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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Science Fiction

   
Author Topic: Science Fiction
Metrotheque
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I'm not a hardcore science fiction or fantasy fan, or at least wasn't for a while, until LOTR and Mr. Card. I had picked up a few Sci-Fi's but they all had the same problem: the authors were writing about fictional science instead of scientific fiction. Sadly both of these types of books end up in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of bookstores. It needs to be understood that just writing a story is not enough; there must be a research part of it as well. That is the ultimate story that most everyone will connect with. Unless they just don't like science and a good story. It's hard to find the balance between the two. It is always good to come up with the good story first, and then the theory and support for it afterword. Sometimes stories must slightly change for it to be realistic, and in the end, this will only make it better. If you have anything to add or point me out where I'm flat out wrong please comment, most of my friends hate to hear my blather on about my ideas about writing.
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wetwilly
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I think it's a matter of personal preference. I, for one, when I do read sf, hate when it gets all sciency. As far as I'm concerned, I'll swallow whatever science you want to feed me, as long as the story is good. Others prefer some attachment to real scientific principles. Depends on the reader.
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Silver3
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I agree with Wetwilly in that I read science fiction for the sake of the stories (otherwise I guess I would read science books). For me science fiction is more about story-telling and exploring moral dilemmas than about inventing new science (we're talking fiction, not inventing a new kind of science - for that we have researchers).

If you think about it, much science fiction is based on wildly improbable ideas. I'm not saying they're false, because we don't know enough to invalidate them, but many concepts are fundamentally improbable. Take the ansible (messages traveling instantly, whereas nothing can go faster than the speed of light) in Le Guin's stories, or aliens we can actually communicate with (whereas the likelihood of carbon-based lifeforms arising in the universe is already pretty low, not to mention the possibility that billions of years of evolution would result in beings whose minds we could actually encompass). So in a way, it depends on
-what you're ready to believe
-what the author is capable of making you believe through a realistic presentation/story
So I don't think the point of science fiction is to write "scientific fiction", but rather to tell stories about ourselves (because we are human, and any story we tell is bound to be about ourselves, no matter in how twisted a way), using science as a prop.
My two cents, anyway.


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Shanu
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Hi Metrotheque,

I see where you're coming from, but there is more to the genre of science fiction than stories concerning present-day science. Whilst a great many writers do write about what we know and understand, and do it extremely proficiently too (Stephen Baxter being a great example, and David Brin also being a writer who has gone on record as emphasising science over story), science fiction also has roots in pulp writing, in ghost stories, in weird fiction, in psychological fiction (often hard to draw the line between this and ghost stories), not to mention subgenres such as space opera. To demand of science fiction total scientific accuracy is to deny the fictitious element of it all.

But you're not wrong, either. As I said, a great many writers do write about present-day science, and strive for realism. Peter Hamilton, for example, wrote a book not long ago about which the only real SFnal conceit was rejuvenation - one man was made young again, and this is something which may well become possible soon. The rest of the book was really just present-day Britain, a little further in the future - a few things had changed, like data storage, political groups, etc. But it's a very 'real' book, exploring the ramifications of one scientific trend - by comparison with his Night's Dawn trilogy, an epic space opera set quite some way into the future, featuring the whole bag of sentient organic/artificial 'bitek' technology, faster than light travel, and the dead returning to life.

That's not very well expressed, for which I apologised, but I hope you see my point. Unless I have missed yours.

[This message has been edited by Shanu (edited October 26, 2004).]


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Lorien
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Echoing a little of what others have said, yes, it is a definite personal preference thing. I think for me Silver3 hit it right on the head with: it's what the author is capable of making you believe. It's not so much about whether the science is solid or not, but more about whether you can believe the science in the context given in the story. Many of the most interesting short stories I've read recently deal with the question of: What if ____ were possible? or What might happen if we take the science just a step further....? Isn't that what science fiction dealt with when it first "began" as a genre? I'm not a SF historian, so I don't know. But, for me, as long as the author can convince me it's true, I can suspend as much scientific reality as you want.
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Magic Beans
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While opinions will certainly differ, I have a suggestion of an author whose work balances the science with character-driven fiction: Greg Bear. Reading his work was quite eye-opening for me and made me realize that the more science advances, the more questions there are where we don't know the answers, and those knowledge gaps are where science fiction stories are born.
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Metrotheque
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I concurr for the most part with everyone. It does depend on the audience. The important thing is to make the reader accept it, and this goes with the audience you're seeking. The most important in executing this is just making people accept the "science" or "fantasy" part of it, in that there are no contradictions and logical errors. Using Mr. Card's writing on the ansible, he made it such a huge part of the story, that you had to accept it, and in the end it came out to be one big believable story. And again, it's the whole balance between the story and the (changing from the "scientific")"theory" part of it. Hmm, an equation? story / theory = audience. If only we could divide words with words.
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NewsBys
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I'll buy just about any fictional science that the writer comes up with, as long as the writer gets the commonly known facts correct. For instance, if a writer wrote about a tropical vacation resort on Mercury, I'd have a big problem with it, IF they didn't explain how the resort was built, why it was built and how it is maintained in such an environment. I would also expect them to emphasize how dangerous it is just to be there, because of the harsh environment. They have a responsibility to do some basic research to get currently known or at least theorized scientific facts straight.

[This message has been edited by NewsBys (edited October 27, 2004).]


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