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August 6, 2003

Where Not To Get Ideas

Invaluable Resource For Would-Be SF Writers

A popular panel topic at science-fiction conventions is writers discussing the questions they hate being asked the most. The lists tend to be amazingly similar. One of the questions that always appears on them is "Where do you get your ideas from?" (It's irritating because some privileged or superhuman ability seems usually to be intimated -- as if writers don't have to work for their results, just like anyone else. The only answer is, you read, you listen to people, and you think. Where else can anything come from?)

There are also ideas that are so worn and hackneyed as to have become jokes within the trade, but they just keep coming around again. Experienced editors groan when they sense one being laid, even in the first few pages. A quick check to the ending confirms it. The mystery planet that the aliens settle on is the third from the Sun. The two survivors of a calamity are called Adam and Eve. It was all just a dream, or a virtual reality simulation.

Toren Smith does his bit for originality by drawing attention to The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clich├Ęs, from the Science Fiction Lists at John's Freeloading Home Page. Toren's accompanying comment is, "Let's staple a copy to the forehead of every producer in Hollywood."

 
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