So You Want to Write a Sci-fi Novel?

by Alex King

So you want to write a famous science-fiction book but don’t know how to get started? Simply follow this guide, and you’ll be well on your way to winning some obscure award they give to science-fiction writers!

2050 AD – It’s the sorta near future: technology has progressed (teleporters maybe?), but things are vaguely dystopic (pop-ups broadcast directly into your brain?). Wink at the reader by having a character complain about there being no flying cars. You know, because it’s only the near-future. You can get all allegorical in this setting: maybe there’s a problem with space-terrorism, hyper-capitalism or future-porn.

2430 AD – It’s way in the future. People still speak English for some reason. Man has colonized the solar system, and there are probably flying cars by now. There’s technology beyond our wildest dreams, but remember that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So why not throw in some magic?

10,000 AD – It’s like way in the future. Earth is just a legend, and man has colonized the universe. Aliens are commonplace. With a multitude of planets, you have a lot of choice for the primary setting. Choose anything from super metro-planets with gleaming space-skyscrapers, to boring suburb-planets with endless lawns and middle-class ennui.

A gritty, down-on-his-luck future-hacker – Everyone loves a bad boy and sci-fi readers are no exception. This guy’s poor, has questionable morality, but will inexplicably save mankind by the end of the book. You don’t need to know anything about computers to write about a hacker either: it’s the future! Maybe hackers don cool gear and fly around in cyberspace engaging password protected files in literal hand-to-hand combat. It’s the future: it could happen.

The chosen one from some prophesy – He’s just a normal mushroom-wrangler/cyber-lumberjack/techno-garbageman, but the drudgery of his everyday life ends when he (or in these racy future times, she) gets caught up in a grand story to stop an ancient evil. Or something. Even though he’s ostensibly a regular joe, he’ll be implausibly good at rumbling with the evil robot-soldiers/merciless soldier-robots that stand between him and saving all of mankind/alienkind/robotkind. If this protagonist is male, he’ll bang lots of space-babes. If this protagonist is female, there won’t be any love interests because most sci-fi writers are male and have no idea how to write about women.

A deadly military robot who develops sentience – How can a robot designed only to slaughter future-hippies develop the ability to feel? Programming doesn’t work like that. But whatever, it’s the future! Follow Unit 34-X on his journey from guilt about killing all those space-protestors to the conclusion, where he voluntarily de-activates himself, or maybe goes haywire and kills a bunch of hyper-hipsters at a local ultra-mall.

The Future is Just Like Now, Only in the Future – This is the basic sci-fi moral. Sure we have all this cool crap in the future, but we’re still greedy, or sinful, or love trashy paperbacks or something. See, even though you were writing about the future, you were really writing about the present. This will make the reader think. Specifically, it will make them think, “I wish you had chosen the robot protagonist instead.”

A Moral Unrelated to Sci-fi – Sure you’re writing about mechanical soda and plasma-churches, but in the end, the moral is something like ‘value your friends,’ or ‘power corrupts.’ In that case, why are you writing sci-fi? The moral should have to do with robots or aliens.

Robots and/or Aliens are Like Us – By the novel’s conclusion, it will have become clear to the reader that even though aliens hate galacto-rock and won’t eat the protagonist’s home-cooked flavo-noids, they’re really just like us, and that aliens aren’t so alien after all. Bo-ring. Better go with robots instead: in the novel explore that robots are created-life, and so can they have a soul? Just when the reader thinks they’ve got it figured out, pull the space-rug out from under them by pondering: isn’t man just a created lifeform too? How can we have souls either? Whoa. That’ll blow their minds.

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