New entry May 06
Critters is 25!
This November, Critters is 25 years old! Wow! Thanks so much to all of you, who've made it such a resounding success!
Books from Critters!
Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.
How to Write SF
The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells by Ben Bova, best-selling author and six-time Hugo Award winner for Best Editor. (This is one of the books your ol' Critter Captain learned from himself, and I highly recommend it.) (Also via Amazon)
A Guide to BarsoomThe ultimate, definitive GUIDE TO BARSOOM from ReAnimus Press. NOW IN PRINT EDITION TOO. The best guide to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series.
I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.
Free Web Sites
Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.
ReAnimus Acquires Advent!
ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!
THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock
Announcing ReAnimus Press
If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]
I realize that any kind of "but that's not how it's been done!" suggestion will provoke a number of objections, so I'll attempt to answer here the ones I've heard. In workshopping this article I found that these greatly helped solidify understanding of what I was trying to say, so even though it's unconventional, I wanted to share these.
1. This isn't The Secret to great writing. I agree, it isn't. There are a good many pieces to the puzzle, and this is just a small one. Yet good handling of interpersonal relationships is a puzzle piece that seems more lacking in SF than, say, good handling of plot, ideas, or worldbuilding. I would go so far as to say that handling relationships well is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for greatness. You piece won't be great just because you pay attention to relationships, but since great stories do everything well, lack of skillful attention to relationships is sort of a guarantee of non-greatness.
2. Great books do everything well; of course relationships will be better done. To the extent this is the same as (1); and yes, this is just one piece. Yet I would argue that if you make this statement about everything being great in a great book, then you've accepted my conclusion that relationships are indeed a component of that greatness. That's partly what I'm saying: relationships are present in great SF but often entirely missing in the mediocre. If that's true, and you ignore relationships, then that's saying you haven't handled everything well.
3. If you love raisins, you might believe the more raisins there are in something, the better it is; but not everybody loves raisins. Well, now I didn't start out knowing that paying attention to relationships was something I liked. I simply realized one day that it was something lacking in certain stories and present in others. I grant that I then scanned the literature widely, and found out that, in this sense, yes, I liked the stories better that paid attention to relationships. But arguing by analogy is unsafe; it's just as easy to liken this to "If you like breathing, you might believe that breathing is good; but not everybody likes breathing" — well, yeah, but they'll also be dead soon. Whether I like relationships in fiction or not, it may be that they actually are a small piece of The Secret. I hope I've proven with the statistical tests that this is more universal than my own tastes, i.e., that well regarded SF scores better than mediocre.
4. You can prove anything you set out to: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. You bet. That's why I suggest people do the tests themselves. The neat thing about science is that it urges others to repeat the experiments for verification.
5. Your 0-to-10 method is subjective. This is true; however it's also the case that most people will tend to get the same rough shape of scores (a "bell" curve) — most folks will find the Amy Tan quote scoring "high" and the Gibson Johnny Mnemonic quote scoring "low" on the interpersonal relationship meter. And even if my 4 is your 6, it's likely our ratios of "mediocre SF" to "great SF" to "literary" will be similar.
6. But I like SF without relationships. Well, are you sure? If you score a bunch of books and conclude that, yes, you really do like the low scoring ones better than the higher scoring ones, including lots of award winners and other famous novels, okay then, you really do. If you prove it by the numbers, then by all means, ignore this article! However, if you don't do the actual tests, how can you know? It might be there are more relationships in the SF that you like than you know (it amazed me when I noticed it). You needn't love Oprah books, but if you like Flowers for Algernon and Gateway and Speaker for the Dead better than, say, Mech-warriors or a typical first novel, chances are the relationships that skilled authors include are a part of why you like them better.
7. SF is escape fiction, and some people want to escape relationships. I don't doubt that's true for some, and if you score lots of books and agree it's true for you, that's great. But otherwise, there's this counterargument that says people might not mind seeing other people having relationships, so long as that doesn't "get in the way" of the action. Which, in great SF, it doesn't seem to. The bottom line, obviously, is don't write something you don't want to write. But I'd hope you'd only dismiss a technique if you've analyzed it first.
8. You like this stuff so well, go read Oprah books. Heh, sometimes I do, but they lack what makes SF great. Attention to relationships won't turn your work into an Oprah contender, don't worry.
- Common Objections — Gain more insight by reading how others objected
- Quiz and More Quotes — Illustrating relationships or the lack thereof in SF and non-SF, and some for you to guess
- Book Scores — The raw data for the books scored
- Add Your Own Scores — Compute your own and share them, takes just a minute or two
- Statistical Summary — how the different categories scored
- Share Your Thoughts