Tired of eating chicken neck stew? Want an entry into the steaming, feculent, cutthroat but rewarding world of high stakes sf publishing? Follow this simple guide and you too will be eating at Burger King. At least once a week.
We need the right genre here. I heard Baen likes, oh, what was it. Starts with an M. Millinery science fiction, maybe? Giant, rocket propelled woman’s hat? No, that can’t be it. Millenarian science fiction? Jesus arrives in a giant space ship to initiate the millennium and kick alien ass. Hmmm… Maybe good for fantasy, somehow not quite right for science fiction. Keep it on the back burner for later. Military science fiction! That’s what I wanted.
This is Science Fiction, people, have to remember that. So, we need space ships. Can’t be sf without them space ships. Lots of space ships. Sort of like a navy, but in space. Let’s make it just like the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy. Yeah, that’ll work. Nobody ever had a successful series of novels based on that before.
Then we need some characters. Needs a captain. Should be a woman just to show we ain’tent sexist or nothing. She needs a good, sf type of name. Let’s call her Wallnutta Bigsword. And she needs a 2nd in command. Call him St’ok Karakter. Ideally he’s some sort of alien. Green, tentacled, covered with slime, eats offending crew members. No, let’s not overdo this. Humanoid, with endearing characteristics is more like it. How about she has a pet? Nice one, people like pets. Make it something cute and furry, like kittens, but don’t forget this is sf, ya’ll, has to be a cute, alien pet. Make it an Arcturan Droolcat.
About that spaceship. Need to show off our creativity here. Space sails? No, been done. Space propellers? Ridiculous. Let’s be realistic here. Gotta keep with that space navy theme, though. Hmmm… Navy, ships, ocean, water, waves. Gravity Waves! Sounds all sciency ‘n’ stuff. With Dark Matter! And Higgs bosons! Gotta be good, I don’t have a clue what any of that means. Not like anyone reading this bilge has a background in physics or anything so I can just fart out anything that sounds good. The space ship crew uses dark matter oars with Higgs plating to stir the gravity waves. There, all done.
Now, needs some sort of conflict. Take some historical conflict and sf it up with space ships and beam weapons and all that kind of stuff. Napoleonic wars, maybe. No, too obscure. WW 1 with genetically-engineered master race? Been done. Afghanistan? Been done. Spanish revolution? Been done, likewise Korea and Vietnam. What else is there? I know, the Pig War! Alien space hyperpig escapes from some frontier planet in the vasty, frozen wastes of far galactic north, chased through the vast realms of space by both fleets until it is captured. Be nice to have a sequel on tap. The war of Jenkins’ auditory appendage comes to mind.
Who is fighting this war? Need some sort of evil empire for one side. Needs a name that subtly indicates how evil they are. Like, the Mungfuyer Empire. And our protagonists have to be from the good side, with a tasteful, appropriate name. Like, some plucky space republic, trying to assert its rights amid the vast, impersonal reaches of space. The Republic of Spacefreedomerica.
There we go. Now to boot up the word processor and write this thing. Hey, what does that cartoon paper clip want? “It looks like you’re writing for Baen Books. Activate autohack mode?”