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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Wanted: SF advice for a LOTR geek.

   
Author Topic: Wanted: SF advice for a LOTR geek.
Shaygirl
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My fabulous Science Fiction teacher has just informed me that I can write a story for our final project! I have resolved from now on to ask all of my teachers if I can write stories for my finals (my bio teacher will love it [Wink] ). The only requirement is that it the story has to be sf (no kidding).

So here it is, my only exposure to sf is Star Wars, an episode of Star Treck, a couple stories my grandpa told me as a kid, and some nightmares about being chased by robots...Oh and a handful of stories that I've had to read for this class (and they were...different). Well there was some Bujold. Okay, so I've read some of the better known stuff. But writing it?

I really want to write something along the Steam Punk line, is that considered sf? If so what are the defining points of Steam Punk? If not...Crud I don't know… [Confused] I just need a couple of ideas. Maybe not for the story plot, but rather, what I shouldn't do.

I am disgruntled by the fact that neither being able to name the companions in the "Fellowship of the Ring", nor knowing that trolls turn to stone in sunlight will be able to help me here.

~Shay

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MattLeo
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quote:
I really want to write something along the Steam Punk line, is that considered sf?
This is a question you ought to put to your teacher. Suppose I in my capacity as an infallible oracle tell you that, "Yes indeed Shaygirl, steampunk is SF." You go ahead and write your steampunk story and hand it in. It may get rejected because your fallible (not agreeing with me) teacher doesn't think steampunk counts as sci-fi.

I can make persuasive arguments either way, that steampunk is sci-fi, or that steampunk is fantasy. But it won't matter either way because people are seldom convinced by reason to abandon a position they have already taken. And in this case reason has no settled opinion either way: steampunk has "family resemblance" (in Wittgenstein's sense) to both fantasy and sci-fi.

Now let put an interesting top spin on your question. I ask others here: if you had to recommend a single short story which would open up the possibilities of sci-fi to a reader who only knew Star Wars, Trek and steampunk, what would it be?

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LDWriter2
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Boy you most have skipped all but one of Star Trek-- you can make up for that by reading Strange New Worlds one through Ten, especially ten. [Smile]

They were all written by non pros writers.


But seriously Matt already commented on Steampunk. and I would say don't know anything really strange but if you read some stories that were ...different maybe your teacher likes those. Any other advice would depend on your teacher and how long a story and how long you have to do it.

As to what is steampunk HERE Notice they have a button in the line menu near the top, that takes you someplace that explains steampunk.

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extrinsic
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Science fiction comes in three basic flavors: fantastical physical science and/or technology, fantastical social science, and fantasy crossovers with those two. Steampunk can be in any of those categories, with emphasis on the first.

Science fiction can be thought of as rivets and chrome milieus, where fantasy milieus favor fairy tale and fable milieus.

Steampunk for me is Rube Goldberg machinery, elaborate machines that perform simple tasks, used in past, present, or futuristic milieus, anachronistic (out of conventional temporal setting) regardless.

One overarching essential for science fiction is a fantastical premise, science, technology, or social circumstance, must influence the plot: at the simplest level, a major problem wanting satisfaction.

For a steampunk short story with a fantasy flare, for example, perhaps a primitive battery pile, pre-Rennaisance. A high priestess or priest uses the batteries to cause worshippers astonishment and shock and awe. A problem wanting satisfaction might be a competing temple wants the secret of the battery pile that makes supplicants tingle from mild electric shocks or creates a stunning, brilliant arc light, like a flashbulb.

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Brendan
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Science Fiction teacher? You are studying science fiction? Then you should know by now. [Big Grin]

If you mean science teacher, bear in mind that s/he would probably be looking for real science in the story. One brand of steam punk does this beautifully - it takes a known piece of science, something that we know now but wasn't know say 100 to 150 years ago (when steam, electricity and early pharmaceuticals were the height of scientific endeavor) and speculates someone finding out about that future science. Take television, imagine how that would change society back then. Or an aeroplane (nods to Rabirch). Or perhaps birth control pills - how would the Victorians take to that? (Or the woman suffrigates). Or if Florence Nightengale happened to meet someone who discovered penecilin? Or someone used statistical techniques to play the stock market? Or if someone took modern advertising methods and used them in the newspapers to influence the public about some current ideal? You could make all sorts of stories, but the ones that would probably appeal to a science teacher were ones that showed how real science could be done within the past context.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
So here it is, my only exposure to sf is Star Wars, an episode of Star Treck, a couple stories my grandpa told me as a kid, and some nightmares about being chased by robots...Oh and a handful of stories that I've had to read for this class (and they were...different). Well there was some Bujold. Okay, so I've read some of the better known stuff. But writing it?
Well, by my aged standards, not really. Steampunk is just some latter-day version of alternate history to me. But where to start? Well...you might try the link to the InterGalactic Medicine Show above. I haven't actually sampled the stories featured, but, by reputation alone, it's as good a place to start as any.
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genevive42
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Skipping over the steampunk idea for a moment and focusing on how to turn your fantasy brain into a science fiction one. Consider a story on a distant planet, or a space station, with aliens. Aliens aren't much different than trolls and dwarves. The big difference is that you have to establish and follow your own rules rather than using pre-existing ones. And of course, you can have your humans in there too.

You could also consider a fully human crew exploring an alien planet. This wouldn't be much different than a fantasy group exploring some unknown caves or such. Just give them an sf reason for being there and use tech instead of swords or magic.

Focus on your characters and stay within the logic of your world and you should be fine.

And for resources, go to Duotrope and search for pro sf publications. Many of them have free stories online.

And definitely ask your teacher if he considers steampunk to be science fiction before you dive into that.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If you aren't certain what "steampunk" is, I would not recommend that you try writing it. In fact, trying to write any kind of science fiction can be a challenge if you aren't a reader of science fiction.

What I'd suggest is that you write a story based on this "definition" of science fiction:

"Science fiction is about how people (a character or characters) are affected by technology."

So consider picking some whiz-bang eye-popping scientific advancement that you've heard of and tell a story about how someone was affected by having that advancement enter their lives.

An example might be having to drive Grandma to her doctor's appointment in the family's new aircar.

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rabirch
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The one steampunk piece I have written goes into very little detail on how it all works. Most published steampunk that I have read, however, tend to wax rhapsodic on the intricacies of gears and *how things work.* It may be impossible, but it is described in loving detail.

The only way I've been able to write science fiction at all is by basically writing it from the POV of a character who wouldn't understand the science much, if at all, and hence I've been able to wave my hands at it and all of a sudden that science feels more like magic.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that wouldn't help with a science fiction (science?) teacher.

I think Genevive has a good idea, in recasting fantasy as sci-fi. In fact, I may ponder that more fully myself. I'd never thought of it in such a clear-cut way.

Definitely be consistent within your world, though.

Good luck! I wish I'd gotten the option to write a story for a final project!

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MattLeo
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Extrinsic brings up an important point when he mentions milieu. It's just about the only cut-and-dried way you can separate fantasy from sci-fi, and it has a certain marketing validity. The setting matters a great deal to readers. Sometimes you're in the mood for horses and huts, swordplay and sorcerous incantations. Other times you're in the mood for a gleaming chromium-steel rocket ship, or perhaps a cast-iron submarine with polished brass instruments.

But important as milieu is, I think it's a largely superficial distinction from the point of view of the storyteller. The example I use is this: what is the difference between a ray gun and a magic wand? Functionally, none.

The difference between a ray gun and a magic wand are the assumed society behind each of them. You can examine the bill-of-materials for the ray gun and trace back the supply chain all the way back to where the materials were mined; the ray gun is the product of an economy. A team of engineers selects from the sub-assemblies and materials available on the market and produces a design. That design is transformed into working units by much less skilled technicians and semi-skilled labor working under repeatable, controlled conditions.

The magic wand on the other hand works because it was made by the right person with the right attitude from the right wood under just the right circumstances for the magic to happen.

In other words magic is primarily the product of individual brilliance. Brilliant individuals play an important part in developing technology of course, but the production of even the simplest technological artifact is the result of cooperation between enormous numbers of anonymous contributors.

The steampunk gentleman super-scientist is for all practical purposes a wizard. Captain Nemo is self-sufficient in his personal wealth and arcane knowledge in the way no post-Victorian engineer could be. Even Tony Stark relies upon the support of a corporation and has to worry about his economic inter-dependency with the military industrial complex. If he declared war on the world, his supply chain would be cut off. No more titanium, semi-conductors or computer chips means that his ability to operate independently is at best measured in months. So arguably steampunk is fantasy.

On the other hand, steampunk stories I've read are often about a kind of problem solving that is characteristic of science fiction. Figuring out how an unfamiliar technology works, or grasping the implications of new scientific or technical knowledge are classic, Golden Age sci-fi plot drivers. Steampunk stories featuring these themes can't reasonably be regarded as *not* being science fiction.

Fantasy theme drivers are usually about allegiance and duty -- often to destiny, which has no place in a sci-fi story in my opinion. Themes of loyalty and faithfulness to purpose do occur in sci-fi, as do problem-solving plot-drivers in fantasy. That is what makes it so hard to draw a clean line between fantasy and sci-fi unless you base the distinction purely upon the world-building furniture in the story. But the heroic decision with cosmic consequences is quintessentially fantasy. Mulling over a knotty problem and discovering a surprising new angle is quintessentially sci-fi.

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extrinsic
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What not to do? General advice for a college paper to begin with: Evaluation is based on demonstrating an understanding of an assignment's purposes and what's been learned in a course. Better still, daring to demonstrate new knowledge learned if not new knowledge discovered, especially about the self. For fiction in general, that's unique insight into the human condition. Do not try to do too much. Do not attempt too little either.

I've read more than a thousand college papers this past year: creative nonfiction and fiction (all the category genres) and academic genres. One common shortcoming I've noted is a lack of organization due to skimpy preparation. Once and done composition is the common cause. In the case of scholarly papers, the conclusion is often the opening of the paper, the assertion the paper attempts to validate. Meaning the writer barely developed the concept first, but in composing the paper developed the concept, but didn't rework accordingly. Time pressure prevented further development.

In the case of creative writing, the ending doesn't live up to the promise of the opening or the opening spends too much word count real estate getting around to introducing the main dramatic complication, the major problem wanting satisfaction. Pump priming and scaffolding does work to develop a concept but should be heavily reworked for best dramatic effect.

Creative writing falls within one of the four writing meta genres; that is, performance. The other three are research and report, problem identification and solution, and investigative inquiry.

Expression, content and organization, and mechanical style are the other areas by which a college paper is evaluated. Switching those for creative writing's terms: voice, craft, and mechanical style. However, the composition phase that doesn't get onto the page, per se, that's common to all papers and a common shortcoming is concept development.

For concept development, a performance paper has one clearcut organizing principle that informs content and expression: plot. A plot's structure is organized around a problem wanting satisfaction. Introduce a character in a setting with a problem wanting satisfaction, escalate the complication of the problem and difficulty satisfying the problem, and deliver a final, unequivocal, irrevocable satisfaction outcome of the problem. Beginning, middle, and ending. Do include those features, all of them, as simultaneously as pratical. Don't leave one out in any scene. Not a one.

Do not skimp on concept development. Do not wait until the last minute. Do not skimp on reworking.

Common shortcomings for science fiction compositions I've seen, deus ex machina outcomes, where an external coincidence prompts a protagonist's satisfaction of a problem. For a short story: Do portray the protagonist's proactively causing the problem; do portray the protagonist's proactive efforts to satisfy the problem; do portray the protagonist's proactive satisfaction of the problem. Do not depict another character or characters causing or satisfying the problem.

The other common shortcoming I see, illogical causation. Cause precedes effect. Reactions are caused by stimuli. Put the cause first, then the reaction. Do not put effects first. An example.

Mary Higgs sighed. The fourth time she'd tried to put the square peg into the round whole and she still hadn't got it right.

The first sentence is a reaction to the stimuli of the second sentence. Illogical causation. Not to mention the first sentence is a summary recital, a tell recited by the narrator. Though the second sentence is an exclamation that closes narrative distance into Mary's voice through expressing Mary's thoughts.

Voice, stay within the protagonist's personal perceptions and voice. Do not recite the story to readers from the narrator's voice and perceptions.

Managing those mischiefs satsifactorily will put your paper ahead of the class complement and earn approval from your instructor.

[ July 04, 2012, 01:47 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rabirch
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And here's the awesome thing. After your story is your final project, you might be able to SELL IT! How cool is that?
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LDWriter2
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Hadn't thought of that rebirch but you're right.

Go for it Shay

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Shaygirl
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Wow, this is a lot of information. Thank you all!

All of the pointers on Steam Punk were very helpful. The story I first read that was Steam Punk had a heavy dose of fantasy like powers (actual magic). But it sounds like the fantasy was just that, a heavy dose of magic in a sp world. So thank you all for the clarification! I will do as several of you suggested and look around at the new technology coming out today and see what I can find.

Mattleo: So fundamentally sf ‘powers’ depend on tangible things that could be put together in an assembly line. Something that anyone could learn how to make using a handbook, no special inner difference needed; unless you might be required to speak telepathically with an alien (but the alien seems to be the one who gives the human that ability).

extrinsic: So procrastination is out then? [Wink] I am glad that I started this right when I got my assignment. Actually if I start writing now I'll be ahead of the game. I've seen (and written) cramped work and it really bothers me. I will try to give this assignment all of the time it needs.

genevive42: I can take that comparison. It makes a heck of a lot of sense.

Thanks again everyone!

Shay
P.S. rabirch, you made me smile. Get a story sold? Wild dream come true!

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Shaygirl:
So fundamentally sf ‘powers’ depend on tangible things that could be put together in an assembly line. Something that anyone could learn how to make using a handbook, no special inner difference needed; unless you might be required to speak telepathically with an alien (but the alien seems to be the one who gives the human that ability).

That's pretty much it, but let me reiterate that the only *reliable* ways to categorize the difference between sci-fi and fantasy are the superficial ones; what I call the "furniture" of the story. Everyone agrees that a story with elves and spell books is fantasy, and a story with rocket ships and aliens is sci-fi.

What I'm pointing out is a kind of parallel issue of world-building logic. Extrinsic would probably say that a quintessential sci-fi story is more rigidly mimetic than a fantasy story. However it's quite common to have crossover type stories that mix fantasy logic with sci-fi furniture and vice-versa. Star Wars is a fantasy story with sci-fi trappings. Vampire stories that treat vampirism as a kind of treatable disease are sci-fi stories with fantasy trappings.

This kind of genre-bending seems to have become quite common now that speculative fiction has achieved pop-culture acceptance. I have nothing against it per se, but I often find that a straight-up sci-fi or fantasy story has a certain quality mash-ups usually lack; a kind of credibility.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Do not put effects first. An example.

Mary Higgs sighed. The fourth time she'd tried to put the square peg into the round whole and she still hadn't got it right.

This is interesting. One often sees this kind of construction in story openings. Some story openings open as if the narrative cameraman has stepped into the room in the middle of a conversation. We'll get a statement or an action, and then the narrator will fill us in.on what's happening.

An example like this doesn't necessarily invert cause and effect; in context it might prove to be the effect-exposition part of cause-effect-exposition, like this:

"You've got forty seconds left," Billy Boson said, holding up the stopwatch.

Mary Higgs sighed. The fourth time she'd tried to put the square peg into the round whole and she still hadn't got it right.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
What I'm pointing out is a kind of parallel issue of world-building logic. Extrinsic would probably say that a quintessential sci-fi story is more rigidly mimetic than a fantasy story.

extrinsic would say any artfully-crafted story is rigidly mimetic, in imitation mode rather than recital modes diegesis and exigesis.
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Do not put effects first. An example.

Mary Higgs sighed. The fourth time she'd tried to put the square peg into the round whole and she still hadn't got it right.

quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
This is interesting. One often sees this kind of construction in story openings. Some story openings open as if the narrative cameraman has stepped into the room in the middle of a conversation. We'll get a statement or an action, and then the narrator will fill us in.on what's happening.

An example like this doesn't necessarily invert cause and effect; in context it might prove to be the effect-exposition part of cause-effect-exposition, like this:

"You've got forty seconds left," Billy Boson said, holding up the stopwatch.

Mary Higgs sighed. The fourth time she'd tried to put the square peg into the round whole and she still hadn't got it right.

Context is as critical for causation as it is for any artful writing feature. A verbatim sentence used in one context could be exigesis, in another the sentence might be mimesis, or diegesis. Or artless inverted causation or artful nonlinear timeline. No absolutes, only whether what's intended is accessible and comprehensible and moves a plot forward or not; in other words, is it working or not.
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variable_1960
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I find it amazing that someone who knows so little about SF actually made it into this forum and posted something.

There is probably a great SF story right there.

The internet is a fascinating place, isn't it?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by variable_1960:
I find it amazing that someone who knows so little about SF actually made it into this forum and posted something.

There is probably a great SF story right there.

The internet is a fascinating place, isn't it?

Not all of us write science fiction, or even speculative fiction, although most do write some form of speculative fiction. That's not a requirement for being a member of this forum.
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Brendan
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quote:
Fantasy theme drivers are usually about allegiance and duty -- often to destiny, which has no place in a sci-fi story in my opinion.
I couldn't let this one go past, Matt [Smile] . Destiny is often a theme in science fiction, only it typically uses different ways to deal with it. Star Wars certainly deals with it in a fantasy-like manner. But take, for example, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, which considers destiny from the point of view of making all the same decisions again, due to the similarity of makeup and experience. Or The Cold Equations, which sets out destiny in terms of, once a decision has been acted on, there is no way to prevent the outcome, despite the MC and others attempting to thwart it. Or even Foundation, where destiny is not an individual thing, but something that can be analysed for large populations.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
extrinsic would say any artfully-crafted story is rigidly mimetic, in imitation mode rather than recital modes diegesis and exigesis.

I would venture that the line between "mimesis" ("showing") and "diagesis" ("telling") is not quite as clear-cut as you seem to be suggesting. When an author uses symbolism he is showing on one level while at the same tme telling on another. In William Blake's "The Sick Rose", the worm that "Has found out they bed/Of crimson joy/And his dark secret love/Does thy life destroy" isn't taken by anyone to be a insect larva, although clearly that is what Blake is describing.

If I might suggest yet another confusing coinage, I'd say that poetry speaks in a different "mimetic register" than strictly realistic fiction does. Classic science fiction is close to strictly realistic fiction, and fantasy is somewhere between science fiction in poetry. The action of fantasy is still predominantly literal but with a symbolic component as well. Tolkien's ring is supposed to be taken as a physical object in the LotR universe, but at the same time is also supposed to be taken as something more than *just* a piece of Elven technology. It is something akin to Original Sin.

Horror is even closer to poetry than fantasy. It doesn't work at all if you take a strictly realistic stance toward reading it. If there are sinister shadows in the corner, you need better lighting. If there are rats scurrying up and down the bell rope, you need an exterminator. If there are ghosts haunting your study, you need a psychiatrist.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
Destiny is often a theme in science fiction, only it typically uses different ways to deal with it. Star Wars certainly deals with it in a fantasy-like manner. ...Or even Foundation, where destiny is not an individual thing, but something that can be analysed for large populations.

These are terrific examples. Star Wars is clearly fantasy -- or was until Lucas started blithering on about "trade federations" rand"midichlorians", at which point the franchise lost its bearings.

I often say that the distinguishing feature of hard science fiction is the presumption of some kind of social science beneath it all,and Foundation makes this point explicitly. But Psychohistory falls far short of destiny, and Asimov introduces the Second Foundation to make just this point. Destiny has no place in hard sci-fi unless someone is pulling the strings.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
extrinsic would say any artfully-crafted story is rigidly mimetic, in imitation mode rather than recital modes diegesis and exigesis.

I would venture that the line between "mimesis" ("showing") and "diagesis" ("telling") is not quite as clear-cut as you seem to be suggesting.
When a narrator or implied author or real author tells a story in a summary recital or explanatory recital, as if lecturing to an audience from a lectern about a slide show displayed along with the lecture, that's about as clear-cut as I like to distinguish show from tell. Otherwise, interpretations are about as subject to variables as individuals are subject to distinctions.
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Brendan
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Definition of Destiny
quote:
1.The events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
2.The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

MattLeo says
quote:
Destiny has no place in hard sci-fi unless someone is pulling the strings.
Well, someone or something "pulling the strings" is what that second definition above is about. As for the first, since science fiction is often attempting to predict events and relate that to people, then I think saying that "destiny has no place" isn't quite correct.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
When a narrator or implied author or real author tells a story in a summary recital or explanatory recital, as if lecturing to an audience from a lectern about a slide show displayed along with the lecture, that's about as clear-cut as I like to distinguish show from tell. Otherwise, interpretations are about as subject to variables as individuals are subject to distinctions.

Yes, that's *one* sense in the word "mimesis" is used, but by insisting on talking about mimetic *discourse* you're totally missing the point. A Hans Christian Anderson story elicits feelings and conveys meaning in a way that is totally different from, say, an Arthur Conan Doyle *Holmes* story, even when the narrative mode happens to be broadly similar.

Both *The Snow Queen* and *The Hound of the Baskervilles* compel belief, but in different ways, each with their own pleasures. One of the charms of a Holmes story is that we can imagine it happening "for real"; if we knew a great deal about Victorian police procedures this effect would no doubt be spoiled. The effect of a Holmes story is mimetic in the sense Aristotle uses when talking about drama. The story provides us a fictional but carefully orchestrated representation of things we know to be real. This effect holds even when Watson happens to be telling us things or explaining them to us, rather than showing.

*The Snow Queen* (or more obviously *Childe Roland*) starts in the recognizable world and moves into a fairy world, and that is the charm. No amount of knowledge of Danish agronomy can rob the witch's garden of credibility. Even superficial knowledge of Scandinavian geography would tell us that robber bands are unlikely to roam Lapland, and that it's impossible for a little girl to ride from Lapland to Spitzbergen on a reindeer. But it doesn't ruin the story in the way that specific knowledge of Scotland Yard procedures would ruin a Holmes story.

When Gerda finds Kai emotionally cold and unresponsive on a lake of ice called "The Mirror of Reason", we are *shown* this, but the effect is definitely *not* mimetic. Yes there is always room for some individual variation in interpretation, but what Anderson means is perfectly plain -- in effect he's told us, without literally doing so. No woolly-headed, subjective speculation is necessary to grasp it.

This is an *extremely* important point, because if you don't grasp that fantasy stories are told in a different manner, your understanding of them is bound to be twisted. This is what got Tolkien so worked up about allegory. Tolkien himself employed allegory in one story to great effect (*Leaf by Niggle*), so I don't think it was allegory per se that set him off. It was the inability of so many critics to understand that there are modes of storytelling that aren't purely realistic or rigidly allegorical. Otherwise sensible people who don't grasp this end up approaching fantasy stories in absurd ways.

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extrinsic
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I don't see fantasy storytelling as having any clear-cut discourse distinction from any other genre. Traditional omniscient narrative voices based on fantasy's preaching, teaching, lecturing folklore origins, yes. Conventions, no. The trend through the literary opus has been increasingly toward mimetic discourse, escalating in the past hundred years. Fantasy probably is a a little slower to adapt due to its grounding in nursery rhymes, fairy tales, fables, and folklore and their prevalence in early and middle childhood reading and composition teaching.

The two-voice theory of narrative discourse, one narrator's voice, diegetic, one characters' voices, mimetic, a heirarchal-level structure, is more often a gradational overlap of diegetic and mimetic features than a distinction of extremes. However, again, the emerging trend is toward stronger mimetic discourse and less diegitic discourse. Harder to write artfully, mimetic discourse is. And narrators' egos must insert their authorial voices to express commentary as attitude holders telling readers the meaning of difficult to imitate premises. Visionary or mystical writing transcends the mimesis difficulty through potent imitation.

[ July 06, 2012, 01:28 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MartinV
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You say you need to write a science fiction story. Keep in mind that science fiction is a setting, not a story itself. You can develop a whole story before you decide in what particular setting you wish to place it and then work on the details that will give the eventual taste.

I take this as a challenge: how far can I develop a story before the environment demands its presence being known? Often I need the setting immediately; other times I can write the entire story and then decide into what particular setting I will put it. I speak of planning and first draft of the story, of course. The final version of it absolutely needs to reveal the setting very soon or the reader will have trouble with immersion.

This is the trouble I see with obsessive worldbuilders. They go to great efforts of creating the world but when it comes to the actual story, they will take a standard matrix and just pour the environment particulars in it to make it work with the setting. I go at it in the opposite direction: story/characters/conflict comes first, setting can wait.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I don't see fantasy storytelling as having any clear-cut discourse distinction from any other genre.

Stop right there. That's what I just said.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by MartinV:
This is the trouble I see with obsessive worldbuilders. They go to great efforts of creating the world but when it comes to the actual story, they will take a standard matrix and just pour the environment particulars in it to make it work with the setting. I go at it in the opposite direction: story/characters/conflict comes first, setting can wait.

I'm the same way, but that's no excuse for neglecting setting. Setting is a huge part of the special appeal of speculative fiction, and neglecting it means you've shortchanged the reader. I have to remind myself, "make sure the reader can see the rivets," because as a writer I'm not that interested in how rivets in a spaceship hull look -- until I start to write about them.

Every writer has some story element that comes more naturally to him than others. And for every writer there's some story element that won't show up until he buckles down and produces it. What makes writing *work* is forcing yourself to write the parts of the story your imagination hasn't handed to you as a free gift.

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Robert Nowall
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Yep...I prefer my worldbuilding to be right, that is, scientifically accurate, but it comes out below the plot and characters that inhabit the world I create under them. (One story I wrote last year had them in one of those "ribbon worlds," you know, the kind that always turn one face towards their sun. If I delved too deep into the science of it, all I'd do is wind up proving it was impossible. And I'd never get to the story.)
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Brendan
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If I see rivets in the spaceship, I begin to worry about hull breaches. Rivets make for loss of structural integrity in a vacuum. [Razz] More seriously, I would prefer to read stories where setting, idea and conflict are all tied together - take one out and the others struggle to hold the story together. Its ironic, but one editor rejected a story on that basis - stating that if we take away the science concept and the story collapses. Of course it did - it was an idea story and the conflict changed meaning completely without the idea. If it is totally transferable into a different setting, I may still enjoy it, but that usually means it isn't creating something new that science fiction is always out to find.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
If I see rivets in the spaceship, I begin to worry about hull breaches.

You can't weld refractory super-ceramics, so you use careful fitting and secure the ceramic plates to a frame with shiny silver-gray nickel-tungsten-rhenium alloy rivets. Naturally this expensive construction isn't needed for ships that don't re-enter the atmosphere. This is the kind of stuff I think about when I've got writer's block.

quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
Its ironic, but one editor rejected a story on that basis - stating that if we take away the science concept and the story collapses.

I wouldn't call that *ironic*. I'd call it *idiotic*, at least if we're talking about a sci-fi market.
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MJNL
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If you think that's bad, I had an editor reject a story because "we've already found proof of life on Mars." Er... What?
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MartinV
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I think it meant that editor had already seen a similar story. Then again, what do I know of editors?
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Robert Nowall
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What do editors know? I had this idea for a story, where this couple crashland their spaceship, and one of 'em is named Adam, and the other is named Eve...they all say it's been done before, and I've seen some things that were similar...but, in all honesty, I've never actually seen the original story that did this.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I don't see fantasy storytelling as having any clear-cut discourse distinction from any other genre.

Stop right there. That's what I just said.
I beg your pardon. Imperative addresses are not constructive.

And no, that's not what you just said. You said "If you don't grasp that fantasy stories are told in a different manner, your understanding of them is bound to be twisted." Told in a different manner from what? The same manner of telling is still telling whether in fantasy or mystery or romance, etc.

I feel your interpretation of what constitutes mimesis is different from mine.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
What do editors know? I had this idea for a story, where this couple crashland their spaceship, and one of 'em is named Adam, and the other is named Eve...they all say it's been done before, and I've seen some things that were similar...but, in all honesty, I've never actually seen the original story that did this.

Shorthand for many editors regularly receiving trite, outworn, unpublishable stories based on the "Adam and Eve Story."
From the Turkey City Lexicon:
"Nauseatingly common subset of the 'Shaggy God Story' in which a terrible apocalypse, spaceship crash, etc., leaves two survivors, man and woman, who turn out to be Adam and Eve, parents of the human race!!"

From Wikipedia: "'The shaggy god story is the bane of magazine editors, who get approximately one story a week set in a garden of Eden spelt Ee-Duhn.' Brian W. Aldiss, writing as Dr. Peristyle, New Worlds October, 1965."

"Brian Stableford notes in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2nd ed.) that 'a considerable fraction' of stories submitted to science fiction magazines feature a male and female astronaut marooned on a habitable planet and 'reveal (in the final line) that their names are Adam and Eve.'"

I've read a few that were published. Robert Arthur's "Evolution's End," 1941, is perhaps one of the earlier ones.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I feel your interpretation of what constitutes mimesis is different from mine.

Well, I wouldn't say your interpretation is wrong. You are using "mimesis" in a narrow sense of "mimetic v. diagetic narration", which is a perfectly legitimate use of the term, but not the only such legitimate use.

Allegory is a good example of the polysemy of the word "mimesis". An allegory might well be narrated entirely in mimetic discourse (showing), but it is never mimetic in the sense Plato or Aristotle would have used the word, i.e., a representation of concrete things you might find in the real world. In Tolkien's *Leaf by Niggle*, when Niggle catches a chill and is reminded he must take a trip he is unprepared for, Tolkien isn't talking about a business trip or a holiday, or any other kind of trip you can take *inside the real world*. He's talking about dying. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the degree to which Tolkien uses mimetic narration; even if the narration were strictly mimetic the story world would not be mimetic in its semantics.

Personally, I think "mimesis" as a synonym for "showing" is needlessly obscure. "Mimetic" as applied to the the correspondence of elements in a work of art to real world counterparts is much more useful, because it avoids loaded terms like "realistic". You could say that sci-fi is "contingently realistic"; a sci-fi story represents events that might actually happen if we *could* travel faster than the speed of light, for example. When Arthur is the only person who can pull the sword from the stone, that is something that can only happen in a universe that works fundamentally different from ours.

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extrinsic
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Time for a thread of its own on the narrowly construed literary usages of mimesis, diegesis, and exigesis; contemporary memes thereof.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Time for a thread of its own on the narrowly construed literary usages of mimesis, diegesis, and exigesis; contemporary memes thereof.

Agreed. After you, sir.
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babooher
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Could it be said that the Planet of the Apes films were something of a take on the Adam and Eve Story line?
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Robert Nowall
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I figured it might've appeared somewhere in the Gernsback Amazing era...I don't recall anything similar in the Collectes Proto-SF Works of H. G. Wells, though...

*****

Mimesis, diegesis, exigesis...it's all Greek to me.

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MartinV
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I like the way how Adam and Eve were used in Assassin's Creed universe.
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