Some years ago, I wrote a novella called The Apocalypse Experiment. The premise was that in the not-too-distant future, aliens nicknamed Portents have ended the fertility of the human race, killing all already-pregnant women and then all women who become pregnant. Humans are scared into a zero birth rate. A pair of scientists and a group of the Last Babies (the last generation to be born, now middle-aged) decide to try and restart the human race by controlling the hormones created and exuded by pregnant women, keeping them secret. Ultimately, they fail, in a tragic way that I didn't foresee until it was on the page.
Even before I'd finished writing, Children of Men came out. Oh, well.
I was horribly insecure during the whole time I was writing this novella. The lion's share of my genre reading has been edge-of-genre fantasy and science fiction - Bradbury, Susanna Clarke, Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, Douglas Adams, etc. There's not a lot of straight Arthur C. Clarke science fiction and even less R.A. Salvatore fantasy in my head. I don't know what you call this in the fantasy realm (low fantasy?), but what I like to read is known as soft sci-fi. Bradbury's later short stories are the best example of this I know, because they're mostly about people, and sometimes those people happen to be, y'know, on Mars.
Before The Apocalypse Experiment, I had only tried to write science fiction in short stories. My memory is telling me that in fact I only attempted YA sci-fi short stories before I wrote this novella, but that doesn't seem right to me. In any case, none of them were any good. The science was exceptionally shaky, because I am so thoroughly right-brained that I can barely calculate tips properly, much less comprehend physics; and I felt like I failed to get at the thing I love best about soft sci-fi. Which is: the way in which fantastic stories unknot what's essential about us, the way the best writers use the framework of science fiction and otherworldliness to show something humbling and brilliant and miraculous about the human animal. Ourselves mirrored in the future. This is also why I like soft sci-fi as opposed to hard; hard sci-fi is far more interested in the Petri dish than in the organism.
You have to write the fantastic stories properly, though, before you can capture the psychology of humans within their cage. You have to build the world before populating it with ideas, and that was what I failed to do in my stories. With the novella I wrote, I think I did a better job at this; my characters were pretty darn well-realized, and I was really proud of my plot. I was really proud of the whole thing, in truth. I still think the science is perhaps a bit embarrassing, but a reader like me wouldn't know the difference.
That's the thing that keeps driving me back to wanting to write science fiction at all. A reader like me. Someone who finds Arthur C. Clarke appallingly boring but who's devoured every damn minute of Star Trek: TNG. (Multiple times.) Someone who couldn't tell if a method of space travel was implausible, couldn't care less if the medicine is unrealistic or inconsistent.
I have a lot of smart friends, though. A lot of people who are thoroughly left-brained. One of them, for example, is a Ph.D. from MIT who's researching artificial intelligence and string theory. Their faces loom in my mind whenever I get a sci-fi idea that would cause me to invent and fumble through all sorts of crap I know nothing about, and I hear them scoffing and laughing at my ridiculous ideas about future transportation and future housing and future diets. So I get insecure. And I put those ideas aside, think about writing them later, maybe after I've been to a few cons and suffered through a little more Clarke.
The idea I'm working on now? It refuses to be put aside. It won't leave me be. I'm crazy about my conflicted, semi-Magneto-esque, completely wackadoo android, and I've just got to get his story down. I was depressed this morning to learn that Asimov (who straddles the line between hard and soft, I find) has already written part of my central idea. Children of Men all over again.
But I'm going to write it regardless. This story is developing to be a lot more like Poe than like Asimov, anyway, and I think I'm going to write in that direction, throwing to the wind all my frets about my poor sci-fi skills. It's coming out slowly and painfully, but I keep trying to remember that I wrote 25,000 words through insecurity about my ability as a sci-fi writer, and surely I can write a few thousand more now.