How to write Science Fiction

Hello I’m Vincent T Grant, former astronaut. Never heard of me? I never heard of you either. I spent 800 hours in space and all the grand kids talk about is Snoop Dog this and Jiggy that. No one cares what the hell you already did, so you have to keep on finding new ways to keep your name up in lights. So I’m going to tell you how you can make a name for yourself in science fiction writing!

Traditional Sci Fi.

First you need a nautical romance from the nineteenth century. This is the hardest step. You can’t just pinch some Conrad or Melville, they’ve all been raided already and besides the plot of Moby Dick is kind of familiar. In the library there’s sure to be some old tome by Captain Pugwash that no one read in the first place. I find the best ones are in prison libraries but that’s another story.

Now it gets easy. We make up a substitution chart.

  • For ‘ship’, write ‘spacecraft’
  • For ‘Africa’, write ‘planet’
  • For ‘African’, write ‘alien’
  • For ‘sea’, write ‘space’
  • For ‘island’, write ‘moon’.
  • If in doubt put ‘space’ in front. Like ‘space food’.

So ‘At first light the ship made port on the coast of darkest Africa’ becomes ‘At 0800 hours the spacecraft touched down on the dark side of the planet’. ‘The African chief waved his spear’ becomes ‘The alien chief waved his blaster’.

Already you got a pretty damn fine sci fi novel happening, although you might need to change stuff like ‘dusky native girl’ to ‘2 headed Venusian bride’ or something. The neat thing is that ‘pirates’ stays the same although you might need to swap ‘space blaster’ for cutlass. Not everyone even bothers to do that. There! You’re L Ron Hubbard!

New Wave Sci Fi.

Now this can be tricky but you just have to keep two things in mind. New wave Sci Fi comes from the beginning of the 70’s (heck now I’m showing my age) and so it’s filled with a lot of Age of Aquarius gobble gobble. Remember the way kids used to protest in the 60’s then became advertising executives soon after? Right. So imagine if those protests actually meant shit. Like changed the government or something. Got that? So like Logan’s Run (the book – not that stupid movie). It’s got kids ruling the place, mad bikers, bombed out Washington D.C. You know the drill.

The other thing is you have to write two stories. But really they’re the same story, but you have to be maybe a kid and a grandma at the same time. So you do kid for two pages. Then you do grandma for two pages. Then the kid again. Now every time you do the kid you use italics. These two guys don’t hear each other until the end of the story when suddenly it’s hello the kid is a robot. You end up with a book where the writing changes every couple of pages. That’s called new wave. Get some practice and you can do three or four switcheroos in the same book.

The cool thing is that there doesn’t have to be a story. Just throw a whole bunch of vague stuff together. If you want you can throw in stuff about ‘little boys’ at random and be William Burroughs.

Alternative Realities.

These days all the cool school are making up alternative realities. What if Hitler won the war? What if I had told Cindy Lou she didn’t have a big ass? Who knows?

Now this one is a natural. You’ve got some hooch hidden behind the flight console and the captain catches it. Well you say somebody else put it there. He says you’re the only one in that flight seat. You say OMG there must be a Russki hidden somewhere on board. He says ain’t no place for any Russki. You say maybe there’s a hidden panel. And so on. Thing is, you start with a little lie. Then you make up a bigger one to cover the first one. And you keep going until you are sure that Napoleon flew jet planes over the whole of Europe. Except when it’s a book you won’t get taken off the mission.

Now you’re saying Vincent, I am no liar like that. But this is for Science Fiction. You have to get into the swing here. Like those 9/11 Truthers, doesn’t matter if it makes sense – just as long as they can link two things together somehow, they are on a roll. (So the bad guys would have to spend weeks drilling explosives into every wall to make the towers go down – ‘yeah but there was a lot of deliveries that week’.)

Dystopian Worlds.

Shit happens. Your job here is to spread it around. Like you are writing one of those $100 stories for Readers Digest but instead of it being Things That Really Get My Goat, it’s everything gets everybody’s goats plural. So there was a line up at the local DMV the other day and when I finally got to the end they say that at 90 years old I shouldn’t be driving anyway. And no they don’t care if I had flown three shuttle missions I was too old. Well what if the whole world was like the DMV and if you were too old you couldn’t get a license? But what if this was a license to screw? And you had to wear an orange hat with TOO OLD FOR A LICENSE on it? And with robots?

So what you do is take some little thing and blow it up into a whole big bitch. Throw it all on. The weather is crap, the gin sucks, the television is black and white and the girls aren’t much to look at. You need one guy that stands in line and then they say no and that’s when he loses his cool. And he kicks butt until the robots come and put him in the nursing home. You can add as much bad stuff as you like, the more the merrier. Like that 1984 book, the only thing that lacked was an electric cattle prod and you know he wanted to stick that in.

That’s all we have time for now but later on I’ll come round and let you know how to write a rock opera. Thanks for letting me write the blog this week! This is Vincent signing off!