Than other genres. It’s not because of the nature of its readers, or because it’s “the literature of ideas.” All literature is of ideas, it’s just that not all ideas are grand ideas, and certainly not all ideas within SF are grand ideas.
It’s not even harder because of the level of research involved. Regency England is also an alien world, and I have piles of books about it that I have to reference for details and events in order to ensure accuracy.
It’s harder because you have to make EVERYTHING up, and then you have to describe it all.
If I’m writing about Regency England, or modern day New York City (and at the moment, I am writing about both), I have to describe and explain. But when I talk about a taxi, people know, mostly, what a taxi is, what a cell phone is, and how a busy sidewalk looks. If I’m in Regency England, people know what a horse looks like, they have a general idea of what the contryside looks like, and with a little extra description, I can get them onto the busy sidewalk, because they’ve got an integral understanding of the basic facts.
But if I’m writing about a massive, ancient space station, I not only have to get the readers there, I have to get myself there, and it’s a place where none of us have reference points. I have to understand size, location, how the basic mechanisms work, and then I have to get in the life engineering details, where and how the people live, how the people are kept alive. THEN I have to get in how the people have reacted to these details. How they adapt, how they build, how they create and organize themselves in response to the conditions under which they live. How have their beliefs, social and spiritual adapted to this. What have they remembered about their own story? What have they forgotten? What have they deliberately over-written? I’ve got to have all of this, or at least the majority of it set in my head before I can start explaining it all to the reader, and that explanation has got to be entertaining, or I won’t have readers for very long.
And I have to do this for each and every setting, civilization, ship and time period in the book.
I’m not complaining, really I’m not. But I am starting over on a new project (a proposal for a new space opera), and I’m getting reminded yet again, of all of these facts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and it’s exciting, it’s an eternal process of discovery (and an opportunity for creating an Ancient Martian Menace), but it is a lot, a lot of work.
And so, it’s done with the blog and back to the salt mines. Wish me luck.