Human Wave Science Fiction

This started based on a post over on Sarah Hoyt’s Blog also on Mad Genius Club.

The Human Wave movement is a response that a number of people in the Science Fiction & Fantasy field to the perception that professionally published SF has become circumscribed by “rules” that have little to do with story, that don’t address the needs and wants of readers as readers, and that artificially limit writers can do with their stories if they want to be “accepted” in the field.

The rules of the Human Wave movement are more anti-rules, not so much things you must do, but things you are allowed to do:

  1. You are allowed to write a story for no other purpose but to entertain.  That someone get some enjoyment out of it is all the purpose it needs.  You may even consider someone getting enjoyment from it to be its highest purpose.
  2. You are allowed to write, and publish, as much as you wish and are able.  There are no “only one book per year” or the like limits on your productivity.  We reject the idea that how long it takes to write a story is a necessary indicator of its quality.  That may be true for some people, not for others.  Do what is right for you.
  3. You are allowed to write first person if you wish.  Third person?  Sure.  Second person?  Why not?  Fourth person (if you can figure out how)?  You bet.  Do whatever you believe is right for the story you wish to tell.
  4. You are allowed to write stories that don’t match “accepted” views of the future.  Faster than light is impossible?  Use it anyway if that’s what you want.  People expect the future to be some great socialist utopia?  Have capitalism be the wave of the future if that’s your vision for the story.  So long as your story holds together enough for your readers to accept it, do what you want.  The idea is to explore possibilities, not limit yourself to mundane predictions of what will be.
  5. It’s okay to have a goal to sell books (or short stories).  “To eat, or not to eat” is allowed to be the question.
  6. You are allowed to write whatever heroes you want to write.  You are allowed to write whatever villains you want to write.  Want a white, male, Christian hero? Go for it.  Want a swarthy, pagan villain?  That too is permitted, just as the reverse is also allowed.  Write what your story, and your vision calls for.
  7. Happy endings?  Permitted. Happy for the time being?  That too.  Everybody dies?  If that’s what your story calls for, sure.  Some mixture of good and bad?  Absolutely.  It’s your story.  All that really matters is that the ending derive from the events of the story (“And then a meteor hit the Earth and they all died” is probably not such a good ending unless the story was about that meteor) and that the ending satisfy the readers.
  8. It’s okay to write stories which center on action and plot.
  9. You are allowed to include sex in the story.  You are allowed to not include sex in the story.  You are allowed to have heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or even mechano-sexual sex if that’s what’s appropriate to the story and the characters.  It’s your story and they’re your characters.  You don’t have to avoid sex.  You don’t have to include it.
  10. You can write politics if you want, provided that they’re the politics of your story.  (A story set in ancient Egypt should probably not have a debate between characters on the relative merits of Capitalism vs. Socialism.) You can have a message if you want, again, provided it arises naturally from the story.  But you don’t have to include one.  The story can be its own reward, with no deeper meaning required.

Some general guidelines:

  • You should be entertaining.  People should enjoy your story.  After all, even if you’re including a deep message, more people will get the message if they enjoy reading your story.
  • Your characters should be individuals.  If your character is a bad guy, readers should not need to feel ashamed because they are the same age, race, sex, religion, ethnic background, or what have you as that character.  Virtue or its lack should come from who one is as an individual, not what group to which one belongs.
  • Story first.  Message later.  In any dispute between story and message, story trumps.
  • “Everything is shades of gray” is boring.  Add some black and white, or even color, to spice things up. 
  • People generally prefer positive feeling to stories. This doesn’t necessarily mean “happy endings” or “good guys win” but that even when they lose, they go down fighting and don’t whine themselves to death.
  • Thou shalt not be boring.

Anyway, those are the basics.  Come ride the Human Wave.  The water’s fine.

One thought on “Human Wave Science Fiction”

  1. In the end, Human Wave is about the readers. The readers deserve to be offered the full palette of stories and not just what some group thinks they “ought” to read. Our role as writers (and as editors, publishers, distributors, and booksellers) is to provide what people want to buy, not to “educate their tastes” or any such thing. The latter may be okay sometimes, so long as it's not at the expense of the former.


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