The Thursday, Nov. 16 installment of the MIT Communications Forum series, entitled “The Craft of Science Fiction,” featured a conversation between CMS Director Henry Jenkins and Joe Haldeman, the four-time Nebula Award winner who penned The Forever War and who teaches writing courses at MIT.
The conversation included a reading by Haldeman of his work, followed by a discussion about the art of science fiction and the relationship between science, religion, and the massive rate of technological change in the current society.
Haldeman and Jenkins discussed the ways in which scientific knowledge plays into science fiction as well as the interaction between science and religion in terms of the sci-fi genre.
One of Haldeman’s observations was that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was a “faith-based initiative.”
“Calling 9/11 a faith-based initiative is just a way of putting Bush’s religiosity into perspective,” he said. “It was an effective act of war, in terms of kill ratio—the number of enemy Americans killed per terrorist death.”
The relationship between religion and science aside, Haldeman also discussed the writing process for him, joking that 110 percent of his writing from the first draft usually makes it to the final draft, as he writes very economically the first time around.
However, he said that’s not necessarily what he recommends to students.
“On one’s own, the best way to improve one’s fiction writing is to write every day,” he said. “Set a time limit or a word limit and work that long every day, in the same time and place, if possible, without setting impossible goals. Write a story; rewrite it; send it out to a magazine; start another.”
Haldeman also suggested that aspiring writers should join a roundtable workshop.
The audio version of the forum is available in full as a downloadable podcast. A more detailed summary is available from the Communications forum Web site.