I feel that to know this world and existence is to seek escape from it. One way is fantasy, novels where the rules of reality work in a completely different manner.

S J Kincaid

S J Kincaid

There was something I used to wonder about with fantasy, though: elves, orcs, vampires, zombies— they are not real. They’re all made up. But people use these same made up species over and over (and don’t get me wrong, so have I in my unpublished manuscripts!) But if you are going to use something completely fantastic, why not make something completely new?

As a writer, I’ve discovered the answer: because it’s nice to have some guidelines and established conventions in place. Vampire means the species feeds on blood. Zombie means undead. Then readers who enjoy stories that share those aspects will know to seek out your story.

It took me seven books to get published. Most of my unpublished books were paranormal or fantasy, and before I was an experienced writer, this meant I had to explain these entirely new arbitrary rules about how magic or the equivalent worked in that world. This often resulted in info dumps, and although I am still guilty of these, not to the same extent I used to be. It’s a choice: dump the info in there, or risk your world coming across like something you’re just making up as it goes along.

This brings me to science fiction. Unpublished manuscript six was a mix of science and fantasy, and it began to feel a little nice. Book seven, my first published book, Insignia: all science fiction.

I loved it.

There are degrees of science fiction. There’s hard science fiction where people like physicists are the writers and the science is the sort of stuff an engineer can use calculations to verify is accurate, and there’s soft science fiction, which is how I write and the same type of thing as Star Trek. There are concepts of physics, nods to the basic rules of reality, but some of the stuff is fantastical like fantasy is. However, just like choosing to write zombies, elves, fae and vampires, one is working with a set of guidelines that are already in place. It’s an interesting thing how some constraints and rules already in place can inspire me to be more creative, not less so. That’s what appeals to me on a technical level about writing science fiction.

And the other thing is simply this: you can do anything in science fiction that you can do in other genres. A creature that doesn’t die, but feeds off of blood can easily be placed in a science fiction setting. Zombies have been translated to science fiction and given science-fiction causes for their afflictions many times. You cannot have aliens land in the middle of the Lord of the Rings. For me, that means science fiction is the winner.