Thank you Frances for inviting me to be a guest here on your blog!
Recently I joined a discussion about the science in sci-fi; as in how much sci there should be in the fi. A complaint in the discussion was that romance was taking over the science fiction genre' to the detriment of the science factor in novels. The second was that the technology/science factor was diluted by authors who toss in a fancy named spaceship and a few tech tricks. I passed it off with a joke but it did make me think about my writing and most importantly, am I doing that with my technology and why?
I think that author hit upon one big challenge for sci-fi authors today. I mean masters like Ray Bradbury rarely if ever laid a romantic plot or even a subplot. But I believe the genre' may be changing in terms of popularity expansion and personally I hope so. It would be great to see readers try out a genre' that they might otherwise pass by. And if any genre' is going to do it, its romance. Hate it or love it romance is the biggest selling genre' at this time and I think it's going expand the number of female sci-fi authors even more than it has done. Not all of my novels have a romantic line running through it. Isadora DayStar has virtually no romance but it does have intense themes that sometimes are bigger than the technology and the world where she lives, not to mention her massively conflicted personality that fuels the plot.
Now, I know a little about world building. I know the complexity of creating a varied and realistic society I know the comprehensiveness of placing any invasive or key technology subject (i.e. environmental destruction or threat, alien plagues) into that society and the requisite reactions (panic, determination, despair). I also know how to create a high speed plot along with super complex heroes/heroines and anti-heroes/heroines. Therein lays my challenge: how to balance out the technology with the plot. While I'm no physicist I can understand some scientific theory and make up a few tech tricks of my own (the foam sedative sprayed on unruly or dangerous crowds—without negative side effects—in Final Deceit, Future Imperfect trilogy.) But how much of that technology should be explained when your plot includes heroes trapped under tons upon tons of rubble, an alien tracking them down there a murderous secondary character and the Chief of Police above ground fighting tooth and nail against the Mayor to find and save his detectives in time? Stopping to expound on what exactly the chemical compound is in the foam spray trips up your plot and takes the reader out of the story, in my opinion, not a good thing especially if you're on a roll! I know a tiny bit about medicines and their administration and could probably make a realistic guess on what medicines could be administered in a foam—but I'd rather explain it later when there is a lull in the pace or via dialogue, even in the epilogue if necessary.
Believe me, I'd love to have the luxury of creating a hugely and wonderfully varied and complex world with various races and creatures and laws and transport (a fair amount of it is in Isadora DayStar). But I don't. I write the way I write and I write tight and concisely. That detailed world would also help me with word count in a tremendous way trust me, lol!
So what to do? Capturing the essence of the world setting works for me and I'm sure other authors could and would argue that point successfully. Another issue for me is working on the theme I mentioned and a complex, damaged, guilt ridden character such as Isadora—the character has to engage with the reader.
Taking all of that into account, the high wire tech versus character/plot balancing act is still something sci-fi authors have to maintain to create a viable story that keeps the reader engrossed and gives the world in which the character lives enough detail and exposition for the reader to envision it. It's the movie in your head that you're trying to put on the screen of your readers' minds; to make them see it as it happens. And, to make them believe it's happening in their suspended disbelief.
I think the balancing is the challenge that is also a joy to the sci-fi author. We love that tech science, that military (for me anyway) setting with the newest toys for destruction and advancement, that souped up environment that's so…futuristic. It's not only cool to write, it's also cool to look at as well.
When I first seriously returned to writing, I referred to my genre' as "near-future." I wasn't satisfied with that so I began calling it "futuristic thriller." That didn't work either because not all my work is crime thrillers. Then I called it sci-fi adventure. That kind of worked. After that, I tried to call it spec fiction. Hated that one; sounds silly to me. Hmm. Perhaps sci-fi
Facebook.com: P.I. Barrington and/or P.i.Barrington
TheWriterLimits blog: http://thewriterlimitsauthors.
March 31 (Announcement and kickoff with a book spotlight/giveaway/review) http://closeencounterswiththenightkind.blogspot.com/2012/03/giveaway-book-tour-kickoff-with-pi.html
April 1 Guest Post on http://francespauli.blogspot.
April 3 Guest Post/Giveaway on http://ismellsheep.blogspot.
April 4 Book spotlight/giveaway on http://sweetsouthernhome.
April 5 Guest Post/Review on http://beauty-in-ruins.
April 6 Review/Giveaway (2 copies) www.readingreality.net
April 9 review/giveaway on http://noraweston.wordpress.
April 11 Guest Post on http://livetoread-krystal.
April 14 Interview on http://amdase.blogspot.com
Best of luck! This looks like a great read. :)