The Human Wave
Judging by the recent reactions to the Hugo Awards, including the Sad Puppies brouhaha, this seems more relevant than ever, an attempt to make science fiction entertaining as well as thought-provoking without being preachy again. To sum up:
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 is 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.
What is Human Wave Science Fiction
By Sarah A. Hoyt
This is a manifesto. I’m not sure what we’re manifesting, but it’s probably destiny. Or density. When you’re dyslexic, it can get confusing. But in any case we’re manifesting something and it’s a patent manifestation.
The purpose of this is to create a new “idea” in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre. Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas. The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.
When we have the list of what we’re sort of aiming for, we can start getting people who “subscribe” to those ideas, or to most of them.
Once we have the list of who you are and your websites, we shall send enforcers to your home…No, wait. That’s another list. Oh, I see. That’s the list the trolls left behind. Never mind.
Once we have that list, we can we can have some large, linked aggregate, so we can help each other, and get more attention to the whole idea.
We should also en-list some critics and reviewers. I know some reviewers but not much about critics in their native habitat. However, someone else might.
Because we are rebelling against enforced conformity of style and opinion, of belief and ideology, this list is not “though shalt nots” but “You’re allowed to.” It is also, in the nature of my nature (Okay, who let the copyeditor in? Rent his robes and throw him to outer darkness, where there shall be wailing and gnawing of blue pencils) to know that this job is not completed. Heck, it’s not even really started. There will be discussion of this list at both According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club. Come and be heard, and let the discussion begin.
You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy. Sometimes we just need a good read. If it doesn’t have a big idea but is enjoyable, it’s still a worthy endeavor.
You are allowed to write as much as you wish. In the new limitless market we see no reason to artificially restrict your output. Anyone who thinks quality depends on how long something took to write has never known either professional writers or struggling middle-graders.
You are allowed to write first person. You are also allowed to write second person, third person, and in persons yet to be invented. As long as your work is entertaining, we hold you harmless in matters relating to verbal malfeasance.
If your world building holds internal consistency, at least according to the buying public, anyone objecting because it doesn’t conform to his or her idea of a future shall be pelted with soft boiled eggs and wear the yolk of shame.
Your objective is to sell books. Writing is communication. Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible. Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while. Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.
You can write male heroes. You can write female heroes. You can write alien heroes. You can write human heroes. You can write western heroes. You can write non-western heroes. You can write squirrel-heroes (but you have to know you’re weird.) You can write it in a boat, you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?) You can write it in a moat (but it will probably drip) and you can write it on a stoat.
You can have a happy ever after. You can have a happy for a while. You can have a fleeting happy. It’s your happy and you can have it if you want to.
You can write action and plot oriented books. (Who will stop you? You’ve researched fighting techniques, right?)
You can write sex. Or not. It all depends what fits the plot. You can even write sex with a robot.
You can write politics. You can write them from the right, from the left, from the middle, the top, the bottom or everywhere at once. Just remember to make them fit the plot. And remember not to infodump.
So do we have no principles? No guidelines?
Oh, it’s guidelines you want, then? Well, I was manifesting. But fine. I’ll throw out a few simple rules:
1 – Your writing should be entertaining. If you’re writing for the awards and the literary recognition, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. (Does the other crowd have a tiny raccoon in a kilt? Or even a quilt? Think!)
2 – Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice or commit suicide through swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.
3 – Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless. It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups. Fiction is not agit prop.
4- Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message. You can, of course, have a message. But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel. If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.
5 – You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off, is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)
6 – Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story. By this we don’t mean it will have a happy ending or that we expect Pollyannaish sentiments out of you. Your novel and setting can be as dystopic as you want it. In fact, your character can die at the end. Just make sure he goes down fighting and dies for something, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.
7 – You will write in language that can be understood. You will have an idea of what your story is about, or at least of its beginning, middle and end. And so will your reader, once he reads it.
8 – You are allowed to write scientific speculation that counters “currently established fact” – just give us a reason why that makes sense in your universe. (For some universes it can be highly whimsical, for others you’ll need serious handwavium.)
9 – You will not be boring. Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring.
10 – You shall not spend your life explaining why your not-boring is better than your fellow writers not-boring. Instead you will shut up and write.