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Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: Writing Handbooks    by Lisa Tuttle order for
Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction
by Lisa Tuttle
Order:  USA  Can
A & C Black, 2005 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though much of what Lisa Tuttle addresses in Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction is applicable to fiction in general, she also addresses issues that are particular to these genres, such as 'the default setting' in SF. She begins by warning that writing speculative fiction is hard work, since it requires 'a constant awareness that the reality of the story is different from the reader's own reality.'

I enjoyed Tuttle's survey of sub-genres, and the term steampunk, which (though I've read the books mentioned) was new to me. Having concluded that most books marketed as in the tradition of one of the greats are usually not very good, I applaud her advice to avoid 'second-hand imitations'. Though I don't enjoy reading tie-ins or short stories, I found the discussion of these markets interesting. Tuttle discusses basics like book length, how to get started, and the origin of ideas - I appreciated the comment that 'the best fantasies can reach levels and explore subjects inaccessible to other types of fiction.' World-building is a fascinating topic for fantasy and SF. Tuttle emphasizes the importance of research and consistency of details. Of suspending disbelief, she tells us she thinks 'of it as a sword hanging on a thread above the page.' In writing fantasy, she advises 'Go where your heart takes you'. There's a section specifically on 'Writing for Children', and another very useful chapter of 'Advice from Editors'.

The author's survey of the field and its sub-genres is as interesting as the writing advice, and she refers often to well-known authors and their works (though I must take exception to the comment that Heinlein's protagonists were all men since his Friday is one of my favorite SF heroines). Lisa Tuttle concludes by wishing new writers 'Good luck in finding your own way.' If you are interested in writing speculative fiction, then this is one book that you should read and keep handy in your reference shelf.

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