Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 9, 2017

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Reality

When I tell people that I write science fiction and fantasy, sometimes I get the response, “Oh, how fun to just make up anything you want!” Many people, especially those who don’t read those genres, don’t understand that sci-fi and fantasy authors can’t just make up anything they want—our stories always have a reality base to them.

Perhaps the most obvious basis in reality is that sci-fi and fantasy are always, always about the human condition. Even if there is not a single human character in the book, those stories are always a reflection on some part of humanity. The stories speak to and examine universal human emotions and experiences.

Another reality check is science itself. Especially if you write hard science fiction, the science needs to be right and it needs to be real. Space opera or soft sci-fi can bend science a bit by using the conventions of that sub-genre, but the common-sense laws of nature usually prevail. Now, you could of course write a world or universe with physical laws very different than our own, but even that would require a good deal of research to know how a universe with your laws would evolve and grow.

We sci-fi and fantasy writers layer in the reality by extrapolating present-day experiences into more fantastic ones. For instance, that disoriented feeling you get when you leave a movie theater and don’t remember what day it is, what time it is? Perhaps that’s how it feels to be transported. Or to go through a wormhole. And what about space travel via spaceship? Just this weekend I flew most of the way across the country. When I left Philadelphia, it was raining and 60 degrees. Five hours later, I walked off the plane to a sunny 106 degree heat. That time and environment change is akin to starting on one planet and landing on another—so similar, in fact, it’s easy to imagine!

So on the most basic level, science fiction and fantasy are based in reality. Why? Because those touchstones of reality make your story relatable. They give the reader a way into the fantastic world you are weaving. Once your reader has a place to firmly stand, you can lead them into ever-stranger places, and they will follow eagerly and confidently.

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