Friday, February 17, 2012

Blinding us with science? Or just blind science?

Bad science is rampant in Sci-Fi. You might find an atmosphere made of gases that are highly combustible. You will probably find simple planets with a single ecosystem (as is common in Star Wars). Loud fiery explosions in space. Planets with multiple suns or moons, yet they work just like our Earth.

Writers of science fiction and fantasy--or historical fiction, or any other genre for that matter--owe it to their readers and their characters to create a detailed, immersive, realistic world with all the complexity of our own, without letting the world building interfere with the story.

One reason I don't read a lot of science fiction is because it often assumes too many things that don't work for me. For example, if humans and apes cannot possibly interbreed, despite being very close genetically, what chance is there that we can breed with aliens? Spock is virtually impossible. No matter how an author justifies it, it stretches credibility to the breaking point, especially if we are expected to suspend disbelief more than a couple times.

The same is true of communicating with aliens. We would be about as likely to communicate with an alien species as with a fish. And let's not even get started with planets that have earth-like gravity.

Stories set on other planets can be fun. But the very thing that makes them interesting--imagining what other planets might be like--is the thing that is often neglected.

It's not just sci-fi. Fantasy does it all the time, especially with magic. If magicians can destroy walls or otherwise render them useless, nobody will go through the expense and trouble to surround their cities and strongholds with stone walls. And, historical fiction is often peopled with characters who have a modern outlook.

So make your speculative fiction real. Take the extra steps to make your world rich and detailed. Claiming that science and physics work differently in your fictional milieu isn't good enough. Most readers won't notice your science Benders. True enough. But some will. Besides, isn't it more fun to do it right?


Julie Daines said...

"Make your speculative fiction real." Haha! I love this! The only problem is, if it's "real," by definition it's not speculative. I love how you're trying to place real-life parameters on make-believe.

I think the main issue is that the fictional system must work and stay within it's own confines in order to establish "believability."

Joseph Ramirez said...

This is why I let people besides myself handle the writing of hard science fiction. I'd far rather just write a space opera and bend all the rules to my liking. But I do love a fantastically well written hard science fiction novel.

Danielle Paige said...

This definitely gives me a lot to think about... Thanks for the great post!

Erin Shakespear said... stone walls, eh? Great point.

It looks like we all have much to ponder! Great post. :)