Blast from the past: 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.

7 thoughts on “Blast from the past: Human Wave Science Fiction”

  1. The thing about writing in first, second, or third person… Honestly, I’m not even sure what all that means. What is what? When I started writing my book, I didn’t think about the rules, I just started writing and did whatever I wanted. Over time, and it’s been over a year working on this, I started to develop my own style — though I couldn’t possibly tell you what that style is, but there is definitely a pattern and a method. Hopefully a good one.


    1. First person: “I watched the galactic overlord as he approached his hoverlimo. This would be the day that his rein of terror ended.”

      Second person: “You stroke the butt of your Hammelburn Mk IV blaster rifle. Your finger slowly closes on the trigger.”

      Third person: “Before the assassin could tighten his grip on the trigger, something dark blocked his line of sight. He looked up. A hovertank had lifted from the processession. The turret of its main plasma gun swiveled in his direction.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. Looks like I’m writing in third person. I just did what worked best for me to be able to shift POV to multiple characters.


        1. Most stuff is written in third person with first being most of the rest. I’ve only seen a few pieces done in second and, frankly, it’s never worked for me.

          Some folk use multiple POV’s in First Person. One example being Heinlein’s “The Number of the Beast” with different parts of the book being written in First Person from the POV of various characters. Patricia Briggs, in some of her later Mercy Thompson series books, will use first person for the majority but will use third person for occasional bits from the POV of another character. That took me a bit to get used to but seemed quite effective once I had.

          In the end, you write what works to tell the story you want to tell. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

      2. “The writer looked at the 3D picture on his screen and began to dictate his story. “Start: ‘I watched the galactic overlord as he approached his hovercraft.’ ”
        “Cut last word. Replace: ‘his hoverlimo. This would be the day that his reign of terror ended.’ ”

        A third person as writer writing another person seems pretty close to Fourth person, especially if the third person part of the writer has many parallels to his own other story, with most of the story being the inner story.

        I often complain about the fine movie Inception having 3 levels of dreams and kind of ruining what could have been a real cool franchise of the first inner dream story/ movie. And the sequel could have been a dream in a dream… Oh well, that might be why no sequel, yet.
        My teen age kids loved the flick; wife & I liked it, too.


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