During the last week of September, I participated in the Viable Paradise writing workshop at Martha’s Vineyard. That time of year is ideal for the Cape: no bustling crowds, everything bathed in that saturated golden light unique to fall in New England. The crickets are in full cry, the night sky is adorned with both the summer and winter major constellations. Day by day, the sea turns to gunmetal silver, the salt marsh to beaten bronze.
The workshop itself was interesting, in terms of the writing as well as the social experience. I will comment on one aspect of it here: Almost all the work that I read took place either in the near-future United States or Victorian England. There wasn’t a single space opera or a truly exotic setting in the lot — on earth, let alone off-planet. In some cases, the setting worked well in service of the story’s central kernel. However, it’s very hard to make things look new if the setting is so well-worn.
The standard advice given to writers is “write what you know” (although it’s unclear how that fits with FTL, aliens or nanobots). Writers of speculative fiction might want to venture a little further afield. It seems to me that such travels would nurture the authors’ creative spirit and would also help the readers become receptive to more than iterations of Tolkien and Sterling.