Sci-fi and Heroic Fantasy discussion

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General SF&F Chat > OK, For all you writers....

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

been re-reading Alternate Worlds by james gunn, a history of SF...it opens with a intro by Asimov...in it The Good Doctor says "I was now constructing science fiction stories on my own, and the intimate knowledge of their anatomy and physiology destroyed the fragile wonder." he goes on to say "...the bitter loss is mine."

He says much more, but basically he is saying he blames his learning to write fiction destroyed the joy he found in the READING of SF...

i pose the question to the writers in the group...has the ability to write SF destroyed your enjoyment of the READING of SF?


message 2: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Not at all. To me SF is all about ideas, not some sleight of hand that can be "spoiled" like stage magic. I don't see how writing about my own ideas can make the ideas of others less wondrous or terrible (in the classic sense).

The way I see it is that much of modern SF has lost its wonder because the authors are pushing agendas or trying to teach lessons rather than taking a "what if" and just running with it as far as it will go.


message 3: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) | 24 comments Not SF but fantasy, but I'll agree with V.W., writing my own ideas doesn't take away from the wonder I feel reading someone else's ideas. Like a lot of authors, I think, I just love stories, whether they're my own or someone else's. Give me interesting characters that I care about doing interesting things that I care about, and I'm happy. Seeing those things done well when I know how much work goes into it just makes it all the more wondrous.

I'll also agree with V.W. that what ruins the enjoyment of reading (SF, fantasy, or anything else) is authors who care more about Teaching a Message than telling a good story.


message 4: by Lynne (last edited Sep 05, 2015 12:34AM) (new)

Lynne Stringer | 99 comments No, I still love reading it. I like any story that's well written. I can read a bad one in any genre and not be happy but I still enjoy a good story in any genre.


message 5: by J.W. (new)

J.W. Davis | 16 comments It did to a degree. The problem I have is that I am always evaluating how well the story is written. I may have picked up on poor plots or structure before I started writing subconsciously, but since I began writing, I do it consciously and it can take a bit of the fun from reading.


message 6: by Charles (new)

Charles | 35 comments Only badly written ones. I especially like going back to the "masters'" works. But my tolerance for badly written, or badly edited work has decreased dramatically.


message 7: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments I am more demanding. You can't snow me any more, with an idiot plot or lots of irrational action.


message 8: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 665 comments It alters the way you read.

Not so much writing first drafts but your critical reevaluation of them while revising. Once you are trained into the habit, you can never let it go again.


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments Back in the early '90s I went through a time of writing screenplays and learning the craft. I got a few nibbles but nothing really came of it. But it pretty much ruined movies for me. I know the formulas. I know what's coming. Rarely am I surprised.

I have never found this quite the same with books. Even if I have the plot figured out after the first ten pages, if I have read that much there is usually something more about the story to hold my interest.


message 10: by E.D. (last edited Sep 11, 2015 11:51PM) (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments I think of Clarke's statement about technology being indistinguishable from magic. Even though you fully understand the engineering and physics..,if done well.., the results can still strike you as magical. Same with writing.


message 11: by Leo (new)

Leo (rahiensorei) | 78 comments I've read so much more than I've ever written, so I'll have to say it just makes me hyper-critical of my own prose more than anything. While originality is the contemporary goal for a lot of SF/F (it wasn't always), it's difficult to creatively spin things in a format that will be enjoyable to others. Great podcast for readers AND writers, led by Brandon Sanderson and three other leading authors in the genre: Writing Excuses. Excellent way to learn about SF/F writing without the toxic criticism you could find on internet message boards, and from some of the giants in the industry, no less.


message 12: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Ifield | 2 comments Leo (Rahien Sorei) wrote: "I've read so much more than I've ever written, so I'll have to say it just makes me hyper-critical of my own prose more than anything. While originality is the contemporary goal for a lot of SF/F (..."

I am so with you, Leo! The more I read - which is loads I have to say - the more I look at my own work and think I need to work harder!
I publish, but always with the voice in my mind that asks - really? You want to put this out in a world that has the Sandersons and Ryans and Weeks and Bretts it in?
Then I go ahead anyway, because if I start to compare, do I stop reading or writing? Neither is acceptable to me! :)
I must read for the love of it as I must write for the love and joy of it.


message 13: by Dan (new)

Dan Koboldt (dankoboldt) | 3 comments Being a writer hasn't ruined the reading for me. If anything, I appreciate it more when a book is really good because I know how hard writing is.


message 14: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Wuertz No. In fact, it has enhanced my enjoyment because great writing is difficult to accomplish. When I read amazing science fiction, I'm not only impressed by the story, but I'm also impressed by how the author pulled it off.


message 15: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (goodreadscomdeborah_jay) | 21 comments Charles wrote: "Only badly written ones. I especially like going back to the "masters'" works. But my tolerance for badly written, or badly edited work has decreased dramatically."

My experience too. I find it next to impossible to turn off editing mode when I'm reading.
I still love to read well-written SF and fantasy, but bad writing and poor editing will make me ditch a book these days, where I used to doggedly read everything to the end.


message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments Matthew wrote: "No. In fact, it has enhanced my enjoyment because great writing is difficult to accomplish. When I read amazing science fiction, I'm not only impressed by the story, but I'm also impressed by how..."

I agree. I will always appreciate good storytelling and good writing.


message 17: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Gordon | 3 comments Charles wrote: "Only badly written ones. I especially like going back to the "masters'" works. But my tolerance for badly written, or badly edited work has decreased dramatically."

I agree with this sentiment; I certainly can't read a book that has errors in the first paragraph. That being said, as a writer, I'm constantly on the hunt for new ideas, new ways of explaining things, new ways to develop characters. It's hard to read a book, and not try to mine it for usable things, and for that reason I rarely read nowadays, because I don't want another's work to corrupt my own.


message 18: by D. (new)

D. Snyder | 51 comments Spooky1947 wrote: "has the ability to write SF destroyed your enjoyment of the READING of SF?"


The short answer is, "no." The long answer is more complicated.

I tend not to read anything recreational while I am actively writing. Part of this is a conscious decision to avoid being influenced. I found that when I was trying to write a story while reading Sherlock Holmes, my grammar and word choices became distinctly more Victorian. While that might be a good thing for a project I have in mind, it was completely wrong for what I was working on at the time.

I do notice that, when I am reading works of fiction or watching movies, I tend to compare the writing against myself -- not on a scale or grade, but to a sort of personal question: "Could I have written that?"

I tend to enjoy stories more when I answer that question, "no."


message 19: by George (new)

George Hahn | 89 comments It's not a problem for me. I get so involved in my own characters and universe that others don't intrude.


message 20: by Niki (new)

Niki Livingston (nikilivingston) | 2 comments Dan wrote: "Being a writer hasn't ruined the reading for me. If anything, I appreciate it more when a book is really good because I know how hard writing is."

Dan this is how I feel. I know how difficult it can be to put my imagination down on paper and reading others hard work only encourages me to be better then I was the day before.


message 21: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) | 24 comments I've thought about this question some more, and I will say that being a writer does make me less patient with scenes that lack conflict and forward motion, that don't add anything to the story, and also for stories that take the easy way out or fall flat on the ending. These things frustrate me because I've studied these issues and work hard on them on my own books, and I can see how the author could have easily improved them if they knew it was a problem (I tend to give the author the benefit of the doubt, these are common beginner mistakes and can be corrected if you know to look for them, instead of assuming they were being lazy and not putting their best effort into the book).


message 22: by Dwayne (new)

Dwayne Johnston | 11 comments If it is a good story and well written you will disappear into the world same as ever.


message 23: by Marina (new)

Marina Finlayson | 34 comments Being a writer has made me more aware of problems in the writing, but also more appreciative of good writing. As someone else said, I love reading books that I know I couldn't have written--though that's not to say I don't enjoy reading books that I could have. I enjoy most things I read. Maybe that just means I'm good at picking stories I know I'll like, or maybe I'm not hard to please!

Story is key. As long as it's an entertaining story I generally enjoy the book, though sometimes even a good story can't trump particularly bad writing.


message 24: by Angela (new)

Angela Penrose (angelapenrose) | 63 comments For me, no, not the way it seems Asimov meant. Keep in mind, though, that SF was a much narrower genre back then. It was more gosh-wow, more "Hey, look at this cool idea I came up with!" and much less with the character development or even, at times, coherent plots. It's possible that getting a significant amount of experience under his belt for SF as it was during the early decades, that might well have ruined things for him, made the seams and duct tape show too much.

And looking at it from another angle, there were so many scientific and technological advances going on at the time, and Asimov was in the middle of it in both his university career and in his SF and other nonfiction writing career, he might have had a hard time reading SF written ten or twenty years earlier, or by writers who hadn't kept up as well as they might. A "canals of Mars" kind of thing.

For me, it's more a matter of knowing now how things are supposed to go together. Before I had any significant writing experience, I would dislike a story, or be unable to get more than a few chapters into a book, and not be able to articulate why. Now I'm more likely to be able to put my finger on the problem.

[Assuming it's not just a matter of taste. Much of the time, when someone says, "That book/story sucks," what they actually mean is, "That book/story isn't to my taste." Which is fine, nobody's obliged to like everything, but those statements mean two different things. People who think their personal taste governs what's great or what sucks think way too much of themselves.]

But learning to recognize POV glitches made a lot of stories from the eighties or earlier (and some more modern fiction) hard to read. Learning how dialogue is supposed to be punctuated and paragraphed makes it clear why certain stories are confusing and annoying.

On the other hand, having been around long enough to see how faddy and cyclic certain "rules" are makes it entertaining to watch things like the dialogue tag arguments -- "Only use 'said!'" "'Said' is repetitive! Use anything BUT 'said!'" "Dialogue tags are distracting! Attribute dialogue through actions and paragraphing!" "'Said' is invisible! Use 'said' and only 'said!'" And around we go, a full cycle every two or three decades, as whoever fancies themselves the Thought Leaders among writers decides the "old" way is wrong and we need something new and better. [eyeroll] But as you read, you can see where in the cycle we were when that story or novel was written, or what faction the writer was listening to. That sort of thing gives you a whole meta level of enjoyment, if you pay attention to it. :)

Angie


message 25: by Angela (new)

Angela Penrose (angelapenrose) | 63 comments Marina wrote: "Story is key. As long as it's an entertaining story I generally enjoy the book, though sometimes even a good story can't trump particularly bad writing. "

This. [nod] I'm a compulsive editor -- I can't not see copyedit type glitches while I'm reading -- but if the story's good enough, I can read over a certain amount of gravel and litter. It doesn't work the other way; no matter how beautifully crafted the sentences and paragraphs, no matter how exquisite the word choice or turn of phrase, if the story is blah, the lovely writing can't make up for it.

Angie


message 26: by Marina (new)

Marina Finlayson | 34 comments Angela wrote: "It doesn't work the other way ... if the story is blah, the lovely writing can't make up for it."

I think this is why I dislike a lot of literary fiction. Gorgeous writing, but not as focused on telling a good yarn.


message 27: by Angela (new)

Angela Penrose (angelapenrose) | 63 comments Marina wrote: "I think this is why I dislike a lot of literary fiction. Gorgeous writing, but not as focused on telling a good yarn. "

I agree. Some people can do both -- I've enjoyed several of Margaret Atwood's books, frex. -- but when it looks like 90% of the effort went into gorgeous, lush wordsmithing and only 10% into the story itself, I can't read that stuff. More power to folks who like it, and it's great that there are writers who like to write it and readers who like to read it. I read for story first, though, and I think most readers do, despite the efforts of many generations of English teachers. [wry smile]

Angie


message 28: by J.C. (new)

J.C. Cauthon (cauthonj) | 6 comments Most of my issue is not that it has destroyed my enjoyment of reading science fiction/fantasy/anything, but more that my writing has destroyed my ability to tolerate poorly-written or poorly-planned books.

I'm currently on a reading break because I have read so many books in the last year where the author chose the easy way out for the characters when it came to the climax. When it comes to the climax, I want blood, crying, a battle scene, maybe a dramatic death, but I do not--DO NOT--want the characters to be given the option of suddenly having some magical power they've never shown before, have a laser pistol fumble in the attacker's hands, etc. I don't want them to have to easy way out--and so many writers are taking that option in the books that I read, and as a writer, I find myself screaming "No!" at the author instead of the characters.

J.C.


message 29: by William (new)

William Spear (inkandgear) | 2 comments I wouldn't say that it's "ruined" my reading of sci-fi. But what I'm finding is that when I can choose whether to read sci-fi or to write sci-fi, I'm starting to prefer the writing of it. It's just more fun/challenging/etc. Readingwise, I'm shifting to more nonfiction, especially since I can take ideas from the nonfiction I'm reading and turn them into stories.


message 30: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments I am more aware of time, and of genre. It is useless to expect a book written in 1800 to be as PC as one written today. (And if you set your novel in 1800, don't expect women doctors.) And there are conventions within genres that simply must be adhered to. Complaining that a romance novel ends with a HEA (happily ever after) is idle; that's a requirement.


message 31: by Alycia (new)

Alycia Christine (AlyciaChristine) I tend not to read anything recreational while I am actively writing. Part of this is a conscious decision to avoid being influenced. I found that when I was trying to write a story while reading Sherlock Holmes, my grammar and word choices became distinctly more Victorian. While that might be a good thing for a project I have in mind, it was completely wrong for what I was working on at the time.

I agree with D. When I write a specific book, I read tons of different material for research. Most of my research reading is outside of the genre, so that I don't get wrapped up in someone else's plot idea. It's usually in between books that I read in my own genre. My main passion is fantasy with some soft science fiction doodling around the edges. Consequently, I pay attention to period technology in my work for the sake it generally accurate, but I try not to let the technology drive the story since I'm far more interested in what the characters are doing.


message 32: by Todd (new)

Todd Strasser (todds) | 5 comments Strangely, being a fiction writer has always made it difficult for me to read most fiction, with the exception of Sci-Fi. Too often with other genres I find myself thinking more about what the author is doing than the story itself. But I don't have that problem with Sci-Fi because the sheer inventiveness of the genre is so engaging.


message 33: by A.C. (new)

A.C. Schneider (acschneider) | 4 comments I think its similar to being married and in love with one woman or dating and infatuated with a new woman every other week.
Having written the genre you appreciate subtleties enmeshed deep within a writer's craft and technique above and beyond superficial plot.
It's fun to devour story after story for a spell but it's the love for Scifi that eventually leaves the writer wanting a deeper relationship with it, inviting them to settle down and commit, baring their sole in return for experiencing Scifi's essence.
Writers have seen Scifi without its makeup on and at times we might nostalgically reminisce about a time when we hadn't and all was still mysterious, fresh and new. But if we're honest with ourselves we know such times can't measure up to the meaningful relationship we now share.
Plus - think of the works we've written - think of the children!


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

ok, AC, don't go gettin' all New Wave on me....


message 35: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) *snorts*

(Spooky, I think you mean New Age...)




message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

:-P

Nope, I was referin' to the New Wave movement...


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

and who are the kids??


message 38: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) Duran Duran, a New Wave band from the 80's


message 39: by Angela (new)

Angela Penrose (angelapenrose) | 63 comments New Wave SF came like 15 years before New Wave music. Whoever named them clearly didn't care about possible mix-ups later on. :)

Angie


message 40: by A.C. (last edited Oct 28, 2015 06:53AM) (new)

A.C. Schneider (acschneider) | 4 comments Sorry spooky, been in New Wave rehab for some time but still have my lapses - time to call the sponsor, which parenthetically, Amelia, is the Duran kid dressed like a pirate - figures, right?


message 41: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) No idea. Maybe he was a Adam Ant fan?

*wanders off to google New Wave Sci-fi*


message 42: by A.C. (new)

A.C. Schneider (acschneider) | 4 comments Yeah, totally.

*Wanders off to google Adam Ant*


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

that's ok AC, I'm in music New Wave rehab...I never listened to Duran Duran, I was more Adam Ant, B-52s and early Blondie...how'd you know I liked Adam Ant Amelia??


message 44: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) Didn't. He asked why one of the DD guys was dressed like a pirate. I said maybe we was an Adam Ant fan.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

either way....Adam and the Ants was a cool band

:-D


message 47: by Shereen (new)

Shereen Vedam | 16 comments Spooky1947 wrote: "i pose the question to the writers in the group...has the ability to write SF destroyed your enjoyment of the READING of SF?"

Nope, I still read the same way as I did before, for pure enjoyment. What I didn't enjoy before, I don't enjoy now, what I loved then, I still love. And to be a good fiction writer, reading fiction is an essential requirement, widely and not always in your genre.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Amelia, thanks!!!

:-D


message 49: by Bard (new)

Bard Constantine (bconstantine) | 4 comments I think writing my own works has affected my ability to endure bad writing in many mediums, not just other books. I recently quite watching the TV show Gotham because I just couldn't bear the horrible dialogue and poor character development.

At the same time, the writing I've always loved still has the same effect on me. I can crack open any of those stories and enjoy them as I always have. Nothing like a great story with dynamic characters. Sticking specifically to sci-fi, it's pretty much the same. I'm a very picky reader of sci fi from the start, so what I do read is often enjoyed without the shadow of writing sci-fi leaning over and dimming the view.


message 50: by A.J. (new)

A.J. Norfield (ajnorfield) | 35 comments Hi all,

New to the group and saw this question. Great one to start with I think. :)

I do not classify myself as a writer fully yet, way too early in the process of releasing for that. I do enjoy putting the world I see on paper (most of the times anyways...), but what I have noticed is that I am way more reluctant to read other books now, which is a total shame!

I have read wonderful fantasy stories ranging from dwarf to over-sized dragons, but during my latest read (Terry Pratchett - Raising Steam, R.I.P.) I felt I was less enjoying the story and more focused to see what I could learn about writing styles, character description, world building, etc..
Another aspect is that I am afraid to read my favorite genre (dragon fantasy) as I do not want those books to influence my own stories, which frankly just sucks (that I can not enjoy the genre anymore, not my writing...or at least I hope that does not suck)!

How do other writers handle this? Does any of you switch genres that you read?


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