Windows into the Imagination

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Book Review: Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Title: Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Editor: Michael Knost
Page Count: 210 pages
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Published: April 18th, 2013
Publisher: Seventh Star Press

What if you could ask Neil Gaiman where he gets his ideas from? What if Orson Scott Card gave you his insights on developing voice and style? Imagine picking Elizabeth Bear's brain on the joys and intricacies of world building?

"The only thing an author can always depend upon is craft. Craft doesn't always enable the author to scale mountains. That depends on the author's talent and inspiration and dedication. But craft is like the mountaineer's tools and experience. They help when the going gets tough."
James Gunn

The Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is full of entertaining and informative short essays by some of the most respected writers in the genres.

The difficulty with books of this kind is that it can be a retread of other writing guides that do it in more detail, but this one, while it does present some material you've probably read before, skirts the problem by being something much more.

Sometimes it's good for writers to understand the genres they are writing for, and how it got there. Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't necessary, and sometimes, maybe it is.

Starting with the inception of the idea with Neil Gaiman's essay 'Where Do You Get Your Ideas?' through to the tough middle and the endings, authors have their own ways of dealing with each area, but reading how successful authors do it is instructive and their voices of experience shines through each workshop. These writers love their craft and it shows whether they are writing their next novel or sharing their most important lessons about being a writer that people will want to read.

Middles that justify the openings and earn the endings are the hardest to develop.
George Zebrowski

Particularly good are the ones on 'Middles' by George Zebrowski, 'On Rhetoric and Style' by Orson Scott Card and a thought-provoking one on 'Unbending Gender' by Nisi Shawl that includes a link to a fun and gorgeously detailed chart on the pathways to stereotyped female characters.

This book is the collected wisdom of those who not only have been there, but have done it amazingly well. Each essay is chock full of experience, examples and anecdotes that reminds us why we love these writers. 
It's not only a writers' guide, it's a fans' guide into the minds of our favourite authors.

Entertaining, illuminating and challenging, this book is for readers and writers alike. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

A good, instinctive style that is a pleasure to read cannot be taught or learned directly. 
Is there nothing you can do, then to enhance your own style, to improve it? Why, of course there is! But, paradoxically, you don't do it by working on your style.
Orson Scott Card

Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews by and with many of the movers-and-shakers in the industry. Each contributor covers the specific element of craft he or she excels in. Expect to find varying perspectives and viewpoints, which is why you many find differing opinions on any particular subject.

This is, after all, a collection of advice from professional storytellers. And no two writers have made it to the stage via the same journey-each has made his or her own path to success. And that's one of the strengths of this book. The reader is afforded the luxury of discovering various approaches and then is allowed to choose what works best for him or her.

Featuring essays and interviews with:
Neil Gaiman
Orson Scott Card
Ursula K. Le Guin
Alan Dean Foster
James Gunn
Tim Powers
Harry Turtledove
Larry Niven
Joe Haldeman
Kevin J. Anderson
Elizabeth Bear
Jay Lake
Nancy Kress
George Zebrowski
Pamela Sargent
Mike Resnick
Ellen Datlow
James Patrick Kelly
Jo Fletcher
Stanley Schmidt
Gordon Van Gelder
Lou Anders
Peter Crowther
Ann VanderMeer
John Joseph Adams
Nick Mamatas
Lucy A. Snyder
Alethea Kontis
Nisi Shawl
Jude-Marie Green
Nayad A. Monroe
G. Cameron Fuller
Jackie Gamber
Amanda DeBord
Max Miller
Jason Sizemore

This edition also includes several full page illustrations from award-winning artists Matthew Perry and Bonnie Wasson.


  1. Thank you for doing the review and so glad you see what this book has to offer writers and readers alike. :)

    1. You're very welcome. It's a good book. Best of luck.

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  3. I like such sort of literature. Where can I buy this book?