Storytelling is what writers do. We create a story, an adventure, that provides a distraction or an alternative to the banal everyday world. It provides a sense of fun and adventure and meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe. It’s a joyous and creative pastime, both for the one who creates and the one who experiences it (and anyway the act of creating a story is also the act of experiencing it).
There has always been storytelling, although in ancient times it was called myth and legend. The same principle of myth-creation and legend-making is behind modern storytelling. Religion and ideology are also a types of storytelling narrative, only they are believed to be true (just as myths and legends were in bygone centuries)
If science gives us objective, verifiable empirical facts, the world logic, then myths and stories gives us meaning, the imaginal world. Just as there is an empirical universe, so there is an “inner” universe that is just as real and just as “objective” (or universally subjective). This is the imaginal world, which also brings us to esotericism and metaphysics. I have written more on this subject in my essay Mythopoesis and the Modern World (pdf)
Science fiction as a storytelling genre
Science fiction / scifi – especially space opera scifi – is my favourite genre of storytelling because of the scope it gives to the imagination. If I was less tech and science orientated I’d write Fantasy, but being tech and science orientated I write science fiction. But both are equally suited to the articulation of the imaginal world.
Science fiction can be classified in a sliding scale from pure fantasy (but replacing magical tropes like dragons with technological ones like spaceships) to hard SF using realistic and plausible technology.
Currently I have two worldbuilding and creative writing projects going. The original Alcioneverse is a science fantasy setting, more realistic than Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy, but rather less realistic than hard SF. It could be described as Hard Science Fantasy, as opposed to Hard Science Fiction, because it includes fantastical elements like those of China Mieville and Neil Gaimon, as part of an FTL interstellar adventure.
The HardSF rebooted universe is much closer to the Orion’s Arm transhumanist worldbuilding project, only more space punk in tone, and only a bit less realistic than writers like Kim Stanley Robinson, Stephen Baxter, Robert Forward, or Greg Egan. Being STL it takes much longer to travel between the stars, and there is always the fear of unexpected transcension and memetic subversion.
The elements of storytelling
As I see it, every good, or epic, story, has at least four elements: Plot, Narrative, Character-development, and (in the case of science fiction and fantasy) Worldbuilding (of course you could add more).
Plot is the overall structure of the story. Whether it’s Aristotle’s guidelines on plot (poetics, mythos) or Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the plot is the overall framework on which the rest of the story hangs. It’s been said that in the world of writing there’s plotters and pantsers, I’m a pantser (write by the seat of my pants). But it’s not that plotters are better than pantsers, or vice versa. And even in pantser stories, plots emerge in the end.
Narrative‘s the actual detail of the story. Characters are the actors upon the stage. And worldbuilding is the details of the universe the characters inhabit. In adventure, thriller, romance, crime, etc there isn’t any worldbuilding apart from plot, narrative and character details because the story is set in this world. But science fiction and fantasy genres are defined by worldbuilding. The more realistic the created world or universe feels, the more satisfying and believable the story.
- Character development
- Speculative Fiction
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy genre
- Science Fiction and the Imaginal World
- Sliding Scale of Fluff to Bleakness
- Sliding Scale of Science Hardness
- Paraspacers (aka Freehauler Alcione – The Alcioneverse)
- Starsiders (Hard SF Spacepunk)
- Influences – FAQs – Links