What do the literary folks mean when they say science fiction is “badly written”?

Mid-way through Foundation and Empire, Asimov hits an entirely new note in his writing.

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

For the first time he enters INSIDE one of his characters. We see the world as they see it. It’s probably significant that this is also the first major female character in the story.

Asimov was a great writer on many levels. But it’s kind of fascinating that it takes him a few hundred pages to do what any novelist would be doing from the first page – get into his characters.

This is what the lit folks mean when they say SF is badly written. There’s a whole set of techniques evolved over centuries of novel writing, SF often misses them all or in part.

I’d argue SF is a different mode of fiction writing. One closer to creative non-fiction, because of its focus on ideas. But I’d also argue SF writers would do well to read a lot outside SF, to learn those other skills.

Research continues for future talks in the SF/F writing course: https://damiengwalter.com/advanced-scifi-and-fantasy/

Advanced SciFi & Fantasy

Writing the 21st century myth

Damien Walter, writer on sci-fi and geek culture for The Guardian, BBC, WIRED and graduate of the Clarion writers workshop, leads a journey into scifi and fantasy storytelling.


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Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.


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