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Science-Fiction Masters

With the flights of fancy and gritty subject matter tackled and shaped so eloquently by popular science fiction authors, one might think they spent their high school study halls dreaming up new worlds. However, their serious decision to make a living in a difficult career mirrors the trials by fire of the characters in their own works.

Who was the child who stood on top of a breakfast table on his eighth birthday and declared he wanted to become an author? Frank Herbert, science-fiction author of "Dune", did just that, according to his biography found on Dune: The Official Website. "Dune," his first book that took him six years to research and write, was rejected by 23 publishers before it was finally published.

The Isaac Asimov Home Page discusses the life and work of the prolific Russian author of more than 500 books. A good jumping off point for Asimov's work, the site offers a catalogue of his books and guides to his fiction and essays. Even if you are not a science-fiction fan, you may have heard about one of Asimov's short stories, "The Bicentennial Man," which was the basis for the 1999 Touchstone Pictures movie, "Bicentennial Man," featuring Robin Williams.

Son of an architect, Emmy-award winning writer Kurt Vonnegut has a resume that ends with an assortment of extraordinary occupations, but began with very ordinary ones. According to the Vonnegut Web, a site that reveres the author of "Slaughterhouse-Five", Vonnegut clocked in as a Chicago-based police reporter in his youth and in General Electric's public relations department in Schenectady, N.Y., long before he became a lecturer at Harvard.




English author H.G. Wells' experience as a teacher with an interest in science definitely influenced his works, which include "The Time Machine" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Herbert George Wells, a site dedicated in his honor, points out many connections that can be made between the dramatic life he lived and the books he wrote (and makes him sound like something of a ladies' man).

Big city life would seem to provide more than enough fodder for science-fiction writers, yet some of these writers live and work in comparatively small towns. James Morrow, author of "City of Truth," fashions his stories within a self-built library in State College, Penn., while "Carrie" author Stephen King calls Bangor, Maine, home. Learn more about the lives of these and other science-fiction authors at Science Fiction and Fantasy World.

Though the imagination of science fiction authors may often be centered in outer space, their day-to-day concerns are quite down-to-earth.

"The most difficult part of becoming a science fiction author is, I think, dealing with rejection and having the persistence to overcome it," said Greg Costikyan, spokesman for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which represents the interests of science fiction writers to their publishers. "Everyone is rejected many times over the course of a career, and typically rejected many times before the first sale. Anyone too thin-skinned about that is never going to get published."

Poverty is another concern, said Costikyan. "Except for the top authors in the field, it is essentially impossible to maintain a middle-class lifestyle as a science fiction writer," he said. "Essentially, you must write from a love of the field and find another way to support yourself. Those looking to make a living from their creative abilities are best advised to look elsewhere. Not that financial success is impossible, but the odds are against you."

SFWA, which sponsors the Nebula awards for authors, has a recommended reading list on its site as well as informational examples of contracts if you are interested in becoming a science fiction writer.




   --- T. Beecham

 
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