About What We Read
This is our #1 rule when reading fiction:
The storyteller belongs to the present; the story belongs in the past.
This should make sense to every single author out there.
Unfortunately, it doesn't. Too many authors are resorting to present tense to convey an artificial sense of urgency to their story. They call this technique 'immersive.' We call it 'anxiety-inducing.'
Listen: logically, every story must be told after the story happens. It makes no sense that someone would tell the story as it occurs. So do us all a favor, and write your book in past tense, where it belongs. And never ask us to read present tense.
As we read and review fantasy books, we are approaching each story with this core philosophy:
The primary attraction of fantasy stories is to give the reader the thrill of new discovery without the rigors of academia.
Fantasy offers new worlds to explore, history to discover, culture and civilizations and fantastic beasts, and above all a brand new science with brand new rules; and the reader is now the Magellan, the Einstein, the Howard Carter.
A good fantasy story should spread out this discovery, keeping a consistent pace throughout the exposition. The discoveries should make sense to the reader, even if fantastically impossible, and they should always relate back to the plot later in the book.
My philosophy on sci-fi is such:
A good sci-fi story should examine the current human condition by removing one or more of the physical limits in our existence.
For example, a story about robots should lead us to examine how our society treats cheap labor, or describe the relationship that mankind has with its creator.
A story about space exploration might make us think about the expansion of our own civilization, the risks we are willing to take, and the heroes (or villains) who balance individual survival against societal progress.
A story about aliens should make us examine how we treat those different from us; even those we consider a threat to our lifestyle. Aliens can also highlight the uniqueness and various complexities of different demographics in our society.
My point is, simply because a story takes place in space does not make it science fiction. I do not consider Star Wars a science fiction franchise just because it has the word “Star” in its title. It’s about space wizards and sword fights, and epic struggles against evil empires. That doesn’t make it bad. It’s just fantasy.
Star Trek was a much better example of science fiction (at least The Next Generation; I cannot comment on all of the latter series). Through constant exploration and interaction with alien races and artificial intelligences, Star Trek made us take a hard look at marginalized peoples here on Earth, and debate the philosophical values that we often take for granted.