I have always wanted to write science fiction novels. But I found that I was unable to complete any of the stories I started.
I had lots of ideas, and started on several projects over the years. However, I would get through a story map or a first chapter and lose interest in the story.
Part of my problem was a lack of confidence. Also, I think I did not settle on a method that really works for me. Another reason that I was stumped was that I was in a period of change. My beliefs were evolving, and even though I was writing science fiction — I felt compelled to write stories that had meaning for me. Each time I got a story going, I felt as if I had gotten past it already. There was some central truth or meaning that I felt was compelling initially, but later dismissed as hubris.
I could not force myself to write a formulaic piece that included all the right parts: some cool technologies, a bit of romance, a grand crisis resolved through the heroism of a larger than life figure, etc. I can read that sort of thing to relax and veg. But I found I could not make myself write that way. And since I did not have what I thought was a compelling story that I could believe in, I could not write.
Some may think it a bit silly to be a stickler for principles like integrity and meaning in sci fi. But I think a true lover of the genre appreciates the same things one does in other genres. There is a world of difference between E. E. Doc Smith and David Weber. Things like style, character depth, the quality of relationships (be they good or bad), story line, and the ability to open up new possibilities in my imagination are all important to me.
Science fiction is really just a rational extrapolation of today’s world into the future. It is a bit like a grown up version of “Lets Pretend”. To me it is important how much of an extrapolation the author makes. I grow surly and judgmental if the author goes too far. I can abide zero point energy and warp drive. But do NOT let on that your spaceship uses chemical propulsion and reaches even a small fraction of the speed of light. That is just stupid! At least have the decency to conjur up a nuclear fusion engine.
I carry over my judgmental attitudes to my own writing. I cannot in good conscience create shallow characters, or ludicrous technology. The story has to be something that could happen with a bit of a stretch. But it should not stretch reality so much that it snaps. And I want it to be a good story — not the same old guy who rescues the universe from destruction in book 1, and then repeats the feat in books 2 and 3.
Bits and pieces of stories pop into my brain at the most unlikely times. A character here, a plot line there. A twist of something real today that could result in something fascinating later. But for the longest time they would either drift away, or I would jot them down and find that they no longer interested me a month later.
I have a good friend who has been encouraging me to write. But it wasn't happening — until the day I realized that Medium is set up for people like me. I thought,”I can do this too”.
And I did.
I just started. I am still only a couple of weeks into it. But I find myself jotting down ideas all the time. It is much better than sitting in my room playing Planet Base on my laptop.
My first submission was actually a story I wrote earlier this year. It was the first time I had completed a story of my own in decades. I had a dream one night that I met my wife when we were children, on a beach in a lagoon. It was so vivid, and so moved me, that I jotted down some notes. I then expanded those notes into the story, “My Dream”. I started by posting that.
It isn’t really the sort of story one sees on Medium. I don’t have the 5 reasons not to do something or other, or the reason your cousin hates coffee, or the case for eating eggplant. But even if this story is not widely read, I feel as if I offered a piece of my heart to the world. It was a good feeling.
I imagine Grandma felt this way when she made cupcakes from scratch for the grand kids. They may have sucked, but she poured her soul into them — and perhaps a bit of salt by mistake — after all, it was right next to the sugar. And sometimes Grandma would grab Grandpas glasses by mistake. Enough about Grandma — may she rest in peace.
So why do I write on Medium? Because I feel compelled to, because it is good for my soul, and because I have some things to say. I hope that people enjoy what I write. And someday I will get that sci fi novel on paper.
In the mean time, I am learning how to write. Medium is my classroom, and all of you are my teachers and critics. So please be gentle, but be honest with me.