Science Fiction is really hard to write

I’ve tried to write down some story ideas in the last year or so, and I think Science Fiction is the most difficult genre to write in.

You have to know science. That is challenging, because you have to have a broad base of knowledge; it’s not enough to be comfortable with the mechanics of space travel. For example, if you’re writing a story that’s set 200 years in Earth’s future when nanotechnology is commonplace, you’d have to think about how that affects medicine, space travel, biology, cybernetics, chemistry, and more. If you can design self-replicating nanobots, why are you bothering to create a “mining colony”? Just design some nanobots to dig the ore themselves. Oh, wait – you can just make the valuable ore “unstable” so that only people can do the mining, right? Because it makes sense that humans 200 years distant would be more precise and reliable than machines 200 years distant. Right. What’s that? You have a point-to-point teleportation device (transporter) which has planetary range? Game changer. Put that in the hands of a villain and think about what would happen, really.

And not only do you have to know a lot of science, you have to know politics and history. How would human civilization develop over the next 200 years? Who should be in power? What happens to Earth’s governments when humans come into contact with extraterrestrials? What would happen if there was an energy crisis? I don’t know how to answer any of those questions, and I’m the one trying to make up the story.

And, of course, there’s all the other stuff that goes into good writing: strong characters with meaningful motivations and reasonable weaknesses, interesting situations and difficult problems, long- and short-term plot arcs.

So SciFi is pretty hard. Writing present-day, near-to-the-author fiction that doesn’t require carefully considering the laws of the universe seems an order of magnitude easier. Maybe I should try to translate some of my story ideas into that setting and see what happens. Maybe I won’t feel quite so ignorant.

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