• B.A. Simmons

My View of Sci Fi

Updated: Mar 30, 2018

As I meet people at book signings and conventions, these people are most often checking out my books, I am frequently met with this question: This is science fiction?

Now, this is usually because I've asked them if they like epic seafaring science fiction adventures. They look at the covers of my books and see sailing ships and this doesn't fit the mold of science fiction they have.

This post is an attempt to explain a bit more about my view of science fiction than I typically get to give my potential readers.

As I teach my students; sci fi is a genre of fiction that deals with what we understand through science to be possible, but we haven't accomplished or discovered it yet. Could extra-terrestrial aliens exists? Science tells us yes, they could and they could have technology more advanced than we have. They might also be comparative cavemen when matched against humans.

Could humans travel beyond our own solar system? According to our understanding of science, it's possible even though we haven't sent anyone farther than our own moon. Some day, we might be able to defy Einstein and manage faster-than-light travel. We just haven't figured out how to do that yet.

The basic point is: science is the guide. Anything science can't explain falls into the realm of fantasy or supernatural.

So, my view of science fiction doesn't always involve spaceships and aliens. There doesn't have to be technical jargon concerning dilithium crystals, flux-capacitors or cryogenic chambers. There doesn't have to be lasers, photon torpedoes or light sabers. Science fiction can be simple.

Growing up, I was exposed to a wide variety of science fiction. Movies and comics, yes; but especially books. I tasted of the classic sci fi masters as well as the modern ones. Heinlein, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Christopher as well as Chrichton, Zahn and Card.

However, there was one author whose work captured my mind like no other. This was Jerry Pournelle. I consider him the biggest literary influence on my writing. My dad had a copy of Falkenberg's Legion, which I read when I was 13. This led me to find The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand as well as King David's Spaceship. I read and was enraptured by the universe he created. Yet, Pournelle's science fiction isn't focused on the technology and science as much as it is the politics and people. This is, I think, what I love best about it.

The science is still there. Dr. Pournelle (PhD in Political Science) was also a leading figure in the development of personal computers and also worked in the aerospace industry. Yet for as much as he was involved with technological advancements, much of his work deals with what happens when humans are without this technology.

This is why my Archipelago Series doesn't put the technology at the forefront of the story. The story is about humans who have lost their technology and along with that, the identities we (in our tech-advanced world) associate with that.

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