How to write a sci-fi world
When I was first told the subject of this blog I got quite excited, then I thought, is The Inventory really sci-fi? Now, if you’ve read the book then you would probably wonder why I said that. I suppose the answer is I had always thought of The Inventory as belonging to a sub-genre: the techno-thriller.
And that got me thinking what makes good science fiction. For me, it boils down to believability. If the world, no matter how fantastic, has elements that we recognize – from characters to locations – then they become relatable to the reader. Authors such as Philip K Dick and Issac Asimov had the ability to create amazing sci-fi and wrap it up in a story and world that somehow feels believable. So I think that veneer between “real” and sci-fi is where the techno-thriller lives – and in the case of the Inventory, it bleeds into a full-fledged sci-fi world.
My first rule of what belongs in the Inventory was that the invention had to have a real scientific ability to exist. Now, I’m no scientist and my knowledge stretches as far as reading New Scientist and the wonderful Wired Magazine, so I will expand that to the ability to have a fudged scientific reason behind it. Thankfully we have quantum physics for that! So, when my bad guys produce a portable hole, it isn’t something out of Wile E. Coyote, it’s based on wormhole technology. That’s where the fun begins for me, creating a world that seems almost believable but is filled with marvels that could just possibly exist. Maybe.
The second part of the way I wanted to create my world was to ensure that the technology was there regardless if it was useful to the plot. For example, I love James Bond movies but he always seems to have the precise gadget on his person to deal with the peril he faces later in the movie.
In IRON FIST our heroes were surrounded by all manner of gadgets that would land them out of the scrape they were in. The fun came from the fact they had no idea how to use it properly – in fact, half the reason the gizmo was in the Inventory in the first place was because it didn’t quite work as expected. For GRAVITY they no longer have the choice of technology they once did, so have to use whatever is left… which means it’s often a need to improvise.
At the heart of all good sci-fi is the notion of something we’d all like to have, see, or know it’s true… that is, of course, until it horribly goes wrong. For example, yes the all-seeing surveillance in 1984 means, in theory, that we’re safe. The amazing robots in I, Robot are something we’d all like to have, helping us in our daily lives… that is until they become killers.
It’s this promise of better days ahead (no matter how brief) that gives sci-fi a pulsing sense of wish fulfillment that we all crave… often backing it up with a healthy moral dose of dystopia. By its very nature, the Inventory is exactly that – a collection of the world’s greatest technology all under one roof. It’s an achievement of mankind that should be celebrated… instead, it’s hidden away. That is because some of it doesn’t work so well, or the dream died when the implications sank in. For example, hoverboots. I would love a pair of hoverboots – but then again I hate people who suddenly stop in the middle of the pavement and I don’t want those idiots stopping while I’m flying fifty feet above the ground at high speed. Hoverboots now suddenly don’t seem so appealing. If my books were set in a dystopian future (rather than a dysfunctional present) then the Inventory would be cast as a place where dreams come to die.
The final strand of great sci-fi is escapism. On face value that may seem at odds to my first point about believability, but it should go hand-in-hand. Look at one of the greatest sci-fi franchises ever: Star Wars… and I’m talking about the originals, y’know, proper Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is a farm kid who dreams of adventure. Only when he escapes from his home planet does that wish come true. He starts as a believable character – somebody stuck at home and tired of everyday life – and then offers escapism, which turns Skywalker into the galaxy’s greatest hero.
About the book
Eeek! Think that’s a monster? Nope: it’s a person. What terrible weapon could do this…? Errr – well, that used to be top-secret. Problem: it’s not quite so secret anymore. Dev messed up big time the day he let the ruthless Shadow Helix gang into the Inventory. What is the Inventory, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the secret lockup for all the deadly battle tech the world is NOT ready for. Which is why letting it get nicked was a REALLY BAD IDEA. Now the Shadow Helix have Newton’s Arrow: a terrifying weapon that messes with gravity, causing … well, you get the picture from this book’s cover. Dev and his mates HAVE to get it back – even if it means crossing the entire globe. To stop this evil, no trip is too far!
About The Author
Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the Hero.com, Villain.net and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school, and library events.
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