By Charles Stross’s definition, I don’t write proper science fiction. He’s a writer I admire, and I think his argument is entirely fair and reasonable. My personal preference is for telling stories that are character, not idea, driven. That’s not to say I don’t want to explore ideas through my fiction; any writer who doesn’t is arguably doing the craft a disservice. And my stories, or elements within them, are often inspired by concepts from the realms of science or technology. But I’ve never been a professional scientist, and scientific extrapolation isn’t the main driver in my work; to be honest, I use it mainly to create interesting settings and situations for my characters to operate in.
I sometimes fret about my lack of scientific credentials and cautious use of science. I worry it gives me a lack of credibility amongst ‘real’ science fiction writers, and possibly some readers. However these day I try not to punish myself for other people’s (mis)perceptions. I enjoy reading about believable people in hard-to-believe situations more than I enjoy reading about hard-to-grasp ideas enacted by hard-to-believe-in people. And like many writers, I write what I like to read.
I fully acknowledge that if the bright end of the spectrum of science fiction is where the wild ideas are, I’m fiddling in the dark. But that won’t change what I do, and there’s no point in trying to fake it when the real ideas-gurus like Stross or Baxter or Reynolds or Egan are doing fine work pushing the boundaries. I’ll keep writing stories that are a long way off the bleeding edge of science fiction, but until and unless a better term comes along, I’m going to continue to call myself a science fiction writer