Three Ways Exceptional Sci-Fi Authors Develop Themes

My favorite sci-fi stories always seem to be tight. The sci-fi elements, the characters, the world, and the theme are all closely intertwined. Whether the stories are relatively small scale (the movie Arrival) or full-blown trilogies (Jill Williamson’s The Safe Lands), they blend otherworldly characteristics with real-world issues to create a compelling narrative that not only entertains but explores and instructs.

But how? Theme was complicated before aliens and phasers and warp speed got in the way. Are you supposed to handle theme the same as you would for non-speculative genres?3_Ways_Exceptional_Sci-Fi_Authors_Develop_Themes

No, because genres differ for good reasons. Speculative stories are set apart by their diverse options for communicating theme. Sound scary? Maybe. But exciting too.

However, before we start discussing themes, we need to take a minute to talk about the genre.  Sci-fi stories are defined by their Primary Fantastic Element, which makes them surpass reality. For 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the PFE is the existence of the Nautilus. For the movie Passengers, it’s the ability to put people into hibernation while they hurtle through space for one hundred and twenty years. Perhaps your futuristic world features flying cars and surgically implantable bio-computers that enhance sensory detail, but only one element should be so drastically different from the real world that the story rotates around it. That is your story’s Primary Fantastic Element, and it is the axis of your theme. [Read more…]

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Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

How to Develop Realistic Sci-Fi Technology

On the surface, sci-fi is one of the easiest genres to define: stories involving speculative science. But the word speculative has deeper connotations than you might think. When authors incorporate as-of-yet uninvented technology into their stories, they are speculating answers to different what ifs. What if people had the ability to indefinitely extend their lifetimes? What if the government had to completely restructure itself to deal with the changing population demographic? What if certain religious groups rejected the artificial life extensions and suffered persecution for continuing to procreate, which the rest of society worries could lead to overpopulation?

How_to_Develop_Realistic_Sci-Fi_TechnologySci-fi writers are equally nerds and philosophers because they explore the limits of mankind’s knowledge and the fundamental reality of human existence. But when writers fail to show the various ramifications of their fictional technological achievements, their story worlds ring false.

Thankfully, you can avoid this fate by tackling the following five questions in your sci-fi story.

#1: What is the Government’s Response?

One of the most implausible elements of most sci-fi stories is that a fantastic, life-changing technology is developed, yet the government does nothing—instead of flooding the scene with an overabundance of red tape and restrictions.

Marvel’s Civil War did an admirable job of addressing the state’s role by playing out what happens when lawmakers, international boundaries, and governmental oversight finally catch up to scientifically enhanced superheroes. Cap and Iron Man, who previously enjoyed a free reign as they thwarted evil, must choose between submitting to a questionable higher power or acting as vigilantes. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.