Today (16 December) would have been the birthday of prolific science-fiction author, Philip K. Dick.
Born in America, he wrote a total of 44 published novels and approximately 121 short stories. Much of his work has been adapted for screen, including his 1968 book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The book was transformed into Blade Runner in 1982, starring leading actor of the time, Harrison Ford, as the main character. This particular work features in the latter levels of the Kumon Recommended Reading List, therefore, in honour of his life, works, and birthday, we’ve shared some ‘golden rules’ to get you started on your own sci-fi book!
Before we delve into the sci-fi rulebook, we thought we’d go back to basics quickly to clarify what exactly science fiction is.
The genre title provides a pretty straightforward explanation: fiction about science. The science might be made up, or it could be based upon existing political science, psychology, sociology, electronics, etc. What unites all good science-fiction works is a central “what if..?” question that explores all elements of the science. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? asks “What if androids had the capacity to feel the same emotions as the human race?” This book then explores what we consider to be emotions, and what rules dictate who is a human and who is not.
Golden rule 1: Know the premise of your book
Before you start writing you should ask yourself the following questions: “What is the purpose of my sci-fi world?” ,“What am I going to talk about?” Use the science you want to focus on as an approach, and use the world you create in your work as a case study to answer the question you pose in the book.
Decide on your question and answer. Your question could be “What if animals had evolved at the same rate as humans?” and your answer could be “The hierarchy in society would change and humans would be at the bottom of the pecking order”. Use your question and answer to build your fictional world and characters.
Golden rule 2: Do your research
Attention to detail is the key to a successful science-fiction book; it’s the intricate details you include that makes the world you create feel real, and they support your question and answer. The more research you do, the more ideas you’ll have. No matter how peculiar your characters and their world are, the details you include will help to sell them to your audience.
Golden rule 3: Don’t be afraid of the new
Once you’ve created your question, found your answer, and researched your chosen science, it’s time to put pen to paper! It’s essential to ask yourself what’s new about your story; it could be the world you’re building, your position in time, or even your own voice. It may be the case that every story has already been told, however, there is always a new way to examine society, past, present, and future.
So there you have it: the three ‘golden rules’ for writing a sci-fi book! If you need some inspiration to get you started, we would suggest picking up a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and exploring Philip K. Dick’s futuristic world where androids hide amongst humans.
Happy birthday Philip K. Dick!