The Agony and the SF

Writer's block is no fun.

I recently went through a brief bout of it. For my creative writing class, I was asked to write a short story. Being a sci-fi fanatic, I wanted to do a piece in that genre.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I put on some choice jazz music to get me in the zone. I knew I wanted to write a story about an android. It's a classic SF trope, so I sat down in front of my computer. I was all set.

I had a name for my protagonist ("Reggie"). Also, I had a vague idea that I wanted to do a love story about a female android being passed off as a human. I even had a title in mind—I would call this tale The Necklace. And yes, a necklace would be my MacGuffin.

I typed for a half-hour or so, and I reached the end of page one.

And then... nothing.

After writing that one page, I was stuck. I had set up the story—a lonely man purchases a female android who is an identical copy of his former lover—but now I was questioning the plausibility of it all.

In order to write a good SF story, an author must achieve the suspension of disbelief.

That "suspension" was tripping me up. Who made the android? How was it designed to resemble a real human being? If Reggie buys the android, how does he explain this situation to his friends? Won't they notice that the automaton resembles his ex-lover? If the ex-lover finds out, how will she react?

Questions like these were invading my mind.

One question after another!

One question after another!

I needed some advice.

I remembered what the distinguished SF writer Orson Scott Card once said: "Writer's block is my unconscious mind telling me that something is either unbelievable or unimportant to me... (It) is never solved by forcing oneself to write through it."

That settled things for me. I realized that my idea was too ambitious and it wouldn't fit into the confines of a five-page story.

Therefore, I would set the idea aside and do something entirely different.

I ended up writing a nostalgic and realistic story about a family cat.

I can write a spec-fic story. I wrote a weird fiction tale a few weeks back about a troubled young boy and his pet praying mantis.

But on that day, SF wasn't going to happen.

Win some, lose some.


Alec Greenfield graduated from Carleton University with a degree in history. After that, he taught English in South Korea for 14 years. He is fascinated by writers who are daring or unique. Besides spec-fic, his interests include movies, travel, politics, karaoke, and Kierkegaard. He lives in Ottawa.

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