essay science fiction fantasy fantasy - writing sf fantasy fantasyfiction

an essay by Hugh Cook of


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This essay on writing touches on the question of genre fiction versus literature and has the formal title "Creating Creative Worlds - Cornucopian Devices in Science Fiction Fantasy and fantasy"

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How to Write Science Fiction Fantasy fantasy

Writing Science Fiction Fantasy fantasy


         It's a rainy day and I'm walking through the park which contains the ancient imperial palace and there's this annoying two-tone bell ringing somewhere ... dring-drong ... dring-drong ... what the hell is it? Whatever it is I'm a bit tired and it's annoying the hell out of me.

This is a fairly discursive essay as you may already have guessed. If you're in a hurry (click click click CLICK!!) then you may wish to cut to the:


However the summary is student-oriented not writer-oriented.

         If this was a science fiction story, the bell would be a gadget of some kind. The gadget would interact with human beings. In a classical science fiction story, the focus would be how human beings interact with this new piece of technology, and how the new piece of technology modifies the world in which they live.
         Science fiction is sometimes just an adventure tale featuring high technology (rocketships and the like). However, traditional science fiction (as represented by, for example, the American magazine Analog) is fiction which focuses on how a technically possible but (so far) imaginary innovation interacts with the human world.
         The bell keeps ringing and I wander toward it. I see, ahead of me, a restroom.
         If this was a murder mystery, the bell would be a gadget of some kind. Having started the plot rolling by drawing my attention to the twenty-seven dead bodies heaped up in the restroom, the bell would not necessarily play any further part in the plot (although it might).
         Something which exists primarily just to get a plot rolling can be referred to as a McGuffin. A McGuffin could be (although it does not have to be) a science fictional device. However, in science fiction (in its traditional form) the focus will (generally) stay firmly on the way in which the new technology interacts with human beings. By contrast, in a murder mystery - even one which contains one or more science fictional devices - the focus will probably be on unraveling of the actual mystery.
         I walk up to the restroom and see that the bell-like sound seems to be coming from a -

The Secret of the Bell of Doom!!

So where is the mystery bell sound coming from? This chapter is at an end. You have the option of reading on to the next chapter.

And what is the alternative?

Well, the alternative is to live out the rest of your life without ever finding out THE SECRET OF THE BELL OF DOOM!!!!!

!!read on!!

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