Once Upon a Time in Science Fiction
October 23, 2015 § 3 Comments
Cheeky, contemplative, elusive, disgruntled, raw, ironic — I’m convinced it doesn’t matter so much what your first sentence states as long as it manages to peak your reader’s interest. Readers, after all, need to find a reason to continue with your work. Not everyone’s as forgiving as your mom when it comes to faulty punctuation or wonky grammar, and a lack of entertaining content means a lack of entertained audience which means no audience after a bit.
I’ve always been a fan of the “good writing is good writing” school of thought, but science fiction writing might break a few of my learned conventions. Flat characters would earn you a thorough chastising in a literary fiction circle and relying on the impossible would generate you scorn in a realist work.
So where does this leave us when it comes to the first sentence? Should science fiction be allowed to deviate from the reader-is-always-right school of though for a work’s beginning? No! Of course not! But when we delve into deeper story characteristics, this school of thought can be problematic. Science fiction stories with shallow, macho heroes work not because of the heroes themselves, but because of the motivating ideas and actions behind the stories. Science fiction stories with improbable technology work not because of the technology’s lack of reality, but because of the world surrounding the new development. In short, sci-fi functions under a different set of conventions, expectations, and literary techniques than your average short story, but this doesn’t mean it should be exempt from all traditional literary critiques. Or does it?