- Paperback: 140 pages
- Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; New edition edition (September 15, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158297103X
- ISBN-13: 978-1582971032
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy New edition Edition
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About the Author
Orson Scott Card is one of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy. He won both the Hugo and Nebula science fiction awards for best novel for two consecutive years - something no other writer has done. In addition, he was the first writer to ever win a Nebula and a Hugo for both a book and its sequel.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have really enjoyed his other books, Ender's Game, Speaker of the Dead and others, so I was disappointed with this effort and really expected a lot more.
The title sells that it is going to teach the beginning writer "How to write SF & F." I don't see how this claim can be made. Of course, in the introduction, there is a disclaimer that the book will not cover writing in general but only details specific to SF & F.
There is some relevant information, but it is brief and covers things such as long distance space travel, time travel, magic, back story, languages, and the MICE quotient, which all stories have a bit of - milieu, idea, character, event. All of this is presented in lists of short paragraphs. Not all that helpful.
Within the scope the book sets for itself, however, it is top notch. Card really knows his stuff, and has a knack for articulating what he knows in a helpful and memorable way. Particularly valuable is the section on exposition. While most books on fiction writing preach minimizing exposition, Card understands that speculative fiction requires it. The imaginative worlds of speculative fiction are not familiar to readers; they need explaining, and readers expect satisfying explanations. Card explains the conventions of the genre that are used to present exposition without stalling the story. He uses Wild Seed by Octavia Butler to illustrate the ideas, so the reader can see tangible examples of the principles he describes.
I also enjoyed his breakdown of stories into four categories (MICE, for milieu, idea, character, and event). He deftly summarizes how each type of story needs to work, and the problems that can result if you don't know what type of story you are writing. This was illuminating and refreshing, since most books on writing do not even acknowledge that fiction can be driven by anything other than character development. In speculative fiction, however, milieu and idea driven stories are part of the landscape, and the aspiring writer needs to understand how they work.
Card also offers excellent advice about the business of writing, covering subjects beyond manuscript preparation and agents, such as writer's workshops and classes, sf conventions, and so on. Once again, his familiarity with the world of sf writing comes through strong and clear; he's not merely repeating standard bits of advice, but is writing from experience.
A few words of caution: The book was published in 1990, and so is a bit dated in places (there is a bigger market for fantasy short stories than when Card was writing, for example), and the book emphasizes sf more than fantasy. (One notable disappointment in this regard: In one section, there is a discussion of the mechanics of interstellar travel, time travel, and magic. The first two topics receive well-thought-out lists of the different approaches used in sf, and their story implications. Magic, instead of receiving a similar treatment, gets a digression riffing off the idea that magicians sacrifice body parts to cast spells. It's an interesting train of thought, but something less narrow and idiosyncratic would have been appreciated.)
On balance, this is the very best book I have found on the special issues that arise when writing science fiction and fantasy. Paired with something like The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, it will answer most questions an aspiring writer in these genres is likely to face.
I expect the wisdom in this book will have a profound effect on making my own writing much stronger.