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Genre Workshop: Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy with Roger Boylan

4/7/2012 From 1 PM to 4 PM


Saturday, April 7 from 1 – 4 p.m.
$49 members / $109 nonmembers

Location: St. Edwards University, Austin

Fleck Hall 106

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It's been said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things; science-fiction the improbable made possible, fantasy the impossible made probable.

–Rod Serling

In this 3-hr. workshop, you will learn the differences between the two main components of what Robert Heinlein called “speculative fiction”: science fiction and fantasy. What do they have in common? What distinguishes them? You will learn practical, focused ways to write a sci-fi or fantasy novel by analyzing the requirements of each, how to organize your novel’s structure, and what to leave in and take out. Is anything too fanciful to include? We’ll discuss that in the context of a narrative’s inner logic.

Participants must bring at least a synopsis draft of a proposed sci-fi or fantasy novel, which may be discussed but not critiqued. Featured will be excerpts from the films The War of the Worlds (2005) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003). Subsequent discussion will center on the perceived distinctions between the genres. Excerpts from the H. G. Wells and J. R. R. Tolkien novels on which the films are based may be read and discussed.

Topics will include:

  • Elements of science fiction: Spaceships, aliens, lasers, scientists, outer space, robots=Futurism
  • Subgenres: Space opera (Star Trek, Star Wars); parallel universe (Robert Harris’s Fatherland); cyberpunk (William Gibson’s Neuromancer)
  • Elements of fantasy: Warriors, dragons, swords, wizards, castles, ogres=Medievalism
  • Subgenres: Epic fantasy (LOTR); historical fantasy (Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle); quest fantasy (LOTR); contemporary fantasy (Tim Powers’s Last Call)

Who should attend:

  • Writers who are just starting a sci-fi or fantasy novel
  • Writers who have completed most of a book but need a reality check
  • Whoever has an idea for a sci-fi or fantasy novel but is uncertain how to proceed

Roger Boylan is an ex-New Yorker who lived in Europe for many years. His novel Killoyle is published by Dalkey Archive Press. Harvey Pekar called it “among the most impressive novels written by an American in recent years.” Boylan’s second novel, The Great Pint-Pulling Olympiad, published by Grove Press, is a satirical thriller that the Village Voice compared favorably with the work of James Joyce. German versions of both novels have been critically and commercially successful. The third volume in the Killoyle trilogy, The Maladjusted Terrorist, was published in Germany in 2006 and again in 2007. Boylan’s latest novel, The Adorations, deals with historical and religious themes, and is forthcoming. Boylan is a regular contributor to Boston Review, and his stories and articles have appeared in many journals and reviews, including The New York Times, The Economist, The Literary Review, The Recorder, The Texas Observer, and the Austin American-Statesman. Boylan is an online lecturer in creative writing at Western Connecticut State University. He lives in San Marcos.