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First Contact: The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One
edited by Dave A. Law & Darin Park
Dragon Moon Press, 311 pages

First Contact: The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One
Dave A. Law
Dave A. Law is a published writer and editor whose short stories, poetry, articles, and comic books have seen print in various publications over the last two decades. He has a BSc in Computer Information Systems with highest honors and works as a software developer. He currently runs a software company for writers, Intellectus Enterprises, is chairman of an e-publisher, Virtual Tales, and sits on the editorial board of Flash Me Magazine. He lives in Calgary, Canada with wife and two daughters.

ISFDB Bibliography

Darin Park
Darin Park was born in Newfoundland, Canada, and he has worked largely as a courtroom recorder and transcriptionist. He fell in love with Science Fiction at an early age. His favorite authors include Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Spider Robinson. He has published eight short stories, and his humorous short, "The Devil, You Say?" won the Publisher's Choice Award in Futures Magazine in 2001. He originated the book concept and edited The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy published by Dragon Moon Press.

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

First Contact: The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One, edited by Dave A. Law and Darin Park is a collection of twenty essays dealing with science fiction as a genre, ostensibly for the purpose of helping the reader write stories and get them published. Although the book does offer some useful advice, it also includes several oddities which detract from the book's overall usefulness.

Perhaps the book's biggest fault are a few non-professional aspects which seem odd in a book which appears to focus on helping people before professionally published. The book is rife with typographical errors, ranging from the lack of serial commas in the title to Jeanne Allen's essay to the appearance of an I with a dot below it instead of an "N" in the title The New Atlantis. Furthermore, while standard indexing practice calls for names to be alphabetized by last name and articles ("a" and "the" to be ignored at the beginning of an entry, the index to First Contact: The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One lists "Ursula LeGuin" under U (twice, once as Ursula LeGuin, once as "Ursula K. LeGuin" and includes The Day of the Triffids, for example, under "T." Other typographical mistakes appear throughout the book with distressing regularity. This is only a problem because the book is a guide to writing.

Looking beyond those flaws, The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One: First Contact opens with several essays which define what science fiction is. While it makes sense to define the genre the book is going to help teach to write, the number of essays which look at that definition seems a bit excessive.

The next two sections of the book actually deal with the process of writing science fiction. The first section looks at the world-building process, with essays focusing on creating planets, employing the various tropes of science fiction, including aliens, faster-than-light travel, and others. Placing this section before the essays dealing with writing seems to be putting the horse before the cart to some extent. A story with excellent world-building technique is not going to sell if it is rife with poor writing, lack of plot, and few original ideas. While these essays are pertinent, they could just as easily be included in a role-playing gamer's guide. The following essays, however, look at the meat of the writing process.

Some of the "Crafting" essays, as they are described in the section header, are quite useful, including Orson Scott Card's look at making sure any message in a story isn't too obvious and Tina Morgan's explanation of self-editing techniques. However, Milena Benini's essay on ideas, plots, and setting seems to be filled with the stereotypical views of science fiction which seem to lock the genre in the ghetto and are, at best, reminiscent of the pulp era. Unfortunately, while this is the section of the volume which probably should offer the most to an aspiring author, it only includes three essays before the editors include essays on specializing in a subgenre and the business end of writing.

It will be interesting to see what types of essays might be included in The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume Two and whether they will expand on this selection or reprise what has already been published. The first volume has a very unbalanced weighting regarding the different aspects of writing and publishing science fiction with the areas which should have the most attention paid to them suffering from the most cursory information.

Copyright © 2008 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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