I’ve grown up science fiction – inhaling it, really. There was something about these worlds that sprung up of their authors’ imaginations that drew me. When I decided that I, too, could be a writer, that I didn’t have to wait to be anointed by Someone Knowledgeable About These Things, the thing I wanted to write was sci-fi.
I wrote a few openings. A few random things. Ideas flowed.
And then I stopped.
Because it didn’t flow out the way that I imagined it did for Real Writers ™. It should flow out as it reads, right? How can it be otherwise? And it never flowed for me. I was intrigued by my openings, and I would have dearly liked to read and find out what happens, but I myself didn’t know.
And so I stopped.
I’d read somewhere that genre fiction has a dominant emotion each genre is meant to evoke. Horror evokes fear. Romance evokes love and happiness. Sci-fi evokes wonder.
I accepted that for a long time. Clearly, I wasn’t qualified to evoke wonder. Sometimes I thought that sci-fi was supposed to predict the future and made fun of those cheesy 60s stories that got it totally wrong, and since I couldn’t see the future, I was sure I would get it wrong, and people would make fun.
So I didn’t write. I went to classes and seminars and workshops. I joined writers’ groups. I forced little dribbles when it was required, usually late and nowhere near what I would consider “good”.
I very rarely dream, at least that I know of. But once every few years I have a dream so vivid that it displaces reality. I’m still not convinced that my former home didn’t have a hidden extra story, surveys and photos and real estate listings and appraisals notwithstanding.
It’s not precisely wonder that the best sci-fi evokes in me. It’s this sense of disorientation that I seek, when even days after finishing the story, I’d blink my eyes as I look around and everything seems – off.
One of my favorite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah:
You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
The serpent says these words to Eve in the play.
And the best of sci-fi whispers these things to me, even when I’m awake.