Why Write: Science Fiction with Sarah Paige Berling

sarah paige berlingReaders, welcome Sarah Paige Berling! She writes speculative fiction of all stripes, but she’s here today to talk about sci-fi. She also says some great things about science and how sci-fi affects the world, so check it out!

Hello, Sarah, and welcome!
Thank you for having me, Kristin!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Well, primarily I write speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Recently, I’ve delved into contemporary fiction, but my first love was science fiction. I started reading science fiction in the fifth grade with the Animorphs series and just went from there. I have just finished my contemporary fiction novel and now I’m working on editing my sci-fi/horror novel called Forgive Me If I Sleep, which is a post-apocalyptic tale, similar to World War Z and The Road.

What made you decide to write science fiction?
I have a lot of science in my background. I spent four years studying meteorology and geology, before finally realizing that my true love was creative writing. But because I spent so much time with the physics, math, and chemistry part of college, science remains a fascination of mine.

My favorite sci-fi author, and the one whom I respect the most, is Dan Simmons, who frequently combines hard science fiction with classic literature. My favorite stories of his are his two most recent novels, Ilium and Olympos, which chronicle hard science fiction mixed with Homer, Proust, and Shakespeare. And I believe it takes place in the same universe as his Hyperion Cantos, which makes the story that much more intriguing. I really aim to emulate him. He’s amazing.

What types of stories does science fiction make possible?
Science fiction shows how the world COULD be, if we could just work towards getting our butts in gear and focus on science and space exploration. I had an argument with an acquaintance once, because he believed NASA was obsolete. “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.” That was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. I explained to him that there was no way humanity could remain on Earth forever, and that we needed to explore space if we were going to survive as a species. And I honestly believe that to be true. We need to leave our cradle and work towards becoming self-sufficient adults – in this case, exploring new planets and expanding our civilizations.

What audience do you think sci-fi attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Science fiction attracts all types. My sister, who was an opera major in college, has read science fiction, but so has my husband, who is your quintessential nerd. It really depends on the person, I suppose.

I try to write stories aimed at the more scientific aspect of the sci-fi culture. I have a couple of stories in mind revolving around meteorology, one sci-fi and one contemporary fiction. Write what you know, but write what you don’t know about what you know, and also, write about what you’re passionate about. Lots of rules for writing, but those three stick out in my head most of all.

How does science fiction affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

If we work the science correctly, it leaves the audience guessing: how will they get out of this bind? The majority of your sci-fi audience does not have a PhD in theoretical physics, so you can get away with more, if you need to. But because the majority of your audience doesn’t have a whole lot of science background, the story changes from science to magic.

The characters, for the most part, are aware of the scientific limitations of their world. The audience is not, not entirely.

Why do you think people love to read sci-fi? How do you think the genre at large affects its audience?
Science fiction is definitely an escapist form of literature – and that’s okay. It leads to alternate worlds, and sometimes, that’s just what you need.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
My favorite genre to read is “books.” I will read most anything. My list so far this year has included “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, and “The Hyperion Cantos” by Dan Simmons.

Where can readers track you down?
My blogs are http://sarahpaigeberling.com and http://paigejohnsson.com
My facebook is http://www.facebook.com/sarahpaigeberling
and you can follow me on twitter at
@sarahpberling
@paigejohnsson

Thanks for stopping by!

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