I love science fiction. Despite my first few novels being more paranormal than sci-fi, and my best seller being a political thriller, my heart has always been in science fiction. I grew up in the genre, and if given a choice of topics to read in, I’ll choose sci-fi nine times out of ten.
That’s not to say it’s always an easy genre. For starters, bad sci-fi is worse than the worst “mainstream” writing. It can be super-cheesy and make you want to wretch. But beyond that, there’s a great deal of science fiction that is either too sciencey or too weird. Some sci-fi writers want to show you how smart they are by going into great detail about the technical aspects of the ships they design or the equipment they use. It’s like reading a technical manual, and I don’t know about you, but I rarely pick up books hoping to find a set of schematics inside.
Science fiction can also be super-weird. I get that things are different by design. After all, we’re usually talking about a speculative future we know nothing about and are trying to figure out what might be there, both from a technological standpoint and an alien standpoint. In reality, it’s almost certain that alien races and worlds won’t be like Earth or have two legs and two arms attached to a torso. There could be worlds covered in intelligent fungus, or giant creatures that fly through clouds of hydrogen gas, or even species that are nothing but a series of electrical impulses that exist around the accretion disk around black holes. There could even be stuff weirder than that in actuality, but very rarely does that stuff translate well to a story. And then there’s the weird way some sci-fi writers write their stuff. Again, different is sometimes necessary to convey how different the world is, but there are times it goes too far(I’ve tried several times, for instance, to get into Earthclan by David Brin, and its strangeness trips me up every time).
Whether it’s technical stuff or weird stuff, these things should be vehicles to move the story along rather than be the focus of the story to begin with. I get it – we spend lots of time coming up with this great background, and we want people to share in our brilliance, but they didn’t come to understand how the FTL drive works or to read about the way a globula interacts with a festoon during mating season on Ytron IV. They want those things to make sense within the worlds in which they exist, but they’re not the reason the reader came along. Some science fiction writers need to understand that better than they do so we can have good stories instead of car manuals or science textbooks.