I went to that talk at the local library by Robert J. Sawyer today – he’s an award winning author – won Hugo and Nebula awards, the highest awards in the Sci Fi industry. And he’s a past president of the Science Fiction Writers of America. And his books are set in Canadian cities.
It was a kick-ass thought provoking speech. It’s not often that you hear an author stand up and say “As a science fiction writer, I hate George Lucas…” And went on to talk about how Star Wars ruined Sci Fi by starting off with the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” He discussed how the three heroes (Luke, Hans Solo and Obi Wan) really aren’t as heroic – for instance, did you realize that Hans is a drug runner, or had you realized that Luke and his uncle were slave owners? He said that previous to Star Wars Arthur C. Clarke and other writers wrote about how humans dealt in the future – stories like Planet of the Apes and how our folly with nuclear war would destroy the world – that most were metaphors and disguised social commentary. But because of Lucas’ ‘Long time ago’ the reader/viewer distanced themselves from the issues that Sci Fi normally discusses.
That was just the start – he talked about various other authors and trends within the genre. I really appreciated his analysis of Planet of the Apes and Time Machine – that’s the type of sci-fi story I grew up reading and loving – the examination of humanity, and the human condition. That’s why I love the Chrysalids and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End – it makes us think about what we’re doing to our world now. It’s what I’m trying to do in my sci fi – which is set ‘at some point in the future’ after the polar ice caps have melted. I love examining cultural stereotypes and differences between people in a fictional setting like that. That’s what my two of my manuscripts that are currently in the drawer moldering are about as well.
An interesting point about writing to the market and how it’s never good to try to jump on a bandwagon – someone asked him if he would be writing a ‘singularity’ book. He said no, because by the time he wrote it, it would take ten months, and then it would take nearly another year to get into the book stores and now he’s following a trend that’s more than two years old. He answered questions and did a reading from his latest novel, Rollback, a really interesting sounding premise about how an old couple in their 80’s are given the chances at rejuvenation. The process works on the guy, but doesn’t on the woman and they find themselves, married 60 years, where he is now approx. 26 years physically and she’s 86. He read it with each character in their own voice and is a wonderful speaker – they each came alive as he read.