“The trouble with science fiction is that you can write about everything: time, space, all the future, all the past, all of the universe, any kind of creature imaginable. That’s too big. It provides no focus for the artist. An artist needs, in order to function, some narrowing of focus. Usually, in the history of art, the narrower the focus in which the artist is forced to work, the greater the art.” – Philip Klass
This is definitely my biggest struggle with my science fiction. Playing inside your own worlds – built from the ground up, from soil pH balance to government factions and history – is not as easy as it seems from the outside. Like any skill, it typically takes a ton of practice and screw-ups before you can really become proficient.
Of course, that’s not a good enough reason not to write it. (Who likes to take the easy road?) I grew up in fantastical worlds that are forever a part of my history, and therefore a part of me. Often, those imaginative worlds were more real to me than … well, real things. We’ve been down this road before.
In science fiction…it’s not that you can do whatever you want, with no “focus”, as Klass puts it. It’s that create you create your own world and then play inside it. In fact, you are expected to play consistently and rigidly inside the world of your creation, or you lose your reader.
You create your own “focus”.
With due respect to the famous skeptic Philip J. Klass, science fiction is not written inside chaotic worlds where anything can happen at any time.
Science fiction is the art of creating your own niche world. The smaller and tighter your focus, the more brilliant an author needs to be in order to create believability, realistic characters, and emotional tugging.
Klass was not incorrect when he pointed out that artists tend to create their greatest work with their greatest “focus”. He simply, like many influential and successful arguers, makes a seemingly valid point while distracting you from looking at other solutions.
Signed, a life-long fan of science fiction.
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