Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. 2nd ed.


224 pages
ISBN 978-1-55180-785-0
DDC 808.3'876





Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


Crawford Kilian is a smart mentor, so an early, and most important, piece of advice in his Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy is “that to be a really good writer of science fiction or fantasy, you should be reading as widely and deeply outside your genre as you can.” As he insists, “Writers read, and what they write is always a commentary on what they’ve read.” Everything else in his fine little teaching text is but a supplement to this.


Killian knows his stuff, and offers wise advice on conventions of SF&F, on how to develop plot and characters, indeed on most aspects of the “craft“ of writing such fiction, as well as on the practicalities of getting published. He uses examples well, and just about everything in his study will be of use to writers new or already somewhat established. There’s also a CD full of exercises, articles, and web resources, which should be useful to any starting author.


Despite all the contextualization of his commentary, which should provide a neophyte writer with a good sense of what s/he needs to learn, study, and do before even starting on that novel, perhaps the most useful bits in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy are the checklists, such as the one on style, which is really all about learning to write. About the only thing one could add is that any writer worth bothering with should be able to construct compound and complex sentences (although far too many “bestsellers” demonstrate that this may, sadly, no longer be a requirement).


Certainly, as Crawford undoubtedly knows, the potential writer must have something like a vision, as well as some ability to actually write, and no guide can provide those. But, for those already truly committed to writing, this book will prove very useful.


Kilian, Crawford., “Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. 2nd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/26887.