>Sf writers, and fiction writers in general, seem to start with some idea ("I
>want to show that government doesn't work", for instance - although it could
>be less ideological) and then create a world in which this is 'convincingly'
>true using whatever narrative devices they have at their disposal.
When I was at Clarion, Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight addressed this. They told us that while it was possible to write good fiction that has a message, consciously trying to achieve this is almost invariably doomed. They said if you want to argue a position, write an essay. It's nearly impossible to write a corking good story when you're standing on a soapbox.
As for psi and sf, I will chime in as well. I don't write much sf these days but I am a pro. Until recently, I had never written about psi. However, as a consequence of starting to read sf while Campbell edited _analog_, I'd read (and loved) much psi sf (from Anne McCaffrey's "A Womanly Talent" to Silverberg's _Dying Inside_).
Then I decided to write a juvenile sf novel (still in progress). I poked around for ideas and chose to write about what it would really be like for a sixth-grade girl to develop telepathy as she enters puberty. I don't believe it could happen but it's fun to write about, and I'm hitting angles I've never seen done.
Which is part of the magic. SF writing is a large room of jazz musicians jamming. Grand Master X does a riff on time travel. The audience applauds. Young Turk Y takes up the challenge and gives it her spin.
And there are separate joys and challenges in writing a story that, while sf, is accurate and possible, and in writing a story that starts with one impossible premise but is fiercely consistent from then on.
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