My first talk on science fiction

I have my first talk on science fiction last night to the Arlington Writers Group, of which I am a member. The group has all kinds of writers and occasionally do genre workshops to introduce members to different genres. Last night I talked about science fiction.

I’d prepared a PowerPoint slide deck, mostly devoid of bullet points  but instead containing magazine and book covers and a few other images and charts that I put together. I organized the talk around roughly 4 topics:

  1. What is science fiction
  2. History of science fiction
  3. So you want to be a science fiction writer
  4. My favorites of the genre

I spoke for about 75 minutes and it was followed by a discussion with questions and answers, many of which were very good and some of which I don’t think I was able to adequately answer. But based on the feedback I got from folks who attended, I think I did a pretty good job. I imagine there are more of these types of things in my future so this gave me a good start.

My focus was on the kind of science fiction that I most enjoy and in the discussion afterward, there was some talk of the authors and works that I left out. Many of these, as it turns out, are works that are often deemed “literary” by the outside world: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow; Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale; Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon; Kurt Vonnegut, etc. The question arose as to whether or not purist in science fiction deliberately sequester themselves within the genre, something I wholeheartedly agree with. The reason I left these out was in part that they generally don’t make up the kind of science fiction that I enjoy reading.

There were questions on the role of women in science fiction, something that I felt ill-equipped to speak on, not being a woman, but I did my best. Early in my talk, for instance, I pointed out C. L. Moore and Judith Merill as two women who were an important part of the Golden Age. I also discussed some of the more recent issues with women and science fiction–for instance their representation in annual awards. I think several people found this interesting, but I felt slightly out of my elements because I simply don’t know enough about the issue.

It was a lot of fun and an easy talk to give since I already had most of the facts in my head. The hardest part, in fact, was putting together the presentation in a way that would allow me to talk more or less off-the-cuff, but to have my visual aids available when I wanted them, and I think that worked out well in the end.


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