1. LotusMegami
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    LotusMegami New Member

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    Psi powers in sci-fi and armless protagonist

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by LotusMegami, Dec 21, 2014.

    Two issues: First, I don't believe in psi powers. I don't view them the same way as "hyperspace" or any of the other things we suspend our disbelief for. They seem too much like magic. Yet I'm using them.

    My aliens need to need something from humanity, despite our technological inferiority. They could get any resource we have easier somewhere else. Why trade with humans? If humans have the potential for psi powers and they don't that would make us more valuable to them...

    And I've already made a MC based on that. A woman born without arms, who does everything with her feet. Who gains the ability to teleport. Am I just making life difficult for myself?

    I seem to be painting myself into a corner. But the character now wants to be written...
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can suspend disbelief sufficiently for psi powers if the story warrants it.

    Resources earth could have that an advanced civilization wouldn't? Surely advanced technology could replicate teleportation?

    The most likely thing an alien could want from humans is our planet to live on.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I had to look up psi... Does it mean this in your context? (from Wikipedia)

    In parapsychology, psi is the unknown factor in extrasensory perception and psychokinesis experiences that is not explained by known physical or biological mechanisms.

    Anyway, I think I could buy it, although if that was possible, I might also wonder what other things paranormal could exist in your universe. Throwing together paranormal and aliens is no problem to me as a concept (I mean, I love the X-Files). If it's well written, I'll be on board.

    Is your MC the only one who can teleport? Are there others who have these powers? Are these powers the thing needed for teleportation in your universe and it cannot be achieved in any other way (humans and aliens have tried through science but failed)? In that case the aliens sure might be interested in humans' powers and want to study us, see how they could take advantage of it, benevolently or malevolently.
     
  4. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Psi is short for psionic. Star Wars' force is a psionic power, so it's starting into fantasy at that point.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, cool. But yeah, to me it'd be as much sci-fi as the X-Files is. It can make an interesting story but I would question the "science". Not necessarily a bad thing.
     
  6. LotusMegami
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    LotusMegami New Member

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    Thanks all. I want the characters to not know how it works, only that other aliens, who have a monopoly on interstellar travel, can do it. But *these* aliens can't. Humans can. My protag isn't the only one who can teleport, just the first to learn.

    While it isn't hard science at all, I like the idea of characters not knowing how something really important works. Some might think of it in spiritual terms, others will be frustrated because they can't figure it out.

    I have an explanation for why the aliens (desperate to relieve overpopulation) don't want Earth. It is easier to terraform a dead planet, instead of fighting an existing ecology. Also our gravity is a bit too high for them to deal with longterm.
     
  7. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless teleportation can be taught, I don't see what the aliens gain if only your one handicapped person has the power. I assume the aliens are not genetically identical to humans, so even dissecting her wouldn't help, and having her as a slave would still be of very limited utility. Or are they going to clone or breed her?
     
  8. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    I have trouble suspending disbelief. I wouldn't watch Star Wars past the first few minutes until I was eight or nine because I couldn't believe there was sound in space. It annoyed me and I would turn it off. I've gotten better since then though I never got to a point where I liked actually found Star Wars a great scifi universe. I've got to say, its hard for me to buy that these aliens can create faster than light speed technology but not teleportation. They would probably have to be closely related technologies to begin with, but even ignoring that teleportation would be a mechanistic and discernible biological process. For example, humans don't have bee stingers, but we know how they work and could create a mechanical one fitted to a human if someone really wanted to waste the time. If the aliens can induce teleportation in humans, they know how the process works, so why not build a teleporter? Overall, biological organisms are not the most efficient of designs. Once a process is understood it can be created more effectively as technology. Evolution doesn't engineer things optimally, just well enough so that they work. I also don't buy that teleportation could be done with little enough energy for a biological organism to do it. On the other hand, something dealing with telepathy is more plausible. One organisms brain is structured differently than another's meaning that even if the process is understood genetically and structurally it would be hard to replicate after birth. It could also have side-effects the aliens don't find suitable. You could have humans read minds during trade negotiations or something, i don't know.

    Here's the points more concisely:
    1. If the aliens have FTL they can already teleport.
    2. If the aliens know how it is humans can teleport or can induce teleportation, there is no reason they can't replicate it.
    3. Teleporting likely takes a lot of energy, more than a human produces.

    Point four isn't really concise...
    4. If human's are different in some way that is useful, focus on something that is innately wired into their brains structurally and genetically. You might be able to link it to quantum mechanics and claim human observers are better than alien observers if you want some scientific explanation that sounds good since no one understands the implications of quantum mechanics beyond the equations anyway. That could be interesting, and if you do something with parallel universes the teleporting could still work. On the other hand, maybe have the aliens claim "only humans can induce switching into a new parallel universe so we need them" and then just have the humans act normally. At thatp oint nothing unusual happens but from the aliens perspective they can detect a sort of teleport. It wouldn't be in space but between parallel universes. It would be an interesting take on free will.

    Personally, I'm not for the teleportation idea. However, I am for the humans having something different that the aliens need. But remember, I have trouble suspending disbelief.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  9. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Genuinely, treat Star Wars as fantasy set in space and it is very enjoyable- just don't treat it as sci-fi.

    Also adding to Point 3- given the uncertainty principal/ quantum flux there would be no way to plot the position of the fundamental particles that make up an object - so long before we get to the impossibly large quantity of information that would need to be recorded, transmitted and recreated - it is already impossible.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
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  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    As stated above, and on many occasions before, Star Wars is not science fiction.
     
  11. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I don't want to open that can of worms. Its set in space, they have many technologies explained on various levels, its science fiction. I can quote that quote about everything we don't understand being perceived as magic, you can tell me why that doesn't apply.

    The bottom line is I consider fantasy to be anything that can't possibly be set in the same universe as Earth. Star Wars can even if it is in a galaxy far far away a long time ago. Saying science fiction that isn't plausible is categorized under fantasy just makes fantasy seem like a cheap category for all the misfits. I'm not willing to see fantasy that way.

    I do agree watching Star Wars and pretending it is a fantasy would make it more enjoyable.
     
  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are wizards running around using magic- that makes it fantasy for me. There is also no attempt to explain any science anywhere (however implausible, and I am ignoring the fucking awful new films) it is all just... magic stuff happened.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  13. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    They come up with half-assed explanations. The material is called carbonite, it isn't just "he turned into stone because a spell was cast on him". Light sabers are plasma, the force is something in people's blood. They aren't great explanations but there certainly aren't "no explanations". I've heard The Lord of the Rings be argued as being science fiction before and that seems equally absurd. In the end they are subjective categorizations so I guess you can argue any fantasy or any science fiction as being in the other category. If it smells like science fiction, its science fiction. That is what I'm going to continue going by.

    My only point by mentioning Star Wars in this thread was to compare what I dislike about Star Wars to what I dislike about teleportation in this person's story. I used Star Wars to admit that my dislike is preferential since people do still like Star Wars even if I don't. I don't want to high-jack the thread with some trivial argument about what type of story Star Wars may or may not be.

    Honestly, from everything to take out of my original post, that I think Star Wars is science fiction is up there on the meaningless scale. I could've replaced the word "Wars" with "Trek" it would've fixed the problem. That had sound in space too. The only difference is I didn't watch it until I was old enough to suspend some disbelief.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    In science fiction the concepts must constrain the story. That's what makes science fiction. Being on another planet is not a rubric, nor is having a space ship.
    A constraining concept appears exactly once in Star Wars, and then is never mentioned ever again. No one ever explains what lightsabers are. And "something in peoples blood" is an explanation the way that "The murder did it" is a legal argument.
     
  15. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    No, what is known about our universe must constrain the story. In fantasy, a world is built with rules that constrain the story too, they are just different rules than what would work in real life. If a story that was otherwise fantasy had a setting of "another planet where the alien inhabitants can shoot fire from their eyes and summon spirits", it would be science fiction because its still in the same universe. Star Wars is supposed to be set in the same universe that we live in, its just in a different galaxy a long time ago. The same physical constants apply, science is used instead of magic as a vehicle for the unexplained. Is the science good or always fully explained? No, its not. But bad science and poor explanation aren't criteria for something being fantasy instead of science fiction. In the end its just bad science fiction.

    If you want to continue arguing about this, make a new thread and we can move the discussion there.
     
  16. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    That's one of the biggest reasons the prequels are shunned. They tried to give a scientific basis for the force and they're trying to make light sabers believable. All fail.

    Not because of the bad science behind it, but because Star Wars was never intended to be science fiction. It's fantasy with a space backdrop. It was always intended to be completely escapist fantasy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    So if a sci-fi story has parallel universes is it suddenly fantasy? And if a fantasy story is in the same universe but there is a discovery of fantastical powers then is that suddenly sci-fi? Your suggested definition of whether it is the same or a different universe holds no water.

    However, the science versus magic argument does, and Star Wars relies heavily upon magic and barely makes a nod towards science. I have regularly seen the term Science Fantasy used to describe it and its ilk.
     
  18. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    This is reminding me of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End.

    Your aliens can't do psionic, but humans can.
    Clarke's aliens, the Overlords, don't have psionic abilities, but humans can, so they investigate it, leading to --

    -- oops -- no spoilers! If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

    - Dave Olden
     
  19. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always find psi powers a bit hard to swallow. I just recently watched a movie called Lucy, and wow, talk about tearing down the suspension of belief, I felt like they where competing to make sure I was never emerged into the movie again. But then in another scenario like Heroes or X-men. Still It isn't exactly favorable, especially with how crazy and unique, and nonsensical their abilities get. It's not that is it impossible, it's just that a lot of effort and creativity has to go into psi powers for me to bite and chew.
     
  20. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never understood super powers of any sort. I mean I just find them immensely tedious.

    Having two people who are superhuman fight each other is basically just a needless escalation of any other conflict device. It usually means that rather than having a subtle portrayal of an interesting character and their struggle to overcome their adversary, we'll just have CGI fucking everywhere. If there is any fault in the plotting, arcs, dialogue, characterisation... doesn't matter, just have them knock down another building.

    The one exception possibly being Watchmen (and batman but he's not got super powers so doesn't count).
     
  21. DaveOlden
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    This thread is about psionic abilities in a Science Fiction story.

    Naturally, Star Wars keeps getting brought up -- not because it's Science Fiction, it's not — but because some of its characters are strong or weak in what Lucas called 'The Force,' which is kinda psionic, in a high tech Space Opera/Adventure story sort of way.

    But like the kid in The Emperor's New Clothes, I really gotta speak up.

    In no Star Wars movie has the Force ever been explained.

    Yes it has, you exclaim. Midi-chlorians!

    Ah, you're remembering when Qui Gon answered about midi-chlorians to a young, curious Anakin...

    "Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force … Without midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. Midi-chlorians continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force.”

    Again, remember: “communicate with the Force” and “midi-chlorians continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force.”

    They’re receivers! Biological antennae! It's a storytelling device. The writer needed something to point to, to show that a character was stronger or weaker in the Force.

    Pointing them out no more explains the Force than saying “Everyone has eye balls in their head” explains light and optics, or "every one has ears" explains music!

    The Force is still as mysterious as ever.

    "You can go about your business. Move along."
     
  22. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    no matter what kind of powers you try to imagine people having, anything short of a 'power suit,' like from the Halo series for example, is not anymore scientific than the force. Mental capabilities that allow you to control time or fire or anything outside your body and mind is nonsensical. Unless you are using some special technology to do so, it doesn't make much sense. The few you might be able to get away with on a 'scientific' basis is something like regeneration, or ones that have proven to be real, like perfect memory.
     
  23. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    The only superpowers in Watchmen was Manhattan's and maybe Ozy, but even with Manhattan, it required a huge suspension of disbelief for his survival to even become Manhattan.
     
  24. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Damn, you go full douche snarky when you can, don't you.
     
  25. DaveOlden
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    "full douche snarky?"

    It's a fully context-appropriate quote (the Ben Kenobi quote, of course).

    And as to the rest of my post, I cited proper sources to make my point, and it was a point I felt really needed to be made. Sure, I feel strongly about it, and I was emphatic presenting my point...

    ... but "full douche"?

    :meh:
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015

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