Betty's Tips

Hello, dear readers.

After the long, hot, rainy summer, it's autumn at last. I love this time of year--probably better than any other. It's a wonderful season to spend some time outdoors, enjoying the last of the good weather before winter closes in. But as the days get shorter, the weather turns colder, and leaves and snow begin to fall, the warmth of home and hearth call us inside. 

So, it's back to the writing cave where I need to finish a science fiction story I started last spring. 

I got about 20,000 words in when I realized I hadn't decided on a sci-fi subgenre. It's no longer the simple:  Science + Fiction = Science Fiction, or sci-fi in lazy talk.  A novel can fit in more than one subgenre and there are many.  But where does my novel fit?

Scifi Ideas offers a comprehensive guide to sci-fi subgenres. Jonathan Maberry's Science Fiction Subgenres offers one of the more extensive lists. You can watch a SlideShare version and scratch your head at some of the book examples given there.

Not all choices make sense. The Martian (Andy Weir) is technically hard sci-fi, but shows up in categories that include the quirky Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. With an opening line in Weir's story, "I'm pretty much f**ked," it's easy to see why. And it doesn't help that "listing" book titles in sub-genres can be a contentious exercise, with disagreements galore.

But a choice must be made, recognizing some might fall into more than one category.

I decided to go by the list at Worlds Without End Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Sub-Genres, alphabetically arranged from Alien Invasion to Weird (a category that tends to blur the genre boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and horror). My favorite weird, BTW, is Weaveworld by Clive Barker. 

I don't consider my story Hard Science Fiction, characterized by an interest in scientific detail or accuracy. Elders of this notable genre include Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Examples that are more recent include Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars trilogy), Iain M. Banks (Consider Phlebas), and Neal Stephenson (Seveneves). I don't have the science chops of these award-winning authors, whose works cater to a smaller reader demographic that, with exception to The Martian, relishes science complexity in the narrative over character.

I don't consider my story as Soft Science Fiction either, which favors the less exact sciences, such as sociology, psychology, or anthropology. Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land), Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), and Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness) are notables in this genre. Hardcore fans sometimes consider soft sci-fi as unworthy, but it has a much higher fan base, due to a more character-driven premise.

Science Fantasy is a fusion between the two main genres. It represents works that use main elements of both to create a story that is futuristic and technical in tone, with fantastical subplots and characters. Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Edgar Rice Burroughs' (Mars series) fits in nicely, and you'll find distinguished authors like Clarke and Bradford in this genre. A science fantasy I like is Anne McCaffrey (The Dragons of Pern series). I just finished N.K Jemisin's trilogy (The Fifth Season), an original and most unusual series that could also fit in the Dying Earth sub-genre. Since I'm not invoking a fantasy element, science fantasy doesn't fit my story.

I like the movies, but I'm not into writing a Space Opera, which is by far the most popular sci-fi subgenre today (think Star Trek and Star Wars). Typically fast moving, with starships that can stop on a dime without the boring necessity of deceleration, it violates all the known tenets of Einstein and Hawkings, with faster-than-light speed, ray-guns, robots (also a separate subgenre), flying cars, captains on the bridge, and aliens who often speak English. Noteworthy books by Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game) and Dan Simmons (Hyperion) are catalogued here, along with many of the sci-fi masters listed on Futurism's The 21 Best Space Opera Books. Since I prefer the basics of known and theoretical astrophysics, like black holes and dark matter, Space Opera isn't my thing as an author.

I wrote a couple stories a few years ago that fit nicely in the Alternate/Parallel Universe category, where it included elements of fantasy in the science. Steven King's Dark Tower series, Dean Koontz's Lightning, and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Travelers Wife come to mind. 

But I digress.

I think my story has elements of Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic, in that it deals with the end of civilization through war, plague, or other general disaster. P.D. James The Children of Men, Whitley Strieber's The Day AfterTomorrow, and David Brin's The Postman come to mind. Others I like include Jennifer Marie Brissett (Elysium), Robert Heinlein (Farnham's Freehold), Stephen King (The Stand, Under the Dome), Justin Cronin (The Passage), Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), S.M. Stirling (Dies the Fire), Garth Nix (Shades Children), Jeanne DuPrau (The City of Ember), and Richard Matheson (I Am Legend).

You can tell I like this stuff.

It also has a strong Dystopian premise typical of futuristic dictatorial regimes portrayed by Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Philip K. Dick (The Man in the High Castle), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale). The genre has been described as "a victory of forces of reason over forces of kindness."

My story is about a young man trapped between the authoritarian regime and an influential theocracy among survivors of a plague that wiped out 98% of Earth's population. Survivors unable to procreate from an extinction event of mysterious origin, he struggles with the notoriety of being the only human born at a time when survivors were unable to procreate.

If I were to pick two books that suggest aspects of a similar theme?

Children of Men, a theme that centers on global infertility and imminent extinction of mankind. Democracy has been abolished, the government autocratic, and a woman in the resistant movement unexpectedly becomes pregnant, the first in twenty years. It was made into an excellent movie.

The Handmaid's Tale, a post-nuclear world where many women can’t have children and live in a highly theocratic society where its rulers are male-chauvinist militarists. It is currently a television series.

So there you have it. I'm writing a Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic.

It's all I have time for. The kids just barged inside without taking their shoes off, trailing clods of mud all over the floor I just cleaned. Might make a new subgenre – "Space Brats," children of space colonists whose habits haven't changed in a millennium. 

Betty Wryte-Goode

Betty Wryte-Goode is a writer, mother, and wife who lives in the Lehigh Valley. Her passions include writing, reading, shopping, gardening, and exploring the internet. Betty is always looking for writing tips, so if you have any you would like to share, please send them to her through our Submissions/Contacts page.

Mixed Up Words of the Month...


These two words vary by only one letter, and at first glance might easily be mistaken for the same word. But one little letter indicates a change in meaning.

To exult means to rejoice, as in "When their team finally won the Super Bowl, the Eagles fans exulted."

To exalt means to elevate in status or to glorify something or someone, as in, "The Queen's exalted position gave her the power to do much good for her people."

Putting them together, "The students exulted when their school's president announced that, thanks to a donation from an exalted, successful alum,  they were all graduating from school debt-free."

As a side note, a group of larks is known as an exaltation of larks. (We wonder if they exulted when they heard that!)