If I had to sum up my thoughts with one word, that would be it–though of course, by itself that word is hopelessly inadequate. Let’s just say that, for me at least, this was a truly astounding book, a literary journey that left me wide-eyed with my mouth hanging open, blinking wearily as I looked up from the last page and returned, reluctantly, to the world of physical reality.
I don’t plan to spend this blog post talking about how awesome this book is, however; I’ll save that for a review. Rather, I want to spend some time talking about how this book has influenced the way I think about science fiction and my own writing, and to share a few of my thoughts having just finished it less than an hour ago.
If anything, this book has shown me that science fiction–real science fiction–is about staring into the unblinking void of the cosmos with a deep and abiding need to find answers, or perhaps more accurately, to ask questions. This inevitably produces a sense of wonder, but that’s merely incidental; the genre is really about fulfilling an almost religious need to connect with something greater than oneself.
I enjoy reading science fiction and experiencing that connection, but I don’t need it–not in the way that I sense some of the grand masters of the genre truly did. Instead, I hunger for the sense of wonder and adventure that is more characteristic of fantasy. In my own writing, it’s not so much the grand sweep of the cosmos that interests me as much as the intimacies of human nature–which isn’t to say that the two are incompatible, but that my preferences lean more to the one than the other.
What I’m saying is that it’s not science fiction that I write, so much as science fantasy. I still feel drawn to space adventures and the trappings of science fiction–I’m not at all interested in writing about elves or dragons–but at their heart, the books I write are more fantasy than true science fiction.
Which might be a purely esoteric distinction to the average reader, but if it helps me to understand my own writing, it’s a distinction worth making. If science fantasy is the sub-genre that really speaks to me, then that’s the kind of literature that I should explore. Of course, it’s important to be well-read in multiple genres, but if there’s a particular one in which you want to write, it stands to reason that that’s the one on which you need to be an expert.
So that’s my new goal: to explore fantasy, science fantasy in particular, and the ways in which other sub-genres like space opera and space adventure lean more toward the fantasy side of things than pure science fiction. And to keep reading really awesome books.