In this episode of Uncaring Universe, the podcast from Tor UK, Danny talks to John Scalzi about writing for your audience, the difficulties of writing sci-fi when there's so much going on in the real world, and the new Golden Age of SFF adaptations. Download the episode, and subscribe on iTunes here.
On A Writer’s Public Opinion/Commentary
I have it in my writing DNA to have opinions on things going on in the world, so on one hand that’s great – it’s not like there aren’t enough things to talk about! But on the the other, it’s really difficult when you’re trying to focus on another world entirely, that doesn’t exist anywhere else but your own brain.
So you have to learn to walk away from the world being on fire. For someone like me, trained to do political commenting and someone like me who feels it’s necessary to engage in the world, to throw their hands up in the air and say ‘I need to go away and write about aliens’ [is hard] – but the world does go on without me. One has to fight one’s egotism!
On Writing for The Near Future
The thing is, no matter who you are, you’re gonna take cues from the time in which you live, because one, you live in it, and two, your audience lives in it! And you’re gonna want to write things that appeal to people buying books now – hopefully 30-40 years down the line, people will still be interested, but I gotta be honest: I’m not too interested in whether people are still buying Head On then, I need to sell it today!
Generally, I try not to make many 1:1 [comparisons] with politics going on now because that would make no sense: it’d be like you and I clashing furiously right now about the French and Indian wars.
On The Golden Age of SFF-to-small screen adaptations
With streaming media right now, with Netflix etc, we’re where movie studios were in the late 60s and early 70s. The existing model for them – which was the studio to film theatre platform – was not working, the typical spectacles weren’t bringing people in. They were throwing everything at the wall to find out what would stick, and out of that you got people like Spielberg and De Palma and Scorsese, and you got The Godfather, Easy Rider etc, things that just wouldn’t have been something a major studio would touch before.
Right now I believe that Netflix and Amazon etc don’t know what works yet - so they’re saying, let’s try anything! Five years from now, we know Netflix is sitting there looking at the numbers and the algorithms or whatever they’re doing [on what people are watching now] – in five to ten years it won’t be the same thing. They’ve already said, they’re going to be investing heavily in sci-fi because that’s what makes the numbers for them, but who knows where that’s going to go.
What I’ve been doing, aside from hoping they make good product, which I think they will – and I’m an executive producer on the adaptations they’re making of mine – the other thing I’m doing when we get an option sold is putting money away, because this is a good time but it will not last!