Fiction Reviews


Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

(2001) Lisa Tuttle, A&C Black, 9.99, pbk, 167pp, ISBN 0-7136-5853-3

This is one of a series of "writing handbooks" from the publishers, of which there are at least 18 more, plus more on other aspects of writing and publishing. Lisa is an award-winning author who has taught a course in SF literature at the City Literary Institute (London University) and has tutored on the Arvon (writer's workshop) courses. She presents here 11 useful chapters on such aspects as Ideas and Archetypes, World-Building, Language: Viewpoint and Style, Rewriting, Writing for Children, and others. To the seasoned reader (and writer) some of the stuff here may be obvious but, to some extent, this book is aimed at the less well informed and, further, it is certainly true that many aspects of SF and Fantasy are peculiar to those genres alone. For instance, one cannot overlook the importance of the 'world' in which the action is taking place - in the mainstream world the backdrop is (often, though not always) taken for granted, and in westerns and historical novels, though there is an onus on the writer to get the details right, the world is rarely important in its own right. By contrast, in SF and Fantasy the world takes on the status of a character in and of itself. While informative and useful this is not a 'recipe book' for writing SF; as Lisa points out, writing in these genres, is not merely a matter of assembling ingredients. However, this guide does point the potential writer in the direction of many of the critical points that they will have to consider and, most crucially, cautions against writing in these genres if you do not have any love or respect for them - many mainstream authors have tried to dabble in SF and Fantasy, and the vast majority produce nothing worth reading (there are, of course, notable exceptions). This is a very good guide for the beginner and should be sought out by those who are drawn to write in these areas.

Tony Chester


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