June 21, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “When Did ‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Apocalypse’ Become Interchangeable?” (SFWA Blog, July 11, 2012) Guy Stewart #19

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

You’ll see the link to this one just below my banner above, so if you want to read it in its entirety, do it before you read what I did RIGHT to get it published.

First of all, I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America about eleven years ago, right after my third major publication (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2014/12/writing-advice-what-went-right-with-pig.html), this gave me a certain legitimacy that I couldn’t have gotten any other way. While I’ve variously regretted and reveled in having the membership, in the long run I’ve been honored to be part of this organization. Membership gave me access to all of its publications, including the blog, which is a SFWA-qualifying, paying market.

Secondly, I am passionate about young adults and the science fiction they read. I grew up on the hopeful futures of Robert A. Heinlein, Andre Norton, and Madeleine L’Engle and was dismayed by the number of doom-and-gloom books being published. Though I wondered if I was being just a crotchety old man, I was somewhat worried.

Third was that I regularly present at an annual local event called the Young Author’s Conference – that typically hosts three to four thousand young people over a period of four days on a university campus. Spectacular in every way, I give the Science Fiction & Fantasy presentation every year. The year I wrote the article, I asked my “kids” to shoot our words that meant “science fiction” to them. Of course there were the regulars, like robots, spaceships, aliens, Star Wars, and dozens of others, but after four days of three-sessions-a-day interaction, I discovered that in EVERY SINGLE GROUP, there was a consensus that science fiction meant apocalypse.

Worse than disheartening, I thought that this was a disaster for the future of the young readers in the class – because these young readers were going to be the young scientists, politicians, soldiers, and citizens of the future. Instead of growing up with visions of Gene Rodenberry’s UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS in their heads, they were growing up with visions of Suzanne Collins’ Panem as the template on which to build their own futures.

I wrote a short essay on it and sent it off to the SFWA blog – because if anyone could change that future, it was the writers represented by the organization. Twenty people responded to it – and about half of them grinned at my concern, saying (among other things): “I would be more worried about the apocalyptic trend if there wasn’t also a vampire trend. I don’t believe young people are really worried about vampires, so I’m not sure why I’d believe they are more worried than usual about the apocalypse.”

Valid point, but far too hopeful for my taste.

 So – what did I do right?

  • Joined “the club” (SFWA).
  • Had a passionate response to a subject.
  • Wrote an article.
Pretty simple this time, but there you go!

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