1. CGB
    Offline

    CGB Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2014
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    45

    "Sci fi"

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by CGB, Nov 23, 2014.

    Hello everyone,

    I've been creating this fictional universe for my space opera for close to 3 years now. I'm very enthusiastic about my world, but what I am finding extremely frustrating are certain aspects of world building. Specifically the whole "be true to science" part. Actually come to think of it, I am sick of this in more areas than just world building.

    Now I understand the genre gives leeway to certain fantastical elements (i.e. FTL travel). The thing is, I just don't really care enough to do the in-depth research necessary to create realistic settings in space. I like space as a setting (or maybe my fantastical view of space) but I don't care 1 iota for spending anymore time looking at astrophysics textbooks or consulting things like project rho.

    Just as an example, I've been recently trying to come up with the details for an orbital space station that houses nearly 3 million people. I've spent several hours researching dimensions, shape, what type of orbital period is possible around what type of star, etc. and I'm just tired of it. The same goes for my space ships, my planets, and even some of the technology in general.

    Would it be such a bad thing if I just hand-waved the vast majority of this stuff? At what point does sci-fi become fantasy?

    I myself am a 2nd year M.D. student with a master's degree in physiology (i.e. a very heavy science-related background). But I write because I like to engage the creative side of my brain, and the heavy physics research to maintain a level of purity is something I find myself unwilling to do anymore.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  2. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    I think it would be a great thing. It's part of the story that you're not interested in detailing, so I wouldn't be interested in reading it.

    Does it matter? The publishers will call it sci-fi regardless, because it's in space...:D
     
  3. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    I have always called Star Wars fantasy. That has had no effect on how much I enjoy it. Genre is descriptive, not prescriptive.
    All you need is some well-thought-out applied phlebotinum. For some inspiration, peruse TV Tropes at your leisure. Maybe begin with the pages about some of your favorite sci fi. Follow the interesting links in the "examples" sections, read the descriptions of the applied phlebotinum subtropes you find, and peruse the examples sections of the subtropes that interest you.

    Applied phlebotinum, by definition, always reduces to some form of hand-waving if you think about it enough.
     
    Fitzroy Zeph likes this.
  4. mad_hatter
    Offline

    mad_hatter Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    England
    As long as you're consistent within your world you're just fine. If you decide that something is true in your universe, then it's true. Just stick to your guns and any reader that can suspend their disbelief will be happy.
     
  5. Aled James Taylor
    Offline

    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    462
    Location:
    UK
    I'd concentrate on what the characters experience and interact with. If you write a story that includes someone driving a car, you don't need to specify that it's a petrol, diesel or electric car, just say that they drive the car. If they drive through a town, you don't have to specify how many people live in that town. I have no idea how many people live in the town that I live in, just that I pass houses as I drive through the streets.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  6. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    I am hand waving a lot of the tech in my story, because the focus is on how one guy is adapting to becoming a living archive of past lives. Lives that have seen both the best of people and the worst. It's really not about how they came to be an interstellar society or how their tech works, but how it affects them when the various people are so diverse.

    There will be a number of humanoids (not painted human type humanoids), but some that are so divergent from the concept of human, they often invoke fear, despite being more peaceful and reasoning than most.

    The tech is the backdrop. The moral and ethical questions are at the foreground.
     
    DaveOlden likes this.
  7. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    This. Just make sure your tech is consistent, so you don't end up using fantastical stuff as plot devices. It feels cheaper than fantastical tech, to me anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  8. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    I am working on a hard sci-fi piece and enjoy working out the details; however, they will not appear in my novel (at least only as an aside/ backdrop) as frankly I find plot and character far more compelling.

    I would rather see the details hand-waved than some tedious thesis on future technology at the expense of characters. My favourite sci-fi novels, such as the Foundation Series, barely make a nod to the technology/ science.
     
  9. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    Well, there is "fantastical" tech in my story.

    There is two forms of FTL. Warp drive (Alcubierre drive) and worm holes. They both achieve FTL, but for different reasons: Warp drive is used to leave the scene fast or when distances between points is short enough to be faster than WHs. WHs are used to get to point B sooner, but it requires a much longer initiation.
     
  10. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    That was directed to the OP, but yeah, I guess that'd be my humble advice to anybody :).

    I personally like writing hard sci-fi but I don't really have objections to more fantastical "short cuts" as long as the characters and story are engaging.
     
  11. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    I would think hard scifi limiting to a story.

    There would be no exploring and comparing other cultures. One of the issues I'm trying to explore in my story is what does it mean to be human and can we be more tomorrow than we are today.
     
  12. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I like to read to this science mag ("Science Illustrated" would be the loose translation) and they just had an issue about life in space where different researchers proposed theories about other life forms, and apparently it's not entirely impossible for another life form of similar intellect to exist somewhere beyond the stars. And I guess I counted FTL into my def of hard sci-fi ('cause it is science fiction still), and there're some well-yeah-maybe options for that, so in that sense, other cultures could be implemented in a story with, say, androids or other life forms than humans. Hard sci-fi is limiting in the sense that you can't go Star Wars level fantastical with the tech, but I don't personally find it limiting to the story I want to tell.
     
  13. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    I don't know if you saw it or if it's released where you are, but would "Interstellar" count as hard sci-fi?

    I'm trying to nail down what actually constitutes hard sci-fi. Is it plausibility? If so, is it plausible that we could make HAL given what we know today? Some scientists say such a AI is impossible by today's tech. Even a trip to Jupiter is impossible given the trip time and the human condition.

    So, I'm starting believe speculative fiction or just the generic sci-fi label is more appropriate since much is simply not plausible given what we know today.

    I think one theory is that one, maybe two, implausibilities are shown but everything else should be plausible by today's standards. So, a trip to Jupiter on a ship that doesn't have artificial gravity created by "gravitons" would be hard sci-fi. But then explain the abstract thinking AI and aliens and monoliths and the spacetime travel and...well, the list begins to grow pretty big.
     
  14. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    I think science fiction simply has to be consistent with known principles of science, and extrapolations from them, or when it seems to be contrary to our current understanding of science, it has to have a plausible scientific basis underlying it. AI that exceeds the capability of what we could produce with our current knowledge doesn't seem problematic to me, because it seems possible to extrapolate from known science to arrive at such an AI.
     
  15. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    But having listened to AI experts on Quora, the kind of AI that is HAL is a long, long way off, at best.

    HAL becomes a murderous passive-aggressive because of its struggle against being programmed to lie. That means it has to make a value judgement that yes is better than no, truth is better than deception, 1 is better than 0. That's currently a block because it requires a moral judgement. They hand waved this.

    So, how much less hard sci-fi is it to say FTL is possible with a block of speed of light and energy requirement?

    You can say the science proves that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, but science shows that AI can't make moral judgements. It all comes down to one statement: it can't be done at this time and tech level.
     
  16. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    Whether AI will ever be able to make value judgements that aren't programmed is questionable. There was a lot of furore over AI recently due to Stephen Hawkins warning that Arnold Schwarzenegger was travelling back in time to kill him or something. At the time there were estimates flying around that AI was a century away minimum.

    With FTL I think it is just a required suspension of disbelief in a lot of space opera, unless you specifically plot your work around its absence.
     
  17. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    Yeah, my story cannot not have FTL of some form. Wormholes and warp drive are used to connect the various races of the consortium. Mind you, the whole story begins 12,000 year ago, so the tech is extremely advanced, though not 12,000 years of development (it plateaued some 1000s of years ago and they haven't made a breakthough yet), but it's reasonable in my story to assume they solved energy and relativity issues. I'm just not going to explain how. It's simply a matter of fact for them.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I just saw it, and I would say definitely not, on the grounds that (1) it's primarily a character story and (2) too much of the science is not extrapolated from actual science, but is instead just an, "Uh, and this happened! Yeah!" leap. There's a lot of plausible science in it, but the most important part is un-linked from actual science.
     
  19. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,511
    Likes Received:
    1,340
    In the 1920s/30s Japan was visited by HMS Rodney (or her sister ship Nelson), which was equipped with 24" steam-powered torpedoes, something way in advance of anything the rest of the world had. Inspired by this, the Japanese proceeded to make the best damned torpedoes in WWII. And the Royal Navy never got those steam-powered torpedoes to work.

    So the RN hand-waved the science, and the Japanese just went and proved that it was scientific.
     

Share This Page