As an editor, I have to be a generalist. I’ll read your romance, literary, historical, or conceptually impossible to categorize writing and offer you my expert opinion on it. I read a lot. I like good writing, regardless of its genre. But I do have a particular love for science fiction.
First, we need to define our terms. Science fiction is fiction that uses some aspect of science, be it speculative technology or new understandings of the universe or an interpretation of the implications of science, to shape the plot, the setting, and the natures of the characters. It doesn’t have to occur in outer space. Jules Verne, one of the creators of the modern genre, set Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea on a submarine here in Earth’s oceans.
Of course, space is a common setting, as in A Draft of Moonlight, if I may shamelessly promote one of my own works.
But what is the essence of it, beyond just the science?
Science fiction is about what human beings can do. It shares this characteristic with sports stories, mountain climbing stories, and any other work about people struggling to survive and thrive. One of the things that appeals to me about Star Trek (the real thing, not J.J. Abrams’s abominations) is seeing human beings out there in the final frontier. We’re still human while we explore the galaxy. And yes, as James Kirk said, everyone’s human. The point is that we will remain who we are, even as we go beyond our homeworld.
Tied to that previous idea is the one of what can be done in terms of natural law. It offends me that we can’t go faster than light. Surely there must be a way to get around Einstein’s discoveries, no matter how fine a fro the man had.
Science fiction lets us explore ideas in advance of experimentation. Arthur C. Clarke, for example, thought up communication satellites years before those were possible in the real world. We can work out the rules of some new world or look for what might happen if only this law or that theory could be reinterpreted.
In line with that, we can also see where dangers lie. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park came out long before the Human Genome Project and before anyone was sure how to go about sequencing DNA. As always, he took the science extant at the time of writing and pushed the limits of possibility to see what could go wrong. Another book, 1984, while more speculative than science fiction, is sounding more and more every day like a political textbook rather than a work of fiction.
Science fiction–and speculative fiction generally–lets us see who we are, free of some of the constraints that we currently face. It asks, What if? That kind of writing does us good.
But as I said, I’ll read your work no matter what your genre. In any case, keep reading, keep writing, and keep submitting.