Fellow writer Catherynne M. Valente mulls over writing SF after spending a long time being a fantasy writer:
I also feel, mostly because for me SF is the Mysterious Other, that it's much harder to do something new over in that camp. It's like vampires or elves. So much has been done and redone well or badly. How can you add to that unless you're like a mad SF genius, which I am not? Plus the whole need to be in conversation to some extent with the whole of the genre, to be more hardcore and gritty and monochrome meathook future BSG OMGREALZ, or alternately, the most hardcore imitation of previous generations of shiny, bobbing futures where money is no longer an issue. The thing is, the future will get here when it gets here. I have no horse to whip in the race to the singularity. Mostly, I just want to tell a story about things I love, future, past, present, alternate reality.
I've run into that whole "what do I have to add to this conversation?" issue before myself, many times, and it's part of why I started to get tetchy about labeling anything I was doing as SF. I took the more Kurt Vonnegut approach, where he insisted that he was simply writing fiction, and that the burden of the work vis-a-vis classifying the results fell to the reader. They would have to figure out for themselves what they were reading and what hole to drop it in, after they were done with it. That kind of thing.
The bad news is that unless you're already a name author — unless you can say "Vonnegut" with the same you-know-what-you're-gonna-get cachet as "Woody Allen" or "Prince" — it's hard to pull this stunt. Most people want at least one thread to guide them through the labyrinth. So a little labeling, if only as a provisional measure to get people (the right people, the curious people) into the door, is okay. You just can't confuse the label with the product, or the process.
The whole issue about predicting anything, I've also found, is a fairly smelly red herring — and the stink of it is often noisome enough that you forget about everything else. People love to dig up old SF books and point and laugh at how sad and broken so many of the "predictions" are — it's 2009, and I don't see my flying car or my food pills. I do, however, see, desktop supercomputing and digital connectivity of a kind that probably only John Brunner circa Shockwave Rider even came close to musing about.
It's not worth getting too wound up about, because — and this is something friends of mine have helped me realize — SF isn't about predicting anything. It's about seeing what's around you right now through the eyes of the future. Some of those visions are going to be more "accurate" than others, but the ones that are truly timeless are the ones about what kinds of people we are, or are turning into. To wit: More Than Human, or most anything by Phil Dick.
This new super-secret project I hatched down at Otakon is vaguely SF-themed, but more than anything else, I think it is about human fallibility. Not in the sense that the human being is this broken thing to be done away with — but in that it is all we have, and that we need to make the best of it as we are. Our foibles are something to be taken on face value, not schooled ruthlessly out of existence — which sounds rather like a formula for doing away with one demon and summoning another in its place.
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