Thursday, February 25, 2010

Science in Science Fiction

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion at the University of South Florida Symposium on Science in Science Fiction.   Three of the greatest science fiction writers of all time – Harry Harrison, Ben Bova, and Gregory Benford served on the panel.  Between the three of them, they have over a hundred years of science fiction writing experience.

Harrison’s distinguished career began with his first published science fiction book, Plague from Space, in 1965.  His second work, Make Room! Make Room! published in 1966 loosely served as the basis for the movie Soylent Green.  It told the story of diminishing resources and overpopulation.   In 2009 he won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

Ben Bova’s science fiction career began in the early seventies.  He has written over one hundred books, and served as editor of “Analog Science Fiction” and “Omni Magazine.” 

Gregory Benford has also been writing science fiction since the seventies.  He has a PhD in astrophysics, and teaches at University of California, Irvine.  He also does genomic research.

All three of these authors write hard science fiction.  They base their stories on scientific theory.  They use facts and technical data in their writing.  The science doesn’t change, whether it takes place on Earth, Mars, or across the Universe.  The scientific laws remain constant.

Some of their early works may appear a bit dated.  For instance, Bova said in one of his early works the astronavigator used a slide rule to chart their course across the galaxy.  Harrison had an onboard computer made with vacuum tubes.  On the other hand, in the late sixties, Benford wrote a short story about computer viruses.

The panel discussed the future material of science fiction, and how they view science fiction.  They all believe that hard science fiction writers are optimistic about the future.  Bova thinks that future science fiction themes will tell stories of mankind’s expansion into space.  Seeking solutions to societal problems and resources for a better life for all mankind.  Gregory Benford thinks the future of science fiction writing will include topics about climate change, genomic research, and the ethics of genomic research.  He also sees science fiction writing as optimistic.  If you are going to write about the future, than you must believe a future exists.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Marketing your Book: Sell your Book

Getting the book written and published comprises only about half the battle.  You still need to convince someone to buy your book and read it.  Authors don’t often think about marketing their work.  Publishers spend very little money these days on marketing a book; writers must fend for themselves.  Only celebrities and established authors sell their books with little effort.  The public won’t even know about your book unless you tell them about it.  Since most of us cannot afford a publicist, I have provided a few suggestions for getting you and your book recognized.

Some traditional methods include contacting people you know, business cards, author talks, and book signings.  Tell all of your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors that you have published a book.  Tell them where they can buy it.  Put flyers on community bulletin boards, but make sure the flyer has all the pertinent information, your name, book title, subject, and where to buy it.   Design business cards, but leave the back blank.  Write the title of your book on the back of the card, and leave your business card around town.  Contact local book groups, friends of the library, and independent bookstores.  Let them know you are willing to do author talks and book signings.

The Internet provides even more marketing opportunities.  Create a web site for yourself and put a page on the web site for your book.  While time consuming, creating a blog to discuss your work and your book can bring name recognition and sales.  Contact book reviewers and bloggers, and ask them to review your book.  At least three thousand blogs exist that are dedicated to book reviews.  Find a couple that fit your book's subject matter, and ask them for a review.  Use social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace to get you and your book recognition.

The bottom line, if no one knows you have a book, how can they read it. Thousands of books exist on bookstore shelves with more going on the market every Tuesday. Lots of authors compete for a reader’s attention and dollars.  If you are not willing to put the effort into marketing your book, no one else will.  You are the best advocate your book can have.  Get out there and sell.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Favorite Books

What makes a book an all time favorite?  Are there books that you have read several times out of choice rather than error?  I have read books a second time because they were so non-memorable I forgot reading them the first time.  I hate to admit it, but I have purchased a popular author at the airport bookstore during a layover only to find two hours into the second leg of the flight that I had already read the book – very frustrating.  I also have books that I have chosen to read several times.  For some reason they appeal to me over and over, and have a special place on the bookshelf.

Included on my list of favorites are the Tolkien books – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring series; Daybreak 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton; The Stand, by Stephen King, and Flint by Louis L’ Amour.   These four represent the Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Western genres.  I know the fourth doesn’t really fit with the other three, but I have read these four books many times, and these are the genres I gravitate towards in my reading selection.  I have read many, many books in all of these genres, yet these four are the ones that remain on my favorites list.

Most people agree that these are good books, but people also want to know why these are my favorites.   I wish I could pin point why these are my favorites.  I read these books during the turbulent years of adolescence.  Most of these books are apocalyptic in nature.  Psychologist might say I was looking for answers as my life changed from childhood to adulthood.  I prefer to think they were well written stories that appealed to my imagination then and still do.

Do you have a favorite book? Care to share, and tell us what makes it your favorite?