The Can't-Lose Secret to Making Anybody Want to Read Your SF Novel

Over in Locus, there's a must-read essay by God's War author Kameron Hurley, about how to talk to your friends and family who don't "get" science fiction and fantasy books. A big part of it is getting over your urge to dismiss your own books (or favorites by other authors) as "silly." But there's also a crucial secret.

Image by Jason Chan.

Hurley explains exactly how to get your friends and family hooked on your SF or that of your favorite author — don't focus on the daunting trappings, focus on the universal story:

When I looked at what I'd call ''breakout'' books – books that everybody I know is reading, not just my trusted SF/F circle of buddies – I started to notice a common thread. No one ever tried to sell me on Carrie by say­ing, ''You really need to have a solid understanding of telekinesis.'' Not a single Hunger Games fan said, ''You'll only get it if you've already read Battle Royale.'' Instead, they talked plainly about the stories – the bullied high school girl who gets revenge. The older sister who volunteers to take her younger sister's place in a fight-to-the-death lottery. They sold me on impossible situations and impossible choices. They sold me on stories.

As science fiction and fantasy have become more mainstream, writers and marketers in other fields have become experts at selling these franchis­es in mundane terms. Yet I still have conversations with other writers in SF/F where I get these long, windy ex­planations about the technological theories their current book explores. I do it myself, defaulting to long rants about my worldbuilding and giant flesh eating plants and satellite-reliant magic. Predictably, I've found that the folks who hook me on their project are the folks who talk about the stories. Not the backstory. Or the narrative experiment. Or the long, grinding history of their whole made-up world. No, it's the folks who stick to the basics.

It's the folks who talk about the people.

The whole essay is definitely worth checking out. Amazing stuff.