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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On Writing Science Fiction by Michael Gonzales

Writing Science Fiction demands something that many other genres do not. It demands that the author conceive a future technology for our planet, or invent an altogether alien technology. 

We’ve all seen the movies, and the TV shows depicting life thirty and a hundred years into the future. Everyone is wearing silver jumpers, living in skyscrapers that tickle the ionosphere, and the air is filled with flying buses and other public transportation.

For those long trips, say to Tokyo or Berlin, there are super-sonic trains in glass tubes moving at near super-luminal speeds, putting you at your destination in mere minutes.

It’s all so familiar to us—and that’s the problem. Trying to be new, fresh, original in this, the twenty-first century, is a real challenge.

On the other hand, an author these days does not have to spend a chapter and a half describing the Utopian citadel wherein characters reside; just a few key descriptors and the average reader can easily recognize the metropolis of the future—in their already-programmed minds.

Still, what writer of SciFi can resist trying to accomplish what Jules Verne did in 1863 in one of his earliest novels, “Paris in the Twentieth Century.” His descriptions of society and technology a hundred years in the future were frighteningly accurate.

A testament to this fact is the reaction he got from his publisher, Pierre-Jules Hetzer, who refused to release the book because he thought it too unbelievable.

The book's description of the technology of “1960” was in some ways remarkably close to actual 1960s technology. The book described in detail advances such as cars powered by internal combustion engines ("gas-cabs") together with the necessary supporting infrastructure, such as gas stations and paved asphalt roads, elevated and underground passenger train systems, and high-speed trains powered by magnetism and compressed air, skyscrapers, electric lights that illuminate entire cities at night, fax machines ("picture-telegraphs"), elevators, primitive computers which can send messages to each other as part of a network, resembling today’s Internet (described as sophisticated electrically powered mechanical calculators which can send information to each other across vast distances), the utilization of wind power, automated security systems, the electric chair, and remotely-controlled weapons systems, as well as weapons destructive enough to make war unthinkable.

The book also predicts the growth of suburbs and mass-produced higher education (the opening scene has Dufrénoy attending a mass graduation of 250,000 students), department stores, and massive hotels. A version of feminism has also arisen in society, with women moving into the workplace and a rise in illegitimate births. It also makes accurate predictions of twentieth century music, predicting the rise of electronic music, and describes a musical instrument similar to a synthesizer, and the replacement of classical music performances with a recorded music industry. In addition, it predicts that the entertainment industry would be dominated by lewd stage plays, often involving nudity and sexually explicit scenes.

With Hetzel’s refusal to publish, Verne locked the manuscript in a vault where it languished for 131 years before being discovered by his great-grandson in 1989. It was first published in 1994.

THAT, my friends, is forward thinking. He was able to describe things not in existence at that time because he stayed abreast of scientific advancement in his own time. Equipped with a knowledge of where science had come from, where it was, and what it was aiming for, Jules Verne extrapolated the future, accurately, a century in the future. Incredible!

As for alien tech, well, the sky’s the limit (no pun intended). We are a long way from the flying saucers of the 1950s. Today alien spacecraft have been described, in Science Fiction, as everything from massive cities in space to living biological creatures, harnessed to transport the aliens anywhere they care to travel. 

Alien space craft can be anything you can conceive, tiny ethereal objects of light with dimensional anomalies that allow them access to the multiverse, with limitless capacity to transport entire populations, or vast armies.
The aliens could even come to us with no spacecraft at all. Imagine a mind so powerful it can place itself anywhere it can comprehend in the blink of an eye. An alien life with no corporal form.

And if such a wraithlike life existed, what could they possibly see in us? What indeed?

I relish such questions and enjoy trying my best to answer them in a manner that my readers will find entertaining, or better yet…riveting.

Follow me then into worlds beyond our own. The next three stories in The Unborn Galaxy series will take us far from our tiny blue orb to worlds of SciFi adventure mixed with Fantasy and Romance.

I’ll not claim to be a Jules Verne, no one can, but I have called upon a power granted me by an other-worldly entity that allows me to tap into vast reservoirs of imagination; that, combined with the ability to spin a yarn, will provide you, dear reader, with an experience I hope will entertain and enlighten.   

Mike Gonzales…/B01CB…/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top……/…/ref=asap_bc…
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  1. This line: "THAT, my friends, is forward thinking" is what made Jules Verne's works so fascinating. While Robert Heinlein wrote many years after Jules Verne, I enjoy his take on the future, too.

    1. Absolutely! The major difference in 19th and 20th century writers is TV and movies. Today all one has to do to evoke a vision in a reader's mind is say, "He looked out over the red surface of Mars." You can visualize the scene because you've seen it on on the screen.
      In the 19th century writers had to spend chapters describing everything, in fact it was expected by the reader. Today, modern readers will tire quickly if a description of a place or thing they can already see goes on too long.
      Heinlein knew this and concentrated all his talents on the story, making them very hard to put down!

  2. Mike, very interesting post! I think "world building" is one of the very hardest things about writing--and you're right, to build a world from nothing concrete, or very little, is ten times harder than trying to create an old west town with characters, etc.--we have some idea of what that was like because of the history. But for an author to have few, if any, facts to use to base a story on--that's a lot harder. I love what you've done with your sci-fi series!

    1. Thank you Cheryl. But to be honest...I've been to every place I describe in my books. Yes--I open a door in the dark recesses of my mind, step into the multiverse, and live for a while in an alternate reality.
      Shhh...don't tell anyone, they have special homes for people like me, ya know.

  3. As much as I love to read science fiction, I cannot write it. Sci-fi writers have to have such a good grasp on forward thinking technology and science, I am sure I could never keep up with it, let alone envision how that science and technology could be changed or twisted into a future society. I think that is why I so admire science fiction writers: they are smart and creative.
    This was such an interesting article, Mike. I wish you had included your bio and links so that I could get to know more about you. All the very best to you.

  4. Thanks Shara. The problem with the future is that there are literally countless paths to it. Everything we do today, or fail to do today, alters the future, it is in a total state of flux, constantly morphing into the now.
    Here is my site on line to learn a little bit more about me.