Sunday, January 11, 2004

For the most part, I write science fiction and fantasy. However, I also write sci-fi. I understand and enjoy the differences between the types of material, so I will continue to point out that they are not the same things -- because the writers who appreciate the differences are generally pleased to know that the universe they created from scratch is not classed in the same group as the latest media adaptation or tie-in novel.

It's not a matter of being snobbish -- it is the ability to say that a book like Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson is not the same as Aliens: Earth Hive by Steven Perry (who is an excellent author, by the way). In the first book Dickson created the entire setting, from ships to worlds to the trouble that caused a war. In the second, Perry wrote from a set of instructions on background, aliens, what can and cannot be done within this framework. For the fans, that means that they can pick up a book and know that it will have a certain set background points which, as fans of the movies, they will understand and accept. Innovation comes only in the storyline, not in the vehicle with which the story is delivered.

On the writing side, both types of material have their own difficulties. In fact, while writing to the specifications of a game module (release is due in April, I think), I had to go through and please several different editors who knew the game better than me. It was a very interesting and difficult type of writing, and there's no guarantee that the story made the final cut -- I won't know until I see the game.

Sci-fi, by the way, is also far harder to get published than sf. In sci-fi you basically have to be approached by the people who own the copyright and offered a chance at a contract. Rarely they will do this by an open call or a contest, but most of the time they choose the people they want to do the work. It is also usually work for hire -- that is the author gets a set amount of money for the work and no claim on royalties. Sci-fi written without a chance of selling it is fanfiction.

And most of the big stores now shelve sci-fi in it's own section, another sure sign that it is [b]not[/b] the same as science fiction -- to such a degree, in fact, that they will still leave original fantasy in with science fiction, but pull media related material out. That's a pointer to the larger moods of readers, who find it convenient not to have to look through the shelves of science fiction when they want a media tie in book instead. This seems very reasonable to me since I don't consider them the same market. Of course there is a lot of crossover between them, but then there is crossover between any genres.

So I'll continue to go along with the professionals who in this case believe that these are two distinct markets and different types of writing. Not everyone agrees, but in the end I'm quite pleased to know that I can write in both types, and that if asked, I can name them.

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