Launching Your Science Fiction

by John McDaid

There’s never been a better time to write science fiction. The popularity of speculative stories in mass media has created a growing audience, and online markets have expanded to meet the demand. Issues some thought too “complex” for the genre—social justice, gender dynamics, and representation—have moved to the center, and the literary standards once sniffed at as “genre” have evolved in step, with the result that challenging, character-driven writing can find a readership.
All of which means that almost any topic you can think of, with the right spin, can make a good sf tale. I’ve sold stories about sentient elevators, magic umbrellas bringing world peace, and Sumerians inventing printing. Like all fiction, the challenge is finding the authentic human experience in these situations and building a credible world. In addition to pure invention, that takes research to get things right (sf writers call it “playing tennis with the net up”) and a sense of where the field is at.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help. Many online markets (home to an increasing number of award-winning stories) are free to read; the market list at is a great source of links. The Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula Awards ( ) offers examples of what’s being recognized as excellent work. Certainly the most fun way to explore opportunities is at an sf convention. Boston has two: Arisia ( ) and Boskone ( ). I’m always at Arisia, as is fellow NWU member Stephen Wilk, so stop by one of our panels and say hi!
NWU member John McDaid, author of “Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse,” is an award-winning science fiction writer, folk/filk singer-songwriter, freelance journalist, and media ecologist from Brooklyn, NY