Best Key Elements of a Good Science Fiction Novel and Why Buy Second Hand Books
What makes a good science fiction story? Aliens, super-advanced human technology, portals, time warps, and intergalactic conflict? Yes, but it's not just the fantastic elements that draw us into these fictional worlds. There's something skilful going on in compelling sci-fi that we can learn from and help us choose good science fiction novels as booklovers or incorporate (pun intended) into our own writing.
What exactly is science fiction?
Science fiction, also known as 'sci-fi,' is a literary genre that is imaginative and based on science. It bases its settings, characters, themes, and plot heavily on scientific facts, theories, and principles. Many of the plots and storylines in science fiction are scientifically possible or plausible.
Science fiction is typically futuristic, presenting alternate ways of life and living made possible by technological advancement. Science-fiction novels, like fantasy novels, imagine alternate worlds that exist outside the realms of our own.
What Are the Common Elements of Science Fiction?
Science fiction is frequently referred to as "idea literature." A wide range of futuristic concepts can be found in good science fiction novels. Anything is possible because they are so imaginative, especially in soft sci-fi novels. A good science fiction novel can be about space, time travel, aliens, or space-traveling aliens.
Regardless of setting or characters, all sci-fi stories are complex, contain nuanced detail, and delve beneath the surface into larger themes and commentary—sometimes satirically—on society.
A science fiction novel's classic elements include:
- Time travel
- Mind control, telepathy, and telekinesis
- Aliens, extra-terrestrial lifeforms, and mutants
- Space travel and exploration
- Interplanetary warfare
- Parallel universes
- Fictional worlds
- Alternative histories
- Speculative technology
- Super intelligent computers and robots
What Characteristics Characterize a Good Science Fiction Novel?
Authenticity in Science Fiction Novels
Building a technologically advanced future world is one of the most exciting and difficult aspects of writing a science fiction story. It may appear that anything is possible, that the entire universe(s) is open to you, limited only by your imagination; which is also a good sign for booklovers. In some ways, that's true: you could make up a whole slew of cool gadgets at random, but is that good for your story? Is it beneficial to your writing? Experience suggests that fans and writers are most satisfied when the fictional world, its technologies, cultural aspects, and themes reflect a plausible future trajectory based on our current reality.
Readers have incredible abilities to suspend disbelief and buy into the rules of a fictional world. But the writer must first earn that trust; even the most outlandish idea in a science-fiction story can work if given a plausible foundation. That, however, is the key—skillfully laying the groundwork for your future world so that readers can believe in the fantastic elements of the story.
Old Man's War by John Scalzi is a great example of this concept. You might be tempted to roll your eyes when you learn that his protagonist is a 75-year-old man who joins the army to fight for and defend human outposts throughout the galaxy. The story, however, does an excellent job of laying the technological groundwork: the Colonial Defense Forces have developed the ability to transfer human consciousness into a bioengineered younger version of a recruit's body created with their own DNA. It's not only a unique story concept, but it also adds a new dimension to the story's character landscape—you've got old, wise geezers in new, superhuman bodies. But it works because Scalzi established a solid foundation.
Is your future technology a little far-fetched? Is a stronger foundation required for it to be plausible? How can you use character dialogue, strategically placed exposition, flashbacks, or writing techniques to lay the groundwork for your incredible technological innovations?
Complexity of Science Fiction Novels
Sci-fi is a great place to start if you're looking for stories that will completely transport you. Many of the genre's sweeping epics have mastered this aspect of craft: the complexity of the fictional world. Yes, having an intriguing story concept is important. Creating a one-of-a-kind world is critical.
However, if you want to write a masterful narrative that comes to life in the minds of your readers, take the time to create a complex, multi-layered world that is intricately involved in the characters' experiences and the plot's motions. Consider what historical events led to the current state of your world. What are the characteristics of popular culture? What is the current state of music, art, literature, and food culture, and how do they influence your characters' daily interactions with others or their surroundings? How have technological advances influenced these aspects of culture? Taking these aspects of your world into account as part of the world-building process will result in a textured and unique setting that will hook and delight readers.
Consider the film Dune. Frank Herbert was a world-building master. Dune's world is enormously complex, from the ecological framework of sandworms and the precious spice melange to the entangled Atreides-Harkonnen feud and the ambitions of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, to name a few. Herbert takes his time exploring the culture, religion, language, and history of his fictional world, to the point where it becomes inextricably linked to the plot and character motions.
That is sophisticated storytelling, and it has a captive audience.
Science Fiction Novels’ Nuance
In terms of genre conventions, good science fiction novels and fantasy have some of the most well-established tropes and character types. These can be useful to a point: when attempting to outline your characters' relationships, define your plot structure, or comprehend the scope of your story. However, if you discover that your characters, plot points, or other aspects of your story are clichéd or derivative, it's time to do some more research. Tired plots and shallow characters are quick ways to lose a reader, and they rarely result in strong writing.
So, how do you transform a cliché into a nuance?
Go deeper, add definition, and elicit unknown possibilities. There are many techniques to try, such as brainstorming, journaling, and interviewing your characters; the point is to find one that works for you and to put in the effort to give your clichéd story elements more depth. I assure you that it will pay off.
While the prose in David Mitchell's recent novel The Bone Clocks captivated me the most, the book is also a great case study for nuanced characters. There's Holly Sykes, a mouthy and rebellious fifteen-year-old who flees after a fight with her mother, but she has a history of psychic encounters that reappear with a vengeance when she goes it alone. Ed Brubeck, Holly's classmate, is a loner who "doesn't have any friends and shows no sign of wanting any," but he's the one who stops by on his bike to keep Holly company as she gets further away from home. Holly soon discovers that Brubeck isn't a mute oaf whose father was imprisoned for assault; instead, he's a trivia buff who's saving up to travel Europe.
It doesn't take much to transform a stereotype into a sympathetic character, and the results are well worth the effort. What aspect of your personality lurks beneath the surface that, when activated, will cause a dramatic turn of events? What is your character's counter-cultural belief? What dream, desire, or obsession distinguishes him or her from their peers?
Meaning as a Good Science Fiction Novel Element
Themes can be explored very well in speculative fiction. They're frequently hidden beneath the surface of the story's more thrilling and fantastic elements, making their moments of revelation all the more powerful. A story with a message, on the other hand, stays with readers in their minds and hearts. I don't mean to imply that you should always write your stories as parables or allegories, but rather that if you have something to say, don't be afraid to say it.
In middle school, we read Fahrenheit 451. That was a long time ago, but Guy Montag and his journey to preserve knowledge in a world bent on annihilating it remain vivid in my mind. Ray Bradbury's protagonist is a fireman who does his job, follows the rules, but has a complicated inner life that drives him to find the truth. Bradbury's vision of a future world is vividly depicted in the story, complete with wall screens, a robotic dog, book-burning "firemen," and looming nuclear war. But it's a world full of meaning, and its lessons are open to interpretation.
Why should you buy second hand science fiction novels?
Nothing beats opening an old second hand crisp book and being transported to another world here at Usedbooksfactory. Unfortunately, the internet has displaced bookstores and second hand book shops, removing the allure of reading. Many people prefer to use e-readers or second hand books online rather than sifting through dusty shelves in search of an old classic.
The team at Usedbooksfactory enjoys collecting second hand books, but is it necessary to buy brand new copies? Used books will always have a special place in our hearts. So, here are a few of the reasons why we always go with the old, used copies:
1. Affordability of Second Hand Books
If you're sick of spending all of your money on brand-new books, second hand bookstores are the place to go. They not only have an old-world charm, but they will also keep you from walking around with an empty wallet. You'll be able to get twice as many books for the same price as a new one – a steal, courtesy of second hand books!
2. That musty old second hand book odor
Nothing beats the smell of a well-worn second hand book. Even if you're blindfolded, you'll know exactly where you are with just one step into a used bookstore.
3. Tracking down out-of-print editions with second hand books
The appeal of second hand stores is the possibility of finding out-of-print or first-edition copies of your favorite books. These editions are far more valuable and unique than newer versions – a must-have for any book enthusiast! You never know what you'll find hidden in a dusty stack of second books at a thrift store.
4. Relationship with previous owners of second hand books
It's true what they say: when a person owns a book, they leave a piece of themselves in it. There will always be little things about a second hand book that will connect you back to the previous owner, from a crinkle in a page to an underlined quote.
5. You can give a second hand book to someone else.
When you fall in love with a second hand book and give it to someone else to love, the object takes on a life of its own. We can't think of a better reason than that!