The old saw about writing is that you should “write what you know.”
In one way this is complete and utter bull-hockey. If authors only wrote what they knew, we’d never have cell-phones (based on Star Trek communicators) or Waldo’s (those hand grip things you can control from a safe place, based on the same idea from… I want to say Heinlein) or virtual reality (Hello there, Mr. Gibson) or even the USA (Thank you, Mr. Jefferson.) Authors create worlds of new inventions, solve age old problems, and generally let their minds extrapolate beautiful futures from what they’ve learned.
On the other hand, it’s completely true. Writers write about small family dramas, about political maneuvering, about growing up. No matter where these things happen, here or in outer space, they’re still things we know. If my romantic couple has a screaming fight, but they’re trapped in a space ship (car) and she can’t just pop outside, they have to deal with it. If the kids are annoying, you give them something to play with (though it might be an interactive holodeck rather than a spinning top.)
Writers know more than they think. You know more than you think. You know about love and loss and grief and friendship. You know about struggling through an endless day and walking out in the sunshine. You know that frogs come out in the summer and fireflies flickering on the back porch means the weather has changed over from spring. You know that your mother and grandmother can fight even if they’re fighting over nothing. You know that your grandfather is quiet but whispers hilariously mean things into your ear at parties.
You know emotions and conflicts and what it’s like to hold the hand of your first girlfriend. You know what it’s like to get home after a ten hour day of putting out metaphorical fires and just wanting to curl up in your bed and drink half a bottle of wine.
So, take what you know, those conflicts, emotions, and muddled up relationships and put them on a space-ship. Drop them into the middle of a war-zone. Have your kick-ass soldier find out that his dog died while he wasn’t there to comfort him. Then, tell me that truth.
Then submit the darned stories and let other people see them.
PS: Still seeking essays on the fandom life for our Star Wars edition of Fandom Universe. Deadline is April 1st (no joke). Release will be May 4th.