First Love

My first love as a reader was sf, so why am I writing fantasy?  Well, for one thing, there wasn’t a lot of fantasy when I was a boy in the ‘60s, but there was a lot of sf.  Heinlein juveniles, golden age fixups (is A.E Van Vogt really a YA writer?), and TV shows (does anyone remember Time Tunnel?).  But there was very little fantasy outside of children’s books.  I read them, and loved them, but Mary Norton and Carol Kendall and even C.S Lewis weren’t what I was craving after I discovered The Lord of the Rings.  Perhaps if I had found more books that gave me that feeling of WOW! when I was twelve, fantasy would have been my first love.  But I didn’t, so it wasn’t.

That’s why, when I first started writing in high school, I tried to write sf.  Trouble was, I couldn’t.  I didn’t have the science.  And of course I went off to college and studied English and American Lit instead, so that didn’t help any.  I tried my hand at sf a few more times after graduating (ask me about The Nixoniad sometime), but, unless I was going for satire, my sf was ridiculous.

An sf failure, I turned to fantasy.  But I did discover I’m a much better fantasist than I am a science fictionist, or whatever the proper term is.  In fantasy you don’t have to follow any rules.  You get to make it all up, including the science.  And I think you also get to spend more time on character and temptation in fantasy than you do in sf.  If sf is mostly about ideas, as people often say, then I think fantasy is more often about consequences.  The consequences of power.  The consequences of ideas.

For pure pleasure, I still read more sf than fantasy.   (My standards for sf, established at the age of twelve, are a lot lower.)  And, when I read something like Spin or Accelerando, I just shake my head and wish I could come up with ideas like those.

There’s always Space Opera, I suppose.

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There are 7 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Gotta have science for Space Opera too. Which is to say, are you sure you weren’t impersonating me when you wrote this?

  2. 2. S.C. Butler

    Diana-
    I don’t know – maybe we were separated at birth. But I guess I’ll have to give up on even the Space Opera dream.

  3. 3. Kelly McCullough

    Part of the patter I do when I teach fantasy writing is the need for good science in fantasy. I talk about it in terms of readers’ experiences and understanding of the world, the willing suspension of disbelief and, not adding yet another hard to believe thing on top of fiction and magic.

  4. 4. S.C. Butler

    Kelly-
    I’m with you on the science. So much so, in fact, I spent part of an afternoon the other day researching the proper formula to calculate how long it would take several tons of stone to fall 1500 meters. It was the science of magic I was referring to in the piece.

  5. 5. Kelly McCullough

    Yeah, I pretty much figured, but I couldn’t resist the nod and the wink.

  6. 6. Cameron Lowe

    I enjoy science fiction novels that are light on the science and emphasize the fiction. Right now, I’m devouring Richard Morgan’s books again. I think he’s got just the right blend between cool science fiction ideas and great plots.

  7. 7. S.C. Butler

    I’ve never read any Richard Morgan, but I agree that emphasizing the fiction is always a good thing to do. Whatever the genre.

Author Information

S.C. Butler

Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.

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