Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at The NovelryOct 10, 2021
If you're writing speculative fiction, ensure your first reader is an experienced SFF editor to master your magic and future proof your science fiction.
'How do they feed all their dragons? How come that entire magical race that has existed for hundreds of thousands of years only has a single language and a monoculture? If they’re travelling faster than the speed of light how do they see where they’re going? How come everyone refers to The City as The City? Is there only one? Why?' Craig Leyenaar
Craig Leyenaar joins The Novelry from Titan Books, the famous publisher of science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and speculative fiction including graphic and comic novels. He joins us as an editor – and with his amazing SFF (science fiction and fantasy) expertise – as a tutor too. He's ready to turn your writing dreams into – well – something bigger and better than reality. Over to Craig.
From the Desk of Craig Leyenaar
Hello everybody! Three weeks in, and The Novelry is feeling like home. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of the writers, tutors and editors has been incredible.
It’s been a pleasure to see how many speculative writers there are here. And I want to say: I’m here for you. I’m here for the writers with the weird ideas, the silly ideas that you’ve not wanted to tell people about for fear of being looked down upon or thought of as ‘not a serious writer’. I call bullshit on all of that, and I say: be proud of writing speculatively!
To me, it’s the most imaginative and all-encompassing of all the genres. There’s nothing silly about it, and even if there is it can be seriously punchy. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are just a couple of examples of serious literature written not-so-seriously.
And remember, the most successful stories of all time have all been pretty much speculative, right from the word go with the Epic of Gilgamesh. The two biggest-selling individual books of all time are fantasy titles. And nine of the ten top-grossing films of all time are fantastical in some way.
I’m here to provide editorial support, help, guidance, and cheerleading on your writing journey. As well as to provide insight into the weird and wonderful world of writing SFF. World-building (which is an entire series of posts on its own); metaphor and allegory; subverting tropes; the endless genres and sub-genres; how long is too long when it comes epic fantasy; why the Chosen One should be chosen last; is science fiction just fantasy with plausible deniability; committing to your story; the Hero’s Journey as tragedy; insight into The Mysteries of Publishing; and the use and abuse of Proper Nouns in fantasy writing, or, when does the book become the Book? I’m here for it all!
As both a reader and editor, I’ve always found SFF’s fecundity endlessly fascinating. Science fiction, fantasy and horror are frameworks in which you can tell any kind of story you choose. They’re environments in which you can play without restriction. China Miéville has said that he wants to write a story in every genre (Embassytown is hard SF, Perdido Street Station is a classic quest narrative, Railsea is YA, etc), Zen Cho’s Sorceror to the Crown is a Regency romance with wizards, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect is a police procedural, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is alternative history. These are all such vastly different novels it becomes strange to think of them categorised as simply science fiction or fantasy. And so, when it comes to SFF I would suggest writing your story and then figuring out which genre it is later (there will be one that fits, don’t worry).
And now, I suppose I ought to tell you a little bit about myself. I moved to Cape Town at the age of eight, but only began reading sometime later when – for reasons still unknown to me – we had no television in the house for a year. It changed my life and I never stopped, even after our television privileges had been reinstated. I had the honour of being reprimanded for reading in class by teachers, which seems rather counter-intuitive. I didn’t know anyone else who read fiction as I did, as it wasn’t that sort of place, even at university and so the world of publishing wasn’t something I had ever considered; it was like when you’re a kid and think about the Arctic or Antarctica – you’re aware of their existence as large, blobby places on the map, but they’re concepts rather than real locations and you certainly don’t think you will be visiting them.