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The Science of Science Fiction Writing Paperback – October 31, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I've shared the annual Lawrence Writer's Workship with Jim Gunn on and off for nearly thirty years―and many other workshops with many other leaders as well―and I've come to one simple conclusion. He's the best." (Frederik Pohl, Author of The Space Merchants, Gateway, and Man Plus, former president of The Science Fiction Writers of Ameri)

This pragmatic overview covers virtually every important aspect of writing science fiction. A valuable tool for aspiring SF authors, and a treat for fans with an appreciation for literary history and theory. (Kirkus Reviews)

Practical advice for anyone who aspires to write popular fiction, this clear-sighted guide is a must. (Publishers Weekly)

James Gunn (born 1923) is certainly a vastly experienced sf writer..he is also a well-known anthologist, so his advice here may be sager tan that to be found in most books of this type. (Interzone)

...he [Gunn] clearly and comprehensively explains distinctive characteristics of SF...any wannabe writer could learn a lot from this readable and well-organized guide... (Sfra Review)

The Science of Science-Fiction Writing is a course packet for a writing course in sf, except that it is bound, cheaper than most course packets, far better proofread, scrupulous in observing copyright ― and it is by James Gunn...Gunn's advice is classical, conservative, sensible, stressing character and emotional appeal...He pushes writers toward disciplined service to their audience...he should be learned from, and, if one can't go to one of his workshops, The Science of Science Fiction Writing is a fine place to study what he has to teach. (Science Fiction Studies)

...the number one reason to pick up The Science of Science-Fiction Writing is a most invaluable section that one wonders why more books on writing haven't included something similiar: an outline of all the advice Gunn gave during a workshop in 1998 ― likely, if a writer subjected his story to the rigorous distillations here, his story would sell somewhere...It introduces and offers morsels of advice that won't be found elsewhere...you could benefit from the sagacity of Gunn's sixty-plus years of experience. (Trent Walters Sf Site)

Gunn takes the reader through a careful process of writing SF...The book is very well organized...anyone with an interest in writing SF will find this book of considerable value as Gunn shares his exceptional insight into the world of SF writing. (Extrapolation)

Science fiction has often been criticized, especially in its early days, for an alleged tendency to neglect characterization and character development. There has been some basis in truth for this, though anyone who thinks is has always been true or always an intrinsic fault should read the chapter on characters... (Stanley Schmidt)

The best introduction in print not only to writing but also to reading science fiction....All SF teachers, indeed any teacher of literature, will benefit from the chapters devoted to the reasons people read fiction, the anatomy of the short story, and the creation of believable characters. Gunn blends his expertise as both teacher and writer to fashion a work of value to any teacher or reader of science fiction. (Anatomy of Wonder, 5th Edition)

About the Author

James Gunn, emeritus professor of English at the University of Kansas, has published 36 books and nearly 100 short stories. His novels include The Immortals, The Joy Makers, The Listeners, and The Dreamers. He has published seven collections of short stories, including Future Imperfect and Breaking Point. As a professor, he taught fiction writing and science fiction, including a long-running intensive Writers Workshop in Science Fiction. His books about science fiction include Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, Inside Science Fiction, and the six-volume The Road to Science Fiction. He has now pulled together his experience in writing science fiction and helping others write fiction into The Science of Science-Fiction Writing. Gunn is the 24th writer recognized by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America as a Grand Master.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press (October 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578860113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578860111
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a writer and teacher of fantasy and science fiction, I have read a =lot= of how-to books over the years. Most of them range from terrible to so-so. Many can be destructive to an inexperienced or uncertain writer.
This is a wonderful exception, one of only two books I consistently recommend (the other is Orson Scott Card's CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT). I have been assisting at Gunn's summer workshop at the University of Kansas for years now, mostly because I think he's one of the best writers -- and teachers -- in the genre. Now he's put the wisdom of his decades in the field into a book which I think can be useful to every writer, regardless of experience.
I really cannot recommend this highly enough.
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After the glowing reviews I read online, I was disappointed in this book. It was quite obviously patched together from previously published materials that did not meld gracefully: just looking at the chapter headings, it is obvious that no one would have organized a book that way if starting from scratch. At the very least, the book should have been edited to remove the obvious repetitions. Appendices in the back are basically class notes in the form of bulleted lists and sentence fragments.

The title is misleading, though probably not intentionally so. I was hoping for something more targeted toward, well, science. For example, I would have liked something about FTL travel (pro or con, possible workarounds, etc.), climatology, or any of a dozen other scientific topics of relevance to science fiction. With one whole chapter about fiction in general, and several other chapters about prominent science fiction authors, there really wasn't very much of the book that could justifiably be said to relate to the science of science fiction writing, even when you put the emphasis on the word WRITING. A better title might have been "Miscellaneous Essays on Fiction, Science Fiction, and Famous SciFi Authors."

That is not to say it was worthless. Some of the information was useful and relevant, and the book overall was very well written. There were probably a total of 20 pages that, for me, made the book almost worth the price of admission. I just felt a little cheated by the feeling that this was recycled content without much effort expended to make it a cohesive or focused.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book due to the glowing reviews of the other reviewers, and was very disappointed. The book was sloppily edited. I wasn't looking for errors, but kept finding them - picky stuff like typos, contradictions, and word for word repetition. A writing book shouldn't contain these types of errors.

Nearly half of the book was long-winded bios of SF authors which were sometimes interesting, but mostly not - and suggested nothing to improve writing. There were a few good tidbits, but they were few and far between.

Do not buy. Get Damon Kight's book instead - Creating Short Fiction. Much more practical and interesting.
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The first chapter (Why People Read Fiction) is worth the price of the book alone. Some reviewers have nitpicked a few typos and repetition. Having taught eye surgery for 45 years and having written a textbook on eye surgery - I can say with confidence that repetition lies at the heart of teaching typos not withstanding.

Be that as it may - the aspiring writer will find much of value within these pages.
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