A Review of David Gerrold’s
Worlds of Wonder
By Peggy Kurilla
of books purport to teach writing. Only
a few are actually written by professional novelists, and fewer still are
written by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning speculative fiction authors.
Worlds of Wonder by David
Gerrold (Writer’s Digest Books, 2001, ISBN 1/58297-007-6) falls into this last
been familiar with Gerrold’s writing since I was a kid watching Star Trek reruns: he wrote the ever-popular “The Trouble with
Tribbles.” In my teens, I
discovered his novel When HARLIE Was One,
and I’ve been an on-again, off-again fan of his work since.
So when I saw that he had written a book about writing science fiction
and fantasy, I handed over $14.99 (plus tax) and settled in for a good long
best advice I have for those who pick up this book is don’t drink while
reading it. Gerrold’s irreverent
humor runs throughout the pages, and more than once I laughed out loud while
Worlds of Wonder
concentrates on writing, leaving aside the business of finding an agent and/or
getting published. This allows
plenty of room for some specific chapters that ordinary writing books don’t
contain. The best example of this
is the chapter, “To Be or Naught to Be,” which contains a discussion of
E-prime. I was surprised to learn
that E-prime is a version of the English language in which the verb to be is non-existent. Gerrold
wrote the entire chapter in E-prime as an illustrative example of the power of
English when the wimpy to be is
removed. (I have not yet attempted
such a thing, as you can see from the previous sentence.)
chapter covers using metric prose—prose that has the same types of rhythm as
poetry. Gerrold suggests using it
to emphasize certain passages—without overtly emphasizing them.
He includes these chapters, he says, as examples of how to break out of
the writing ruts that we all fall into sometimes.
Whenever he has tried something new, he says, he’s noticed a
significant improvement in his writing.
mindful of the differences between science fiction and fantasy, Gerrold delves
into both genres deeply enough to give the reader (and future writer) a sense of
what each entails. He doesn’t
just discuss world building; he discusses world building for the science fiction
writer as well as building fantasy worlds.
Other topics covered specifically are the hero, building aliens,
believability and bolognium, character transformation, theme, and style.
He also devotes an entire chapter to punch lines—not necessarily as the
conclusion to a joke, although that is his emphasis.
most writers writing about writing, Gerrold does not fear to address sex scenes
and love scenes—and, yes, they are different things. Citing examples from his own work, he demonstrates that sex
scenes are about more than sex, and love scenes don’t have to be about sex.
And he does it in language no worse than PG-13, so the book is
appropriate for younger writers.
what is most refreshing about this book is its laid back, relaxed approach to
writing. “Your first million
words are for practice. They
don’t count. Remember that.” Since a million words is, by his estimation, roughly equal to
ten novels, there is plenty of time to learn the art and craft of writing.
being packed with useful information, Worlds
of Wonder is a pleasure to read. Each
chapter is headed by a pithy summation of its contents, and more than one
footnote adds a humorous annotation to the relatively dry topic he covers.
ends his book with “Ten Pieces of Good Advice,” the last of which is worth
repeating: “Never eat anything
larger than your lawyer.”
short, even if you have no aspirations of ever writing—if all you want to do
is enjoy reading speculative fiction—you will probably enjoy this look behind
the scenes at one writer’s craft. If
you are an aspiring writer, there is a wealth of information waiting to be
mined, and mined again—at least until you’ve completed your first million