A Guest Post by Abby Goldsmith
General audiences praise "Star Wars" as a great space epic, with magic powers and high stakes. But that story is more than forty years old. While space stories populate video-game franchises, manga, anime, and TV/film, they're less popular in literature. Few people can name a living author who dominates the Space Adventure sub-genre (Space Opera and Space Fantasy). The "Vorkosigan saga" is beloved, but not on the same global scale as "Harry Potter."
Fantasy has historically outsold Sci-Fi, and I believe it's due to a dichotomous approach to story premise. Fantasy stories are built from a premise of personal conflict. For example: What if you need to conquer your inner darkness in order to save everyone you love? Another example: What if you're expected to go insane and become a tyrant in order to save the world?
By contrast, Sci-Fi builds stories around postulations. For example: What if dangerous dinosaurs could be bioengineered? Another example: What if global poverty ended because of nanotech replicators?
Some Sci-Fi is full of personal conflict, and some Fantasy is full of big ideas, but they consistently differ at the premise level. Audiences seem enchanted when a story combines a personal premise--common in Fantasy--with the machinery of Sci-Fi. "Star Wars," "Dune," and "Wool" are built that way.
Likewise, some of the most beloved Fantasy epics use a generous helping of big ideas in their premise. Fans of "The Wheel of Time" cite its magic system, which is based not on personal conflict, but rather on a postulated synergy in the way males and females think. In that respect, a healthy chunk of its premise is Sci-Fi.
I think general readers are starving for more Fantasy premises with Sci-Fi trappings, and vice versa. Space Adventure is fertile ground for such stories. It's only a matter of time before a new "Star Wars" makes a big enough splash in the public zeitgeist to open the floodgates. Horror used to be a dying genre, until Stephen King showed up. Few readers noticed Techno-thrillers before Michael Crichton. Middle Grade and Young Adult Fantasy used to lag far behind other types of Fantasy, until J.K. Rowling began her author career.
A lot of aspiring writers are excitedly working on Space Adventure novels that combine magic and technology. None have gained an astronomical fan following . . . yet. To quote from Scott Sigler's GFL series: The only variable is time.
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Tags: Sequence 00: Guest Posts, Thursday's Thoughts