SciFi Vs Crime Fiction

Asleep at computer
Shanghai killer whale [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
I started out professionally writing crime fiction. For years before I took the plunge, I had thought – as did everyone who knew me – assumed I would be a science fiction writer. But as the 90s came to a close, I noticed the racks at Borders contained less and less scifi and more and more crime fiction. In the 80s, I’d tried my hand at detective fiction. And now, with my skills sharpened, I decided that was the more lucrative path.

It didn’t work out that way, but I built up a huge network in the crime fiction community for a time. I also could bang out 2000 words in a sitting. In fact, I’d written¬†Road Rules (the next Jim Winter rerelease) on a dare for NaNoWriMo in 13 days.

So what appealed to me all that time about crime fiction? It took place in the real world. I traveled a lot in the 2000s, so it let me use a lot of real world settings that, if I didn’t know them well enough, I knew enough to ask the right questions. I could set stories not just in my native Cleveland, but also in places like San Francisco, Savannah, or New York.

But eventually, I got tired of writing crime fiction and following the traditional model. Indie pub was big, and science fiction was better suited for it. What appealed to me there? I could make up the settings. I could apply certain theories as actual science. I didn’t have to slavishly research what and where I was writing about. Oh, you have to pay attention to science, or at least keep your internal rules consistent. But Chicago of the 25th century is not going to look like Chicago of today.

I guess with crime fiction, you’re playing tour guide. Or rather, you’re engaging in journalism. In science fiction, which is speculative by nature, you’re playing God. The problem is sometimes, you want to live in the real world. Other times, you’re sick of dealing with it.