Friday, February 19, 2010

My Problems with Sci Fi

The Lioness is back! I've missed you, although I have very much appreciated your posts at The New Authors' Fellowship.

I like sci-fi. I used to think I was a sci-fi buff. I've discovered differently as I've gotten older.

Problem Number One: I like TV sci-fi, where the "fi" gets more press than the "sci" and nobody cares because it's Patrick Stewart delivering the common sense explanation. In other words, I like character-driven sci-fi, not idea-driven. I love thinking about new things, but I want it in the context of humans or aliens having to deal with the problems created by those new things. The science is not as important to me as the people.

Fact is, most TV sci-fi is shaky at best. Somebody reads a headline, gets an idea and runs with it because they need an episode for Sweeps Week. If anyone bothered to finish reading the article, they'd know it could never happen and the guy who claimed it did is now in jail for fraud or something. But again, with Patrick Stewart at the helm, we don't care. If you can't tell, I'm a Patrick Stewart fan. He's my favorite Star Trek captain.

Anyway, written science fiction is expected to contain some facts. You can't get around that. I've tried. No matter how careful you are, at some point, you have to know how long a centimeter is, or how many lightyears are between the planet you're on and the planet you want to be on. Don't believe me? Well, how long it takes to get there relates directly to how long everyone is in the spaceship and how long the monster has to rampage before help can arrive. I'm telling you, it matters and you can't get around it.

Problem Number Two: you have to do research.

I hate research. I never know where to look, or what I'm looking for, or when to stop researching. Our understanding of science is changing all the time. What I write as fact today may be disproved tomorrow, or vice versa. When do I accept that at some point, I'm going to look like an idiot?

This fear didn't stop the science fiction writers of old, but they didn't have to deal with the Internet. Ah, the Internet! That wonderful invention that puts the knowledge of the universe at the fingertips of any schmoe with a computer and a phone line. On the one hand, it makes research easier than ever. On the other hand, it makes it easier for fans and critics to debunk your carefully constructed fictional world, too.

Problem Number Three: Sci-fi tends to be about the real world.

People know the real world (some of them do, anyway). You can't fudge things like you can with fantasy. I think I've written this before, but nobody actually knows what a dragon looks or sounds like, so you can do whatever you want as long as you explain it. But science knows that 80 foot spiders can't exist because of physics. So, if you have an 80 foot spider, you got some 'splanin' to do as to how that creature can move and breathe and pump blood and all the other things a spider can't do at that size.

So, my problems all lump together in that muddy puddle of "how can I possibly know everything?"
I can't. I don't read science magazines or listen to science shows (the prevalence of "evolution as fact" in today's TV shows is like the dog doo in the brownie mix - ruinously inedible).

What I can do is my best to make what I do know accurate, seek out specialists or consultants for what I don't know, and keep my ego in check when scifiguy2001 rips me on his blog because I don't know that nano robots can't possibly be used as a method for wetwire interfacing or cell regeneration.
I suppose if that's the price of fame, I should be willing to pay it. It's that or write only fantasy. I hope some day that luthienelf111 gives me grief because dimensional portals powered by magic couldn't possibly exist in a world without magic and thus my whole premise for Star of Justice falls apart.

I should be so lucky.

1 comment:

  1. Nano-material can stop a bullet.It is thinner than a bed sheet and can stop a freaking bullet.