Karen Joy Fowler, author of five novels and two short story collections. Her short story collection, Black Glass, won The World Fantasy Award. Fowler spent over an hour sharing her wisdom about what makes good sci fi/fantasy.
According to Fowler, many students haven’t read much contemporary sci fi or fantasy, so that when they go to write it, they rely on old tropes and standards to tell their stories.
Fowler is clear that when writing fantasy and science fiction for our contemporary world, it is important, first and foremost, to write good fiction. All standards of fiction writing need to be applied to genre fiction. Genre writers need to be able to do it all: plot, character development, setting, scene, symbolism, as well as create an original new world.
Karen Joy Fowler is very interested in fantasy and sci fi as explored through the short story. She offered several places to read quality work of this variety including: “Eclipse,” an anthology out of Australia, “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazines, Best Of collections (but she warns, these publications can be agenda driven), “Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,” Tor.com, and “Turkey City Lexicon,” which discusses in length the pitfalls to avoid when writing sci fi/fantasy.
Fowler says, fantasy and sci fi do nothing but discuss contemporary issues. Fantasy is a stronger vehicle than ‘realism’ to portray “reality” because the real world is becoming more and more bizarre every day.
Fantasy and science fiction are genres of setting, first and foremost, Fowler asserts. Karen Joy Fowler offered more advice for those of us who work in these genres. When creating ‘evil people,’ keep in mind that most people who do bad things think they are doing something good. Do not promote stereotypes and prejudice. And, possibly most importantly, Fowler urges us to be creative. The future of fantasy and science fiction needs more imagination and fewer world-weary immortals.