Monday, April 24, 2017

Science Fiction as Epic Panel Questions, for RavenCon, 2017

As I mentioned last week, I will be a guest at RavenCon. And, importantly for this particular post, I will be a moderator.

Round one? A panel titled: "Science Fiction as Epic"


Often science fiction that is epic in nature is dismissed as "space opera," but science fiction can be epic without resorting to the world destroying of Edmond Hamilton or the dogfighting X-Wings of Star Wars. What constitutes epic science fiction and what does it do that more personal stories can't?

Just to give you a great example of "The best laid plans," I give you .... my questions.

This isn't really cheating. I try to do this on occasion with guests I have on the radio show. I go into the audience, people I know will listen, and I ask for questions that they would want to have answered. 

In this case, I'm also posting my notes online so I have some idea of where to find them later on. 

Also, this is is going be followed by a video post. That way, you can see the before and after. 

AKA: the best laid plans of mice and men.....

Easy questions, to start with.
  • Introduce yourselves, with an emphasis on your Epic SciFi Cred?
  • What would you say are the qualities that separate something out as epic?
  • What do you see as some of the better epic SF out there? In any media or from any time period. 
  • How many of your books would you describe as epic science fiction, and how?
So, four people, at one minute each, per question, should easily get us through sixteen minutes. Probably closer to twenty. 

After this, yeah, time to play some hardball. 
  • There are some who use the term "space opera" as a derogatory term -- like soap opera-- implying that it is crass, or the characters are shallow. One of the examples given about space opera has been EE "Doc" Smith, or the Lensmen novels, as John W. Campbell. Yet, I have also heard the term used to describe Babylon 5 and David Weber novels -- both of which have characters with deep motivations and back stories, some boarding on biographies. What is your opinion on the term space opera?  Is it accurate? Is it derogatory.
  • Epic has been used to describe a lot of things in literature. No one derides War and Peace, even though, as one professor put it,  it has so many characters you're happy when someone dies so you won't have to remember their name anymore. How much of the "problem" of Epic SFF is the "epic" and how much is it that SFF itself has been historicallynched looked down upon as a genre?
  • If there are sci-fi, epics, is there sci-fi romance? (From Dragon Award winner, Brian Niemeier)
That should get us to the 30 minute mark.

After that, I can play it by ear. I'm good at that. Heck, half my radio shows are like that. 

If anyone has any questions, leave them in the comments below.

For those of you who will be at RavenCon this weekend, and need books, I'll provide, but I won't have that many copies. Better hurry and order some.

And, while you're at it, The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them immediately. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 



  1. I have a question you can ask Jack McDevitt: Many say that prologues in a novel are a big no-no. But you use them, and quite well especially in your Alex Benedict series. Why do you use them?

  2. "Another McDevitt question: Have you ever considered writing a sequel, or even a prequel, to Eternity Road?"


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