1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would you want an explanation?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by spklvr, May 11, 2011.

    This is a novel I'm working on and is mainly in the planning stages, though I've also somehow written quite a bit (but I can't use much of it since the plot keeps changing on me).

    Half of the setting takes place in a city that is half medieval, half sci-fi. The other half takes place on modern day earth. Basically, there are several cities floating around in space. These cities are high tech, but also rely heavily on magic. Certain parts of their views are very ancient, and they have large castles and old looking buildings.

    But it's the cities themselves and how they function I'm actually wondering about. They look like round balls when seeing them from afar, and they are surrounded by a sphere that gives them heat, night and day, oxygen, gravity, etc. If they fall out of the sphere, they're dead. The sphere's “engine” keeps them from floating upwards, but not from falling down.

    The city the story takes place in has a population of roughly ten thousand. The city is built in a circle, with the castle on top, and the “engine” on the bottom. All the houses, parks and public buildings are connected by diamond stairs with gold railings (half for safety, half to show off their wealth to the other floating ball cities). Not sure if all that is understandable.

    This is pretty much how I'm going to explain it, though I'll be more detailed when it comes to how the city actually looks. But would you want more of an explanation of how it works? I'm kind of just going: “it's magic and science combined. It's über-powerful and ever-working, so no point in explaining it more than that.” I don't even know how it works to be honest. The engine does everything I need it to. The ultimate deus ex machina.
     
  2. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    I'd only want an explanation if the machine is a character. If it does things and acts of it's own accord...even then I guess I would only need one if you need me to understand why it does things.
     
  3. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    My theory is, the more absurd it sounds, the more of an explanation it needs. Although, Stan Lee had a lot of luck convincing readers one could gain super powers through a radioactive spider bite or getting hit with a gamma bomb (what is gamma? The world will never know).

    Point being, if the writing is good enough, then people won't question it. Elaborate when needed but you don't need to give a complete scientific explanation. That could possibly put off a lot of readers more than the absurdity of your ideas.
     
  4. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    What I don't "get" is why the city would fall out of its sphere in the first place, if they are both flying around in space. They should be on the same trajectory anyway, both city and sphere, and no internal force can separate them.
     
  5. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    In the 60's (with Stan Lee), scientists recognized both gamma rays and x-rays but thought that gammas were just high-powered x-rays. Scientists are good about getting new info to the public, but not at correcting wrong stuff. So people started to think there was no such thing as a gamma ray, just a fast x-ray.

    Gamma radiation (or gamma rays) are kind of like x-rays with one important difference. X-rays are free electrons while gamma rays are flying neutrons. Gammas go right through lead walls and at low speeds can really mess you up. They are the real risk for anyone who works with radiation.

    The most common gamma producer is colbolt-60 (it's manufactured and doesn't appear naturally). Cobalt-60 is used to sterilize your food, do the work in nuclear medicine, and take x-ray like images through metal objects (ie cargo containers on a truck or ship).
     
  6. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    i suppose i would start to wonder about things like waste disposal and sewage...how do they get food...
     
  7. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    :eek: No!!!

    X-rays and gamma rays are exactly the same thing. Both are highly-energetic electro-magnetic radiation like visible light or radio waves, except at much higher energy.

    By convention, the name x-ray is more applied to the lower end of the joint x-ray/gamma-ray spectrum, and the name gamma ray is applied to the higher end (with no limit on energy), but there is no definite border and the naming can be and is quite ambiguous.

    See this:

    [​IMG]
     
  8. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I meant if people fell out of the sphere. I didn't notice that it sounded confusing before now :p
     
  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking this too. I would get so bored of a story that was all about science, and it's not what the story is about. However, since it takes place there, it seems like I should explain stuff, or else it may seem pointless to have created such a city in the first place. Like why not just make up a country or another world?

    I've figured out stuff like that at least. I think someone on this forum once said the first thing you should think of when creating a different society is how they get food, because it has so much say in how the society works.
     
  10. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    Would it not be possible to have a person who knows it all, try to explain it briefly using the most abusrd technobabble EVER?
     
  11. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    There is always just saying that "it works" without having to go into depth about why. Science indistinguishable from magic and all that.

    If you want to explain it, the clueless outsider is a great vehicle. I imagine that the narrator acknowledging the clueless outsider as the reader without addressing them is good, though don't get caught up in the details.


    What's a good analogy? Maybe pointing out to a country bumpkin which is the third rail, but assume they know what electricity is and that the trains run on it?
     
  12. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Might be worth a try :)
    Already explaining most of the history this way.
     
  13. MrNomas
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    MrNomas Member

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    I suppose it depends on how the story is told. If it is first person, some of the things that happen around are just accepted by the character. If the character accepts it, the reader should (as long as it isn't completely absurd and nothing you've described is any more absurd that warp bubbles or hyperspace). If the character is like Neo from the Matrix and needs everything explained to him, well, then you have your opportunity.

    If it were me, I'd only explain what I had to for the good of the story. So say the character is an installer of those gold railings. They might think/know a lot about those railings but nothing about the engines. Later on, they might have to go to the engine room (or whatever) or meet an engineer and then they could be described.

    As a reader, I don't really care how things work as long as they do (if that makes sense). The minute they stop working, I need to know how/why.
     
  14. ramedrake
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    ramedrake Member

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    Using both science and magic together is opening a whole can of worms of problems. How do the two co-exist? You'd have to heavily explain how the magic works from the point of view of the scientists, otherwise they wouldn't except one another. You will need to explain a lot here though I suggest you don't do it all at once as that could get super confusing. Try gradually revealing things and explaining as you go along or when you introudce new characters.
     
  15. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I agree. How many average working people can explain exactly how a computer works? Or, for that matter, a CD drive. I mean, a really detailed explanation? Not too many, I wager.

    Sometimes it's not too necessary to explain in detail what is going on.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd like to see some explanation if I was reading that.

    My initial thought was similar to ramdrake. This is a story that could very quickly pose a lot of problems because you have advanced technology and magic co-existing. Without a convincing rationale for how and why that works, I'd probably stop reading. How do principles of science develop in a world where magic works? Perhaps as importantly, why does a high-magic society develop high tech?

    Science develops over time due to application of the scientific method and the rigors of experimentation, reproducibility, etc. Scientists are able to establish a set of physical "laws" that are reliable and can then guide the further development and progression of the art. Having a world where there is heavy reliance on magic would appear, at least on the surface, to throw a lot of what science relies on right out the window. How do you develop and rely on scientific laws in a world where there is magic?

    Those sorts of questions would have to be addressed in some manner or I'd probably stop reading due to lack of plausibility. If they were addressed, however, it could make for a cool story (if the author is clever about it).
     

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