How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

Book cover imageThis month I read How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, which is a great primer that would be valuable for anyone just starting to write in these genres.

Card covers the topic in five sections:

1. The Infinite Boundary, which helps the reader divide science fiction from fantasy, and gives an overview of the multitude of sub-genres that exist.

2. World Creation, which provides valuable tips on generating ideas and creating the world that will be the setting for your story. World creation involves more than just naming a planet; Card offers guidance on creating the rules of magic, language, and more.

3. Story Construction covers deciding who the main character is, where the story begins and ends, and types of stories. While much of this information is basic writing, Card gives examples from science fiction that reinforce his points.

4. Writing Well highlights many common errors that writers (and not just beginners) fall into, as well as giving examples good writing.

5. The Life and Business of Writing gives advice on agents, publishing and more.

One valuable feature of the book is the numerous examples of well-written and not-so-well-written science fiction. These do tend to be more science fiction than fantasy, so fantasy authors may be disappointed. Another is the extensive list of science fiction and fantasy authors Card recommends.

This book seems to be geared to anyone new to writing science fiction or fantasy, and especially a newer writer. I’m glad to have found a short book that has all the basics covered so clearly. It will serve me well as a great reference whenever I get bogged down or just want to refocus.

While somewhat dated, especially in the publishing section, most of the book present writing tips that are timeless. While I already knew some of what Card taught, his book filled in some gaps in my knowledge. Each author brings their own perspective to the writing and creative process, and I learned much from Card’s slant on what I had learned elsewhere.

Beyond the writing tips, Card’s book is inspirational. He closes one chapter with what I think sums up one of the great purposes of science fiction and fantasy: “Speculative fiction […] provides a lens through which to view the real world better than it could ever be seen with the natural eye.”

Beginning writers, anyone new to writing science fiction, or any writer who wants a short work on the basics of fiction writing will all benefit from reading this book.

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