I am not going to pretend that some of you are scratching your head at this topic. First, you might be asking yourselves “What is ‘science fiction poetry’ anyway, and why would anyone ever want to write it?” Second, you might be saying “Is this person for real writing a blog topic about science fiction poetry?” A few of you – likely sci-fi nerds like me – are interested in the topic and anxious to read on, and an even smaller number of you are curious enough to keep reading. Well, I hope that whichever category you belong to, you will find something helpful and educational in the following paragraphs.
To begin with, science fiction poetry is a very real form of poetry with its own society and prestigious awards for the most accomplish in the genre. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978; the founder, Suzette Haden Elgin, has published articles and books on the genre. Try and imagine what a sci-fi poem might consist of, and you will probably be wrong. Yes, it has elements of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. However, these latter concepts are much easier said (or listed) than done.
I have been a fan of science fiction and fantasy for as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories are being gathered around the television set at my grandparent’s home watching The Outer Limits, with siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. Some of my other sci-fi and paranormal TV programs from my early years were One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. I was also profoundly affected by movies like Frankenstein (1931 version), The Nutty Professor (1963 version), The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. All of these television series, movies and countless books planted in me the seed of science fiction enthusiast; so, you could just imagine my excitement when I discovered that some of the most well known early sci-fi writers were also accomplished poets. Well, quite naturally being a sci-fi writer and poet myself the logical conclusion was that I too had to become a writer of science fiction poetry. Naturally. Well . . .
To my chagrin, becoming a published science fiction poet has been an extremely difficult task. Let me be honest here, I am not exactly well published in any genre of fiction or non-fiction; so, not having my poems published in science fiction publications and publications specifically focused on sci-fi poetry should not be that surprising. Unfortunately I do not see it that way, but rather see it as here are two writing genres that I love. Furthermore, my only published work (besides how to articles and education research literature review articles) is science fiction and poetry. It should be an easy transition for me to write a publishable science fiction poem, but that has not been the case. I have a list of rejections for my sci-fi poetry almost as long as my list of rejections for sci-fi short stories. Rejections are frustrating to be sure, but even more frustrating is to receive a letter from an editor of a sci-fi poetry magazine that says “Although we cannot use this poem, I hope you will submit again in the near future because there were parts I really liked.” Would it have killed that editor to send my poem back with notes that read “liked this line/stanza” and “did not like this line/stanza?” I know Stephen King says to save our rejections and to analyze the personalized rejections that come with notes from the editor to the writer concerning specifics about your story submission, but sometimes you read those glowing comments about your story and wonder why the editors ever rejected the story. I once had an editor write in my rejection letter a comment about something I had done so well (in that editor’s opinion) that I was offered the opportunity to submit an article on that specific element of the writing craft for their readers. I regret that I never submitted the article, and have to admit that it was no doubt pride that prevented me from doing so. Anyway, so what can I learn from a rejection letter that will help me improve my sci-fi poetry writing skill?
Research. That is my one word solution for becoming a better sci-fi writer, and I believe it is good advice for budding writers of any form or genre, research. My task is to start with a few of the earliest published sci-fi poems to the most recently published sci-fi poems, and analyze every meter, line and stanza. I do not have to study award winning poems, but only need to focus on those poems that have been chosen for publication. Studying the poems of published sci-fi poets will help me to discover common patterns and techniques. Many times there is an unwritten law that publishers adhere to that pertains to a certain form, and once you discover what that is, you are well on your way to becoming published.
I will try and update you periodically on how my sci-fi poetry research is going, and of course if I get published I will make an entry about that miraculous event.
Until then, keep writing . . .