I’ve been reading science fiction, in particular, for a long, long time and based on when I started, in the late 70s and early 80s, has generally influenced how I look at science fiction writing overall.
I bring this up because recently, I’ve been cataloging my books after a couple of my older paperbacks were damaged and I really wanted to know what I had, where I had it and in what format I had it in. It also got me wondering if anyone wrote the kind of books that I loved and that’s why I’m turning to you, my loyal readers, to see if anyone has any good suggestions.
I used to be a paper purist, I’d only read physical books but, as every rabid reader knows, you very quickly run out of room that way. I have covered the house with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in several rooms and they are all, without exception, full. They have been for years. In the past, I’d take series I was unlikely to read again, pack them into air-tight plastic boxes and stack them in the garage. I have many such boxes, taped tightly closed to keep moisture or insects out, and as such, many, many thousands of books. I still love to read though and even though I was very opposed to digital books, now I’ve entirely embraced them. You could fit my entire collection on one or two DVDs for easy storage, I could almost certainly fit the entire thing on a single SD card for my tablet and read any book I wanted, any time I wanted.
However, I’ve recognized that new authors, people who haven’t been writing for decades like my favorites, have not been writing books that I enjoy and since a lot of my favorite authors are dropping dead, I’m eventually going to have to find someone new to follow and that’s not been easy. I’ve sampled popular sci-fi authors today and they just don’t write what I want to read.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, at least from my perspective, science fiction was generally positive. The future was a place you’d want to live in general, sure there were wars and conflicts and bad things happening, but overall, the future was bright for most people and that’s where I got my views about science fiction. However, once you get into the 90s, with the advent of cyberpunk and other dark and dystopian views, I pretty much checked out of new authors. These were futures that I had no interest in, I didn’t want to “experience” and even at their best, they were far too dark for my tastes.
Now while it’s been a while since I’ve bought any books by new authors and the older authors I do follow, most of whom I am friends with anyhow and they generally keep me supplied with books, I’m starting to look at the current market again and wondering if anyone writes for me. I came up with a short list of criteria, things that I want in a book, to see if anyone could suggest something for me to look at.
- It must be science fiction. Fantasy need not apply. That also goes for books where it’s just fantasy beneath a thin veneer of science. While Arthur C. Clarke was right, sufficiently advanced technology might be indistinguishable from magic, I want technology that is technology first, not just prettied up magic.
- The future needs to be bright, I want it to be somewhere I’d like to live, not somewhere I’d dread visiting. There can be wars, there can be bad things going on, but in the background, I want to be impressed by the universe.
- Now some might suggest that the hard-sci-fi authors might do the trick but unfortunately no. They tend to write love stories to technology to the detriment of everything else and I really want to read about people. Or aliens. I’m easy. I want the characters to matter and usually, at least in the books I’ve read out of that sub-genre, the characters are only in the story to point out the technology and move the plot along so we can see more technology. I want good characterization.
- I really do want authors who have solidly thought through their technology and understand the ramifications of what it can do. I know I’ve written before about authors who never consider how various technologies might intermix and ruin their stories. After all, if you can take machine X and combine it with machine Y and it easily solves the mystery or problem of the plot in 5 minutes, why bother? I want authors who really understand the futures that they create, it’s not just a space they put together in 10 minutes to have an adventure in.
Those four points shouldn’t be too much, should they? Positive futures where character-based dramas take place, where authors have really put the time and effort into building a well-established, interesting and bright world that’s worth looking forward to. That’s what I write, that’s what I want to read. Does anyone have any of that? Let me know if any authors you know of fit the bill!