.

A writer is someone who crafts words to influence others.

It's the power to dig into the meaning of words and craft them as you have done that signifies a writer. The fact that you can express your arguments succinctly using words in their written form defines that you are a writer. Maybe that is the definition we should be holding to here. "A writer is someone who can write with words so effectively they can influence others whether they do it for pay or not."

It's not whether your work appears on the eviscerated remnants of a tree or on the electronic representation of a page that makes you a writer. It's whether your words move and / or motivate. A novelist may move through the creation of characters and plots. A web writer may motivate to action by carefully chosen words.

Both are writers. Both use their power over words to create an experience in the mind. That experience would not be there without the writer's ability to craft words.

What makes a writer a writer? We'll probably never be able to agree on a single definition. Too may people would disagree with the writer's version of the artist's definition, "A writer is a writer because he / she writes."