What is Human Wave Science Fiction

This is a manifesto.  I’m not sure what we’re manifesting, but it’s probably destiny.  Or density.  When you’re dyslexic, it can get confusing.  But in any case we’re manifesting something and it’s a patent manifestation.

The proximate reason for this is my post – here.  Or in other words, it’s another fine mess my mouth got us into.  (Okay, my typing fingers.  If you’re going to be nitpicky, you’re right out of the club.)

The purpose of this is to create a new “idea” in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

When we have the list of what we’re sort of aiming for, we can start getting people who “subscribe” to those ideas, or to most of them
Once we have the list of who you are and your websites, we shall send enforcers to your hom…  No, wait.  That’s another list.  Oh, I see.  That’s the list the trolls left behind.  Never mind.

Once we have that list, we can we can have some large, linked aggregate, so we can help each other, and get more attention to the whole idea.

We should also en-list some critics and reviewers.  I know some reviewers but not much about critics in their native habitat.  However, someone else might.

Because we are rebelling against enforced conformity of style and opinion, of belief and ideology, this list is not “though shalt nots” but “You’re allowed to.”  It is also, in the nature of my nature (Okay, who let the copyeditor in?  Rent his robes and throw him to outer darkness, where there shall be wailing and gnawing of blue pencils) to know that this job is not completed.  Heck, it’s not even really started.  There will be discussion of this list at both According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club.  Come and be heard, and let the discussion begin.

You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy.  Sometimes we just need a good read.  If it doesn’t have a big idea but is enjoyable, it’s still a worthy endeavor.

You are allowed to write as much as you wish.  In the new limitless market we see no reason to artificially restrict your output.  Anyone who thinks quality depends on how long something took to write has never known either professional writers or struggling middle-graders.

You are allowed to write first person.  You are also allowed to write second person, third person, and in persons yet to be invented.  As long as your work is entertaining, we hold you harmless in matters relating to verbal malfeasance.

If your world building holds internal consistency, at least according to the buying public, anyone objecting because it doesn’t conform to his or her idea of a future shall be pelted with soft boiled eggs and wear the yolk of shame.

Your objective is to sell books.  Writing is communication.  Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible.  Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while.  Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.

You can write male heros.  You can write female heros.  You can write alien heros.  You can write human heros.  You can write western heros.  You can write non-western heros.  You can write squirrel-heros (but you have to know you’re weird.)  You can write it in a boat, you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?) You can write it in a moat (but it will probably drip) and you can write it on a stoat.

You can have a happy ever after.  You can have a happy for a while.  You can have a fleeting happy.  It’s your happy and you can have it if you want to.

You can write action and plot oriented books.  (Who will stop you?  You’ve researched fighting techniques, right?)

You can write sex.  Or not.  It all depends what fits the plot.  You can even write sex with a robot.

You can write politics.  You can write them from the right, from the left, from the middle, the top, the bottom or everywhere at once.  Just remember to make them fit the plot.  And remember not to infodump.

So do we have no principles?  No guidelines?

Oh, it’s guidelines you want, then?  Well, I was manifesting.  But fine.  I’ll throw out a few simple rules:

1 – Your writing should be entertaining.  If you’re writing for the awards and the literary recognition, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. (Does the other crowd have a tiny racoon in a kilt?  Or even a quilt?  Think!)

2 – Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice  or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.

3 – Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless.  It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups.  Fiction is not agit prop.

4- Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message.  You can, of course, have a message.  But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel.  If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.

5 – You shall not commit grey goo.  Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining.  (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment.  Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)

6 – Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story.  By this we don’t mean it will have a happy ending or that we expect pollyanish sentiments out of you.  Your novel and setting can be as dystopic as you want it.  In fact, your character can die at the end.  Just make sure he goes down fighting and dies for something, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

7 – You will write in language that can be understood.  You will have an idea of what your story is about, or at least of its beginning, middle and end.  And so will your reader, once he reads it.

8 – You are allowed to write scientific speculation that counters “currently established fact” – just give us a reason why that makes sense in your universe.  (For some universes it can be highly whimsical, for others you’ll need serious handwavium.)

9 – You will not be boring.  Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring.

10 – You shall not spend your life explaining why your not-boring is better than your fellow writers not-boring.  Instead you will shut up and write.

Comments, suggestions, goats?  Stoats?  Oranges?  Peanuts?  Lightly thrown chickens?  (What? I find thrown chickens humorous.  No, I don’t know why.  Oh, please, I’m a writer.  Like I have the money for a psychiatrist.)

86 responses to “What is Human Wave Science Fiction

  1. I’m in. And I think I have coffee. Er, comments. But FIRST: coffee.

    M

  2. ppaulshoward

    11 Thou shall not post excuses for not writing.

  3. masgramondou

    Let me have a go at them rules
    1) Remember that you are competing with beer money and time they could be spending with friends. Your product shall be at least as entertaining as the alternatives.
    2) There shall be characters that many people can empathise with and plots that result in said characters doing meaningful things leading so some kind of satisfying conclusion.
    3) If there is a message, and particularly if said message has to do with contemporary politics, then it should be part of the background. On the other hand timeless concepts such as “honour” and “responsibility” may be used without embarrassment
    4) There is no rule 4
    5) Naaaaah poofters* whining**
    6) Sacred cows can make good BBQ steak if properly killed.

    It could even be summarised. Try to make it fun, satisfying and not have a “sell-by” date.

    *Sorry wrong list
    ** OK some whining if it makes sense for the plot but not the entire story

    • And, rule five with the implied struck through word takes down about 1/3 of my output, if you count secondary characters and possibly my best work to date for main characters. (And don’t ask why. Like I have a say in what I write. Geesh. And I’ve told you I can’t afford a psychiatrist!) Yes, I know that’s not what you meant, but all the same and not being a nuisance er… the crossed out word might perhaps be best replaced with the more descriptive “sissies.” Used as in “Aging isn’t for sissies.” I’m not demanding political correctness, but it confuses the issue and the last thing we can afford is to either alienate people whot never done us no harm and/or to give the other side ammunition with which to pillory us as unrefined, uncouth, the scum of the Earth and prejudiced troglodytes. All of which doubtless we are, with perhaps the exception of “prejudiced” unless the prejudice is against written dreck.
      This comment is way too convoluted. Forgive my uncaffeinated — soon to be remedied — state and the unwonted fact of finding myself defending a minor point that some might consider political correctness, considering I despise the walling off of words and the right not to be offended that some people claim — both — a blight upon the world and rational discourse. Let’s consider it instead a minor point of editing, and say I’d prefer to use lightening and not the lightening bug.
      Yrs Sincerely, ever,
      Sarah A. Hoyt, Gender Traitor, gadfly, iconoclast and ideological arsonist, running dog of American intellectual imperialism, etc, etc,

      • masgramondou

        Sarah – I’m sorry.
        It was meant to be a joke – derived from the Monty Python Bruce sketch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA

        (and er now that I listen to it again I see that it is rule 6 that “there is no rule 6″ oh well)

        • No, Francis, I knew there was no personal bigotry. I know you. It was just to prevent my friends who read this blog from flinching from it and wondering. Nothing more.

        • Yes, you must be careful. Watch what you say, you can’t even joke or imply that being a poof is a bad thing.

          There are camps already set up. You don’t want to be sent to one, do you?

          Remember, some speech is more free than others.
          Sigh. What have we come to?

          • No. But it is stupid to exclude people for things that have nothing to do with writing SF and making it fun, which is the OBJECTIVE of this group — not some sort of morality committee. You can have your own opinion and I don’t think you’re a bad person for it. I don’t agree with you, but I don’t agree with tons of people.
            To put this exchange in context, though, I KNOW Francis, and I know what he meant to imply and not. So, I knew it was an infelicitous choice of words — or an infelicitous allusion, as it turned out.

            • Sadly, there are indeed words which can no longer be employed because their use sets off too many alarms and trips the circuit breaker on thought. Poofter is (almost) one of those words; its American equivalent, faggot, is certainly one such word, outcast, unclean, treif, verboten and generally unacceptable. It does not matter if the character so described is as straight as Magic Johnson (#14 on the all-time ranking [ http://www.1up.com/boards/posts/list/35541.page ] but the best name on the list) the f-word has become so poisonously associated with anti-gay slurs that readers can be relied upon to misinterpret, misconstrue, misperceive, misrepresent and mistake the author’s intent.

              Personally, I think it a cryin’ shame to see useful words forced on the unemployment roles, but it ain’t my world and I don’t have to fight on every battlefield.

          • It has saddened me to think that one of the few cause books that we were assigned by a forward thinking English teacher that I actually kinda enjoyed can no longer even be named.

            Also, we have lost one of the running jokes, and an anti-racisist one at that, in Blazing Saddles. It is particularly bad when they beep it out while Cleavon Little is holding the gun to his head…

  4. Paula Handley (aka Mystik Waboose)

    I personally have issues with your comment on # 5. “grey goo” will not make me throw a book across the room, it merely gets the book tossed in the “to donate” box.
    For me, “book flinging” comes about from an extreme emotional response to the story (such as killing off a character I’m very fond of). To that extent, if I throw one of your books across the room, it’s a compliment.

  5. Okay, who let the copyeditor in? Rent his robes and throw him to outer darkness, where there shall be wailing and gnawing of blue pencils

    “Rend”.

  6. So, okay, here’s a thought I’ve been thinking for quite a while: fiction, by its nature, brings a reading into a special, receptive, altered state. “Epics”, according to CS Lewis, Orson Scott Card, and, well, me, exist at their core to use that receptive state to shape the reader’s better nature by causing them to grow with the hero. I’d even say to grok with the hero.

    So here’s another Commandment, or rather Allowment: Thou mayest appeal to the readers good parts.

  7. Maybe he DOES rent his robes. But if he also rends them, he has to buy them.

  8. Wow, sign me up! I’ve never been associated with a literary movement, unless reading in the can counts.

  9. You can write squirrel-heros (but you have to know you’re weird.)

    ‘Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.’

  10. As a writing question, I’m writing a start of a somewhat haphazard relationship between two highly intelligent people, both of whom are rather nice (relatively speaking) for the setting, though one defintely more than the other. The guy was a Class-A jerk with an justifed ego matching James T Kirk (but not as much ofa spotlight hogger) and is trying to help his paramour out of a bad situation. She’s a brilliant scientist type, if reserved. They kinda klicked through his previous assistance, but both are generally clueless about dating and relationships (for entirely different reasons).

    I’m debating playing it for humor value or straight or a combination as such

  11. I’m in. In fact, the piece I’m working on right now fits the bill nicely (“Flight of the Vajra” — http://genjipress.com/vajra

    I’ll be posting my own response/expansion on my blog in a bit.

  12. adventuresfantastic

    Hmm…Some of these points sound like things I’ve said in rants and reviews on my blogs. Great minds think alike. Oh, and count me in. SF/F is overdue for this type of movement.

  13. “Human Wave Science Fiction” does conjure up the image of whole brigades of writers, surging over the lifeless bodies of their comrades into the Flatiron Building.

  14. Why do I flash to Monty Pythons Film Short “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” when I read this?

  15. How many years have I been waiting for this?! I am too entranced to think straight, my brain is going “Ooo, pretty, pretty, love this.”

    I’ve always wanted a “How you’ll feel at the end of the book” meter – so I could be assured of not getting anything below bittersweet. A big banner declaring that the author lives by these principles could fulfill the same function.

    • Nice to see others also calling out for a change. The more voices calling out for it, the more chance we have to seeing a shift towards a balance of work available.

      Interesting anthology idea, for hard fiction. As for me, I do like a mix of both hard and soft. Who knows? Supposed ‘soft science”/magical things like hyperdrives might come into existence because the new generation refused to allow the speed of light barrier to limit them. It’s all about the possibilities and showing the reader ‘the wonder’ of it all, and inspiring them.

    • “Git ‘er dun…”

  16. You know, thanks to Witchfinder I’ve been reading this site for several months now and the more I read the more my desire to write again grows. The last time I tried to really write, though, my inner editor sneakily bludgeoned my inner writer with a frying pan and then shackled him in the basement . (You know, pour encourager les autres and all that.) I thought he had really learned his lesson that time, too, but I suppose that lurking around a writer’s blog would inevitably spring him sooner or later. So now here he is babbling on about how he’d like to take some version of a Kurzweilian utopia, chain it to the back of the pickup truck and go out mud-bogging with it. He says by the time he’s done with it it’ll be much more human and a ton of fun…

    • What? You expect me to discourage you? Oh, please. If I could stand up to the writing whispers in the night, I’d have given up this gig long ago. However, I think you should chain your inner editor FIRST — it’s okay, they like it. They are total masochists. No. Seriously — and let your writer have fun. When you’re all done, let your editor have at it, but caution him first. Any general snark to the extent that “this is just total crap, junk it.” and he’ll be found with his throat cut in a back alleyway. His job is to make the work BETTER, not to junk it or to put you down. Then go, have at it. ;)

  17. Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.
    Groucho Marx

    • well, I like Ric’s — someone has to win, but I’d also like something like “something has to happen” and perhaps “Absolutely no human hatred.” I mean, Avatar went big enough. It doesn’t need US.

  18. Putting people back in SF? And…not JUST Soylent-Green style? I’m in :)

  19. The first thing I did this morning was go to your website to see if you posted the manifesto. Almost spilled the tea from laughing so many times (SQUIRREL!)

    The sad thing is, so many parts of the manifesto are the old author/reader contract (I have a copy of it on my blog: http://jamarlow.com/2011/07/the-authorreader-contract/ ). You know, the parts about “Making it matter” and “the Reader will be entertained.”

    Such simple things, the basics of writing, and yet Science Fiction has strayed so far in so many cases. Really sad. No wonder it’s been hemorrhaging readers over so many years.

    By the way, I’m so IN. I’m currently revising a Salmon Run book. Aliens in Alaska, and it’s not horror. I was criticized once that it wasn’t dark enough. Somehow aliens=dark. I’m still confused how that works. O.o

    I don’t want dark! This is placed in the wilds of Alaska. You know, a place where people have guns and know how to use them (specifically against any uppity moose or bears who decide to cause trouble). One could say the aliens wouldn’t stand a chance if they tried to make trouble. :P

    I’m now off to go offending more sensibilities by writing a *fun* story. Gasp! Shock! Infidel!

    • I was criticized once that it wasn’t dark enough.

      Maybe they were guilty of a small spelling error, common in dexlysics, and meant “dork”? SF should be dork.

      OTOH, if you want “dark” read it through slitted eyes. Most of us prefer reading our SF with our eyes wide open to lett all the wonder in.

    • I have also been criticized for not writing “dark” enough. I have so many stories that are downright silly, that I’ve just tucked away. After hearing all the “not dark enough/not serious enough” crap, I thought no one could possibly want to read them. These posts and comments have encouraged me to drag the extremely silly furry alien stories out from under my bed, dust them off, and shove them out onto the front lawn to be freely giggled at.

      So, a great big THANK YOU to you all! \(^o^)/

      • let me point out that my stories that sell best are the silly, goofy and/or uplifting ones. Things like Magician’s Throne, which is a glimpse into a funny universe where magicians are addicted to caffeine. Or With Unconfined Wings (Nuuuuuns in Spaaaaaace) seem to sell better than anything else I have.

      • I agree with Sarah. Get them out there. We need more of them. As a reader, I love to read them. As a writer, I’ve found the stories with a touch of whimsy, humor, or downright funny, sell well.

        If someone wants “dark or serious”, there is more than enough out there for them. They are not the intended audience for the more light-hearted story, so any such comments should be filtered by keeping that in mind.

        Ignore the comments. Get them out there! (um, please? :D )

        • Where on Earth would editors get the idea there’s no market for humour in SF??? Last I saw it wasn’t hurting John Ringo’s sales. Satire and whimsey have long been extremely popular elements of SF, as demonstrated by the success of Henry Kuttner, William Tenn, Robert Sheckley and even Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series.

        • I pulled a couple of them out last night! They need a little cosmetic work, but the bones are good. I shall have them out ASAP! (^-^)

          • Keep in mind, as you rework them, that two of the least popular episodes from the original Star Trek are Shore Leave and The Trouble With Tribbles.

            • The Tribbles episode was least popular? I always heard it was one of the most popular, but perhaps it was only the most famous. My fuzzy aliens are quite anthropomorphic. They are main characters rather than plot devices or supporting characters, and the humor arises from their personalities, as well as from their relationships with one another and with other species. I guess I won’t know how folks will like them until I put them out. The readers of my old forums liked them a lot, but who knows what the general SF-reading public will think of them. I can only hope they will go over fairly well. (^-^)

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  21. I think this is the kind of stuff I’ve been writing. It’s what my short fiction has been and as I start moving out of short fiction into novels, it’s pretty much what I’m writing.

    So on the principle that every little bit helps (and I am a very little bit indeed), count me in.

  22. callanprimer

    Okay, I know I’m late to the game, but every revolution needs a rearguard. Here, let me lob one more pet peeve at the baying forces of convention:

    Thou shalt be permitted to loot any culture you want for your stories and treat them with all the irreverence and casualness you chose. Only the readers shall be the judge of whether it works.

    (In reference to the number of times I’ve been lectured on the importance of dealing with certain cultures and sub-cultures with museum-quality reverence and accuracy.)

    • Hear, hear! What have Human writers to draw upon for designing our fictional cultures but our own huge variety of cultures? No matter how strange or alien a designed culture might seem to us, some people, somewhere, are going to have a similar tradition, attitude, or way of living. Or it will be found in some degree in animals or insects. I am guilty of cultural cherrypicking, and I see nothing wrong with that. It’s FICTION, after all, not an anthology textbook.

  23. Since I can’t find the comment box to comment on the previous post:

    I did find a link to the article I mentioned: Barbarian Confessions by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0612/thoughtexperiments.shtml

    I thought it would be a good addition to the conversation, showing one more author who has had the same thoughts in the past. The more of us there are, the better!

  24. Sarah,

    What you are talking about here is precisely the reason why I have pretty much given up on any publisher but Baen and a few reliable authors. Two particular books that I took a chance on that represent the epitome of the modern anti-humanism are “Wool” (part 1) and “How the Survive in a Science Fiction Universe” what utter pretentious crap.

    Give me Heinlein, Turledove (or Turtletaub), or Bujold any day. The New Wave writers of the 60’s followed bold new directions but their later work and heirs (I’m looking at you Margaret Atwood) are just plain awful. I think that you can successfully incorporate liberal thought and themes and make a good story Orson Scott Card and Christopher Moore come to mind so it can be done well and in a non-annoying fashion. But with so much of this stuff (almost exclusively left wing) it seems that we are seeing folks write just to produce a reductio in absurdia (sp?) future where the EEEE-vil republicans destroy the world. The most recent major author I’ve seen commit this “crime” is Haldeman in the “Accidental Time Machine.”

    Good grief! enough of this rambling! I’m with you on this Sarah.

    PS more tales of the George Diner please.

    PPS is the George located on the site of the White Spot diner on Colfax just west of the CBD in Denver near Metro State?

  25. We should also en-list some critics and reviewers. I know some reviewers but not much about critics in their native habitat.

    In my personal opinion critics should be treated the way they were in Heinlein’s Number of the Beast.

    Wayne