I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the fundamental differences between them.
- What is your take on the future of Science Fiction/Fantasy in general? Do you see it expanding and vibrant, or derivative and stale?
I think Science Fiction and Fantasy are very different genres, for all that they have links with each other. Science Fiction has a tendency to feed off the fears and hopes of a society for its future. Fantasy has more of a backward look to it, rather than the forward-looking Science Fiction. A lot of Fantasy has a basis in medieval times and extrapolates the myths and legends of those times. In those ways they are both derivative and predictable. That doesn’t mean they’re stale.
Writers, like everyone else in the world, are creatures of the society they live in. That society with all its contrasts, change and predictability, hopes, wishes, tragedies and triumphs, influence those people and the stories they write. You only need to take one topic, for example technology, to take your stories into different directions and keep them vibrant.
The best SF/F stories do that: they take a comfortable trope and add an element that’s unusual, that no one else has thought of before or no one else has done exactly the same way before. That’s what keeps those genres alive. They offer comfort with a twist.
- What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?
The adventure, the unknown, the constant discovery and danger of it. The fact that the good guys always win—eventually. I always had fantasies of living an adventurous life, of travelling the world and conquering… things. Instead, I had a lot of responsibility at a fairly young age and chose to do my best by the people relying on me, the people I loved. To be honest, I’m a timid creature too, so the adventure probably would have been short-lived, and the therapy afterwards would have stretched for decades!
At first, reading provided the adventure I needed, but after a while even that wasn’t enough. My mind was filled with all the could-have-beens a person could dream up and I decided to write them down. Warrior Pledge is the result of one of those thoughts on what-might-be-possible-in-another-world.
- How do you decide the characters' names in your book? Are there specific conventions you follow for each world?
Names are difficult. They say such a lot about a person, their personality and their potential. It’s the same with books. I put almost as much effort into choosing my main characters names as I would in choosing a name for a child. I make lists, complete with meanings. I sift through them and experiment with spelling. Spelling is particularly important with Fantasy stories because the names have to be as fantastical as the story.
In the end, I have to like the name. It’s a personal thing. I chose Heath in Warrior Pledge simply because I like the name. A had more difficulty naming Checa. I wanted something very different and mysterious. Checa actually has Filipino origins but there’s no meaning for it that I could find. It’s perfect for the troubled and mysterious Checa.
- Tell us about how you do your world-building.
Every world has to have certain characteristics if it’s going to support humanoid life. There needs to be a breathable atmosphere and fresh water to start. There’s also going to be land and, therefore, probably mountains and valleys. I don’t do much more than that before I begin writing a scene. As I write and my characters interact with the world around them, I build pieces. After a while, usually about Chapter Four, I realise I don’t know enough about the world and do some research.
I draw maps, write screeds of notes on the landscape, vegetation, native and introduced animals, birds and insects. If they’re near the water, I’ll populate the rivers and lakes as well. Generally, I keep the landscape identifiable for the readers and comfortable for me to write with. There are at least a couple of strange animals/beings to keep things interesting, a few strange foods and some different swear words.
Swear words are actually one of the most difficult things to create. Most swear words are based around religion, sex or bodily functions. If I want something different yet still identifiable, I have to create a new religion or names for body parts that are still somewhat recognizable.
- What directions/topics/issues would you like to see SFF authors take on?
I’ve been seeing a lot of dystopian SF lately. I know it’s a response to perceived problems in society and it’s inevitable, but I’d like to see a different take on it.
Think about steampunk. It’s written around the premise that all the failed experiments of the 19th Century were actually successful and what society would have become after that. Transfer that to world power. I’d really like to see a country that no one would think of as a world super-power to actually be the ruling country, or the country from which the rulers have come. I want to see a world where the small person has triumphed, not more of the big ones getting bigger.
As far as Fantasy is concerned, you can’t go wrong with dragons, faeries and shapeshifters. Combine those, mix them up. That’s actually what I’m doing with the next book I’m writing—the sequel to Warrior Pledge. A different take on magic would also be interesting. I’m a teacher as well, so I always think about how people learn and what things have to be learned first in order for something else to be learned. Apply that to magic, structure it—and then tear that structure down.
- Describe the difference, as you see it, between science fiction and fantasy. Similarities?
I mentioned some differences before. Science Fiction is forward thinking (Steampunk is about an alternative future); Fantasy is based in history. Another major difference is that Science Fiction has to have a basis in science. It has to be scientifically possible (not necessarily probable). Fantasy doesn’t have to be probable or possible, just plausible within the parameters of the story.
In both there has to be an element of believability so the reader doesn’t toss the book (or ereader) at the wall in frustration or contempt. I try to avoid that happening with my books. History will tell how successful I’ve been.