Celebrating East African Writing!
Do you harbor a secret desire to create alternate worlds like the Marvel Universe of Superman, Batman, Ben10, Heroes, The Rama Trilogy? Are you an aspiring Science Fiction or Fantasy writer? Do you want to be the Kenyan or African writer who finally produces that really incredible SF or F novel or series that blows away minds and expectations and causes a stir, like Equilibrium, Surrogates, Avatar…?
What Is Science Fiction Anyway? Or Fantasy?
There are almost as many definitions of science fiction and fantasy (SF & F) as there are readers and writers — so many that it’s much easier to say,
“It’s what I mean when I point to it.”
SF stories are those that could not happen without some element of science, or some imagined change (futuristic or otherwise) from the world as we know it today. SF stories tend to be based on, well — science, or worlds that seem possible or plausible, based on what we know or can guess about science. Although science fiction is often written primarily to entertain, many authors have a deeper purpose, using the genre to provide insight into science, society, or the human condition. The borders of this genre are not well defined, and the dividing lines between its sub-genres are often fluid.
A great deal of science fiction expands on specific themes: Space travel, The future, Technology not yet invented, Mental and Biological changes in humans and animals, Time travel, Humans with extraordinary powers, Contact with aliens from other worlds, The evolution of the human race. In defining the scope of the science fiction genre, we speak of the effect of science or technology on society or individuals. This may be epic in scope, or personal. The purpose may be to produce a sense of wonder, or to examine the effect of extraordinary circumstances on human character.
Fantasy is a joining of myth with imagination. If science fiction is drawn from our rational side, fantasy wells up from the subconscious. Fantasy also takes place in otherworldly settings, but in this case, the worlds are usually magical or mythical.
Where Do You Get Your (Crazy) Ideas?
That’s probably the most common question asked of all professional writers. It’s a good question, too—though it’s not the most important question. Most writers have plenty of ideas; the question is how to turn them into stories. But still, the idea is where it starts. There’s a joke among science fiction writers that ideas come in plain brown wrapping from a post office box in Schenectady. But if you don’t believe that, the question remains—where do they come from?
Quite simply, from all over. Anything you read in a book or the newspaper could trigger the idea you need. Likewise, everything you observe in the world around you, and everything you hear. (A dog barking. A teacher talking to a parent. A stranger complaining in the supermarket. A bad joke in a TV sitcom. An item on the evening news.) Literally, anything can be the trigger for a story idea. Note, however: While TV shows and movies can be sources of ideas, if you’re writing a story that’s just like one you saw on TV last week, you’re not exercising your imagination enough.
The key is to keep your eyes and ears open. Look for ideas not just where you expect them, but also where you’d least expect them.
We will discuss more next week.
This week’s Words of the Week are:
1 : an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
2 often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
3 : an impractical scheme for social improvement
1 : an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
2 : anti-utopia — dys·to·pi·an \-pē-ən\ adjective
Why don’t you send in your suggested word of the week to email@example.com? Please label your subject: Word of the Week. Must have word, definition and etymology.
And now to this week’s readings:
We begin with a little treat from Ali Painter’s Fox Murderer – I plunged my teeth into the neck of the person; as they squirmed terrified within my mouth’s grasp, coppery liquid seeped into my mouth. I kept my grip until they withered and died, then I opened my jaw and let them lie on the ground.
We begin with Alex Mutua’s Daughter of Man – As the sun dawdled in an old man pace to finish the routine of a day and cross a cloudless summer sky a small angelic cry pierced through the door of a remote local dispensary in Chache village. Mutua rose to his feet and applauded in whisper, ‘I’m a man.’
Then we go on to the next installment of Rayhab Gachango’s Love Story – “Kamau, there’s trouble. Mama Nyambura told Mr. Mbae that she saw you kissing Nyobaki,, now he is mad. He is going to get the police to come and arrest you. Nyokabisays that you should go hide for a while.”
Lastly, in view of the fact that March is a month to observe Equal rights and Equal opportunities for all, we here share with you an excerpt from Gideon Chumo’s Sufferation Street – A new style of lobbying had emerged recently where money power were used to influence crucial decision makers in a bid to support these pressure groups.
Do you have any ideas about how to make your weekly reading more fun? Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org today. Join us here on Monday for the next batch of stories and be sure to vote for the next Story of the Week.
Here’s to a wonderful week ahead!