Why do people write science fiction?

Last weekend I sat in on a discussion with Malcolm Edwards and David G. Hartwell about science fiction, publishing and editing. It’ll form the basis of an upcoming episode of the Coode Street Podcast, and I strongly recommend it. We can give too much attention to the aging white male demographic in SF, but these two men really have achieved remarkable things and lived through fascinating times. The editors of The Shadow of the Torturer, Mythago Wood, Empire of the Sun, Neuromancer, and many, many more: iconic books that evoke worlds when you hear their titles mentioned.

During the discussion, Malcolm and David touch on how difficult it can be for a writer to make their living from writing SF in 2013. David mentions that for a long period of time there were possibly five people in the field making a full-time living from writing SF, and that we may be returning to those days. Publishing is sufficiently complex that I don’t know if that will prove to be true or not, but I was struck by David’s comment that at one time writing SF was a holy mission, a passion that drove writers, almost regardless of economic benefits (or the lack thereof). And I wondered, is that still true for writers today? I think it is, I suspect it is, and I bet I could point to a number of writers for whom I believe it is true, but I think I want to find out. I’m considering doing a new limited series of short interviews/podcasts to ask that very question: why do you write SF and do you feel a burning passion to do so? I think the answers would be fascinating…


3 thoughts on “Why do people write science fiction?”

  1. I walked away from a decade in banking because the money (which was great) wasn’t enough. I wanted more, but didn’t know what. Then I sold a small internet services business because it wasn’t enough to satisfy some undefined need. Now I’m writing science fiction, and I know what I was missing in previous careers. I write because of the joy of exploring the ‘what if’ and discovering the story as I write it. If I can’t get it to pay, I won’t write in any other genre. I couldn’t write something I didn’t care about, just because the market demand was there. It’s SF or bust. It may not be the only mind expanding drug, but it’s one of very few.

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