Guest Post: How to Write Successful Sci-Fi with Alexandra Duncan

I’ve been writing science fiction for about eight years, but I’ve been a fan of it all my life. Sci fi is a vast genre that can encompass everything from near-future medical advancements to far-flung tales of aliens and spaceships. Yet all successful sci-fi has a few common elements. What are they? The answer is in the genre’s name.

First, you need some science. This is more complicated than is sounds. Some purists insist sci-fi isn’t sci-fi unless it includes “hard” science elements, like an explanation of how a spaceship’s fission engine works. However, hard science fiction is only one corner of the genre. Your science element can related to anything from the “hard” STEM fields to the “soft” sciences, like psychology and anthropology.

My books tend to have some of both. Sound, for example, explores linguistics - the science of how language is formed and used - through characters that try to communicate with each other across a wide variety of languages, including Hindi, English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Since the main character, Miyole, is a biologist in training, the book also involves harder sciences like medicine and biomimicry, which is a field of study where nature inspires scientific inventions. The vast research ship where Miyole begins her journey is grown underneath the ocean, rather than built, and is able to heal its own armored skin.

The second thing you need is the same thing any piece of fiction needs - a good story with memorable characters. Your scientific element might someday seem outdated or be proved simply wrong, but readers will still be able to enjoy it if they’re invested in what happens to the characters. For example, we now know that there are no alien civilizations on Mars, but that doesn’t stop H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds from capturing our imaginations and being retold in movies and graphic novels.

This happened to me when I was writing my first novel, Salvage. At the time, tablets were something that was being talked about in magazines and online, but no one was actually using one. They weren’t even on the market yet. I decided it would be cool if my characters could use this up-and-coming device. However, the technology caught on and advanced so quickly that tablets actually existed by the time the book came out. I’m sure in ten years, readers will look back and wonder why my characters are using outdated technology, but I hope they’ll still be able to enjoy the book for its story and the peril the characters find themselves in.

Science fiction is a genre that is always exploring new ideas and pushing the question “What if?” to its limits. What if human cloning becomes not only possible, but popular? What if robots develop self-awareness? What if there are other worlds and civilizations in the universe? Behind every question is an excellent story waiting to be told.

Giveaway:

1 winner will receive a signed hardback of SOUND, a signed paperback of SALVAGE, and this electronic butterfly in a jar. US Only

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WEEK TWO OF THE TOUR


Sept. 21st | Dazzled by Books - Guest Post

Sept. 22nd | Fiktshun - Review

Sept. 23rd | Bookhounds YA - Interview

Sept. 24th | Literary Meanderings - Excerpt

Sept. 25th | The Broke and the Bookish - Review

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