Creating Beautiful Words — Scifaiku! A Guest Post By Wendy Van Camp

One Friday afternoon, I was sitting on a bench at a local science fiction convention with little to do for the next few hours.  I learned that there was to be a workshop on how to write scifaiku poetry. I had never heard of scifaiku before and was intrigued by the idea. I ended up attending the seminar and this decision changed my direction in writing. As it turned out, I was the only student at the workshop along with a couple of magazine editors that published this form of poetry.  The instructor taught how to brainstorm ideas for your poems and the elements that were needed for scifaiku.  I not only became hooked on the poetry form, but I ended up publishing the poem I wrote in that workshop several months later.

What is Scifaiku?

Defining Scifaiku

Scifaiku is minimal in execution and elegant, similar to Haiku. It is distinctive since it contains the human insight, use of technology and vision of the future that is natural in science fiction, but delivers it in three short poignant lines. The form is inspired by the principles of haiku, but it deviates due to its science fiction theme. The standard length of a poem is 17 syllables.  While traditional haiku has three lines of five syllables, then seven, and then five again, scifaiku does not need to follow this structure unless the poet wishes it.  The structure is merely a guideline in scifaiku and the poet can write more than 17 syllables if they wish.  This is due to science fiction having technical terms that make the shortness of traditional haiku difficult.

Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp

How to write Scifaiku 

Scifaiku contains certain theme elements, much like haiku does.  In traditional haiku, the poems are about nature.  In scifaiku, the poems are about science fiction. Each poem needs to evoke a science fiction premise along with its own observation of that idea.  For instance you might include a technological word like space, laser, nebula, biofeedback, teleport, ect. Technical words often can be long and have many syllables, but this is allowed in Scifaiku.

In traditional haiku, a word is included to indicate the season or time this poem is taking place in.  I was taught in the workshop to also include this element in the scifaiku poem.  It is not a requirement, but I am finding that including it makes my poems stronger.  I tend to not use seasonal words, but I do like to use words that give a sense of the time.

Haiku and scifaiku both involve creating a sense of a single moment in time and space.  You need to discover that tiny moment and the feelings that it invokes within yourself.  Scifaiku is about creating a small small, a tiny bubble in the universe that makes one think.

Original Drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original Drawing by Wendy Van Camp

Authors of Scifaiku

  • One of the earliest published poems in this form was Karen Anderson’s “Six Haiku” from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1962.
  • Terry Pratchett used Scifaiku as a chapter epigram in one of his early novels, “The Dark Side of the Sun” in 1976.
  •  Robert Frazier published “Haiku for the L5” in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine(1979) and also  “Haiku for the Space Shuttle” (1980)
  • The most extensive use of scifaiku in science fiction is by David Brin in his “Uplift Universe” and in his novel “The Postman”.  In Uplift, the dolphin characters speak a haiku-like language called Trinary and he has characters quoting and writing haiku in the story.  In “The Postman”, Brin used scifaiku as chapter epigrams.

Awards for Scifaiku

There are few awards for scifaiku.  It is a rare form of science fiction inspired poetry and often will not be eligible for recognition in regular poetry wards.  However, The Science Fiction Poetry Association gives out a  “Dwarf Star Award” for the best short length speculative poem each year which does include scifaiku.  The nominees for the award are published in their annual anthology, Dwarf Stars. Joining the Science Fiction Poetry Association allows you to nominate and vote for the award in addition to giving you a copy of the anthology. Http://http://sfpoetry.com/

Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp

Final Word

Scifaiku is a poetry form that I’ve grown very fond of. It is my hope that more people will begin to write it and that it will flourish as an art form.  From a single seminar on a lazy Friday afternoon, I have been transformed into a poet of sorts and my life has become all the better for it.

*****

Wendy Van Camp is the writer behind No Wasted Ink, a blog about the craft of writing, featuring author interviews, book reviews and scifaiku poetry. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband. Wendy enjoys travel, bicycling, gourmet cooking and gemology. Her articles, short stories and poetry has appeared in literary and science fiction magazines such as “Shadows Express”, “Luna Station Quarterly”, “Serendipity”, and “Far Horizons”.  Her first Amazon ebook is a regency romance entitled: “The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion”.

Wendy Van Camp
Wendy Van Camp

Want more information about Scifaiku? Check out these links!

Website: http://nowastedink.com
Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Curates-Brother-Austen-Variation-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B00OU1V45A

About Katharine Grubb

Katharine Grubb has mastered the art of freewriting because she wrote her first novel in 10 minute increments. There are probably easier ways to write a book, but with homeschooling her five children, she’ll take what she can get. Her latest book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day was just released and is available on Amazon.com She lives in Massachusetts and blogs at www.10minutenovelists.com.

2 thoughts on “Creating Beautiful Words — Scifaiku! A Guest Post By Wendy Van Camp

  1. This is also my first time to hear about Scifaiku and to think it started in 1962. I don’t think this was taught in school. Students should study and try to write this different kind of poem. I hope it will be a topic learned in school anytime soon. Too bad I am not into poem writing but maybe I can still try to write.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *