Today, while in a local Barnes and Noble (local being only 35 miles away), I looked at John Scalzi’s novel, “Old Man’s War”, his first novel. (Whether it’s the first novel he ever wrote or just the first he got into print is irrelevant.) On the cover is a quote from the publisher stating that while most writers are just trying to copy Robert Heinlein, Scalzi actually wrote an original military science fiction novel. Which led me to wonder just how many writers are trying to write the next “Starship Troopers” novel?
There’s no way to answer that question, to begin with. There’s an estimated 10 million people just in the United States alone who are trying to write novels. That’s both staggering and a bit frightening. How does one not disappear in that huge number?
And how many are trying to write fantasy and science fiction novels? No one knows for certain, but it’s estimated to be somewhere between six and seven million people. And of that number, how many are writing military science fiction; that is, trying to be the next Robert Heinlein? Again, no one’s certain, though the estimates vary wildly. To be conservative on the subject, it’s thought be anywhere between 10 thousand and a 100 thousand.
(It’s amazing what you can learn on the internet, if you’re willing to sacrifice most of your day hunting down vague and esoteric information.)
Some of these writers are less interested in a career as writers and more in the fame and riches that they think will be theirs. I’ve heard things like, “Anybody can do it. All you have to do is write in a lot of sex and violence and swearing, and you’ll have a fucking gold mine.” Or, “Most writers are fucking idiots. I can better than them.”
(For some reason, fuck is a verbal exclamation point for these writers.)
The line that makes me cringe, though, is, “I’m just trying to make some easy cash.” When did anyone ever make some “easy cash” as a writer?
Most of us who write are just hoping someone will buy something we’ve written and like it enough to tell someone else. Continuing to write the stories we want to tell is more important to us than riches (though some riches, even a little bit, wouldn’t be bad either).
We’re not in it for the glory, but just to be read. I can’t speak for the ten million or so other writers, but just for me.
My writing is sort of like my children and as a good parent I want my children to succeed in life. But how do I define success? I just haven’t figured that out yet.
Back to the Heinlein wantabes. They might be more interested in glory and greatness and money than in telling good tales. I’m hoping that they’re just trying to write good stories and doing the best they can. That’s what I’m trying to do.
I write military science fiction because I enjoy reading military history, especially about individuals and not so much just the battles. And I enjoy reading science fiction. And I love to write.
So why not combine all three of these loves? Plus, I have a VERY active imagination. It demands to be used almost every day.
I’m not a Heinlein wantabe. He wrote a couple dozen novels or more and “Starship Troopers” was the only military science fiction novel he wrote. I have most of them. I know. Besides, I enjoy “Tunnel in the Sky”, “The Door into Summer”, and “Stranger in a Strange Land” more than “Starship Troopers”, though I do enjoy that one, too.
I want to be me, not someone else. I don’t want to be the next Robert Heinlein, or the next Joe Haldeman, or the next David Weber, or even the next John Scalzi, (though I laughed a lot and loved his book, “Red Shirts”). I just want to be me. Just me. And I hope and pray that my “books” will find the love and homes that all “books” want to find, with readers who love them and want to spend time with them.