Science Fiction: Editing and writing in the genre by Peter Heyrman

This article has been provided by Lynda Lotman and

Science Fiction fans have always argued about the definitions within their genre. From the era of H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, through our present Trekkies and Ring Trilogy, fans have tried to describe and separate science fiction, fantasy, and a variety of sub-genres. While many people get prickly about exactly what constitutes what, the most important job of writers and editors remains the same: suspension of disbelief.
Over the last century editors, fans, and writers have divided Science Fiction into hard science and soft science. Traditionally hard science stories are based on advances or new understandings of the real, physical universe as we know it. The science may be a quantum leap ahead, or sideways, but stories must be consistent, and must bear some relation to what we already know.
In soft science and fantasy the realm of SF stretches to cover social science fiction (that based in history, psychology, religion, etc.), speculative fiction (which covers almost any realistic fiction t hat doesn’t fit comfortably into our present experience), and fantasy. These broader uses of science fiction may or may not make use of hard science to explain more ethereal phenomena. Horror sometimes reaches into SF’s realm (witness King’s “The Stand”), and fantasy is sometimes just around the corner. SF even finds a place for mystery.
What a writer needs in a Science Fiction editor is someone who understands the basics of story: does this world work? When I read this do I suspend my disbelief, and find myself in the story’s world? Are there glitches? Does the cigarette smoldering in the hospital room ashtray jar my nerves, or fit into this story of time travel? A science fiction editor should have a wide, but discerning sensibility. If he or she is going to edit hard science fiction, some knowledge of the science is essential. In any genre of science fiction the editor should be sensitive to the writer’s imagination and the reader’s sensibilities.
As in any genre, the test of the relationship between writer and editor often comes with the flaws. If an editor can bring a writer around to seeing glitches in the world he or she has created they have solved half the problem. If the editor can then help the writer over these humps, then the job is done.

Peter Heyrman
Former writer for Twilight Zone Magazine, Whispers, and The Horror Show.

Copyright © 2002 by Peter Heyrman, Lynda Lotman, all rights reserved. This article has been provided by Lynda Lotman at and is printed with her permission.

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