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  • Writer's pictureVyvyan Evans

The Essential Ingredients for Writing Science Fiction

Science fiction is the literary genre of ideas. And it helps to have subject matter expertise to be able to effectively write in this particular genre. I am a research linguist, by training and profession. And in light of this, my Songs of the Sage book series focuses on the future of language and communication. Given the advent of neuro-prosthetic implants, in the future, this emerging technology might herald a new era of the 'transhuman', allowing us to stream language (much as we do with music and TV today), rendering language learning obsolete.

So, what are the essential ingredients of any work of science fiction? First and foremost, every work of science fiction starts from a “what if?” question, a hypothetical question that both ignites the imagination, and allows the consequences of the “what if?” to be worked out.  In the case of the first book in my Songs of the Sage series, The Babel Apocalypse, the ‘what if?’ asks: what if language were no longer learned, but streamed on demand to brain implants from internet in space, for monthly streaming subs?


This leads, in turn to an unfamiliar setting, that is nevertheless, and paradoxically, strangely familiar, and a requirement for innovative technology. In the case of my book series, the setting is the near future, where language streaming technology has transformed society in unfamiliar and unpredictable ways. In The Dark Court, book #2 in the series, one consequence of this premise is that human brains can be hacked more or less in the same way that a computer can be, leading to catastrophic consequences.


A further requirement is that relatable or believe characters are essential. These characters, while sometimes fantastical or even superhuman, must resonate with readers, and hence be grounded in our shared lived experience. They must have all the similar strengths, weaknesses and the flaws the rest of us have, and equally experience moments of success and failure, whether in terms of the action-dynamics of the story world or in terms of their emotional experiences.


And finally, the sine qua non is that the work must develop and explore themes concerning humanity. After all, the raison d’être of science fiction is to grapple with the great complexities of the human experience and the human psyche. And the driver for this is the “what if” question, that leads to a book-length laboratory to explore potential consequences for humanity, set up by the premise. 





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