1. Remembrandt Mogadon

    Remembrandt Mogadon New Member

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    Ghosts and Spirits in Sci-fi

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Remembrandt Mogadon, Jan 8, 2018.

    Hey, ya'll. Remi here. I hope ya'll are having a wonderful night, before Monday comes around and kicks our collective asses.
    My second post to the forums! Hooray, we're moving forward.
    Anyways, what do you folks think about ghosts and other supernatural phenomena occurring in science-fiction stories? Is it something that you really have to work towards making the reader believe? Or is one of those things where you don't (or shouldn't) really get too deep into trying to make it believable? I think of things like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and the Chozo Ghosts from Metroid: Prime when I think of good executions of ghosts in sci-fi (well, maybe not Star Wars, cause they need a lot of fan help propping up the believability on that one).
    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I despise ghosts in sci-fi. Sci fi readers tend to have science backgrounds and they don’t like fake science. It’d be best to create a more realistic creature. Transferring a mind into a machine should not be beyond the capabilities of humans in a few hundred years and probably would be the dominate life form long-term. A disembodied mind can project itself however they want as long as they have the technology: holograms, robotics...
     
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  3. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Member

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    Depends to an extent on the type of sci-fi story. Why not, though? If you were telling the story of an alien race, there's a good chance they will have some beliefs similar to our own, and could have invented 'ghosts' or 'spirits' to fill some hole in their understanding of science. They could have believers in magic and witchcraft, just as we have. The fun might be in creating something which draws on human magic/ wizardry/ ghosts etc but is significantly different to explain development in a totally separate alien world.

    P.S. Or bring ghosts/ghouls into a story to suggest secret human influence on a distant planet/life form?
     
  4. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have a problem with ghosts or the supernatural in SciFi as long as it fits the story. Having a Hard Science Fiction Mystery where out of nowhere at the end ghosts did it would definitely not be one of my favourite novels. If, however, it was explained as a roughly scientific phenomenon and had some actual real works science to back up the hand waving, and it fit the tone of the book, then yeah, I could easily see myself enjoying that. Just like I enjoyed The Sirens Of Titan.
     
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  5. orangefire

    orangefire Active Member

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    I've seen lots of times where "ghosts" appear in science fiction but turn out to not actually be ghosts, but something that simply appears similar.

    A person caught between dimensions, an echo in the timeline, holograms, etc.
     
  6. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I believe Arthur C Clark's 3rd law applies here:
    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
     
  7. Remembrandt Mogadon

    Remembrandt Mogadon New Member

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    I have to agree with newjerseyrunner when it comes to this kind of stuff; I tend to lean towards the sciences and basic rationality when it comes to things like this, and thus I like when things have a natural, scientific explanation.
    However, sometimes I like it when something isn't explained all the way through. Sometimes, I like things that are beyond reason and explanation in a story. It just adds an entire dimension of strangeness and fascination when a piece of fiction forces you to come up with an explanation for the weirdness of the story; I think of stories like Breakfast of Champions, or even videogames like Undertale, both of which left a lot unexplained to the reader in terms of lore and in-story phenomenon.
     
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  8. Privateer

    Privateer Active Member

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    I love ghosts in sci-fi. There's something extra creepy about the idea that even with all our gadgets there's still stuff out there that we struggle to pin down and space is the very loneliest, darkest place. It's perfect for a ghost story.
     
  9. DeeDee

    DeeDee Senior Member

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    Why not, be creative, write a sci-fi story with ghosts. If 30 years ago somebody had come up with the idea of a vampire that sparkles, they would have been ridiculed, but look what happened to the Twilight books. Now everybody loves the sparkly vampire. One thing to keep in mind though, is that a reader picks up a sci-fi book with certain expectations - they would like to see the technical side of things. Even now some people aim to provide a technical explanation for ghosts. If there are gizmos that can detect ghostly activity, then surely there is some sort of a science behind a ghostly presence, waves, particles, fields and stuff. But also there are genre crossovers that let you mix things. In Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" robots and demons co-exist, there's castle made of glass and a crazy AI. So, what's stopping you from putting ghosts in sci-fi environment?
     
  10. Azuresun

    Azuresun Active Member

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    Three classic ingredients of horror are isolation from the wider world, encountering things much bigger than ourselves, and beings that are incomprehensible (or "alien") to us. It crosses over with sci-fi more readily than you might think. :)

    For the OP, I think it depends on the focus and setting of your story. If it's about lonely frontier exploration of a void staggering in scale, then ghosts work much as they do in traditional horror--something bad happened to someone in an isolated place, but something of them remains in defiance of known science, seeking aid or revenge. The characters may never truly know what they encountered. If it's a more "cosmopolitan" kind of sci-fi, then maybe some aliens exist as energy forms that can semi-interact with the material world (Fortune's Pawn and the sequels, by Rachel Bach, had this sort of alien as the primary antagonist of the stories). Or maybe the ghost is a corrupted AI or mind-recording that has been damaged and is acting erratically.
     
  11. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Senior Member

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    I hate it when the story tries to explain supernatural with science. It never works and it ruins both supernatural and science. Think "Lost". I loved the show but they really blew it when they tried to explain the island with science (fiction or real science, not sure). They had to backpedal so it would make some sense in the end. I pretend that that season never existed. It's obvious that the moment people come back from the dead there's nothing scientific involved.
    As long as no one tries to explain supernatural with science, I'm all aboard. Mix them and it's all ruined for me.
     
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    So Rick and Morty must really toast your biscuits, then
     
  13. Artifacs

    Artifacs Member

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    Not my cup of tea as sci-fi reader because, as it was already posted, ghost combined with science usually ruines everything. On the other hand, it quite challenging to make these two work together. Perhaps you can do it and it turns out you'll be the creator of a new genre. How it would be called?. Personally, if you can conciliate Ghosts with Thermodynamics, I'm surelly very interested in your stories. Give it try.
     
  14. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    p4p best ghosts in science fiction:

     
  15. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    I think ghosts are wonderfully creepy because of the uncertainty that surrounds their existence. It seems like it's a combination of both paranormal and scientific factors.

    And it really depends on the reader when it comes to making them believe. Some have a more open mind or just don't have a disposition for the unexplained phenomena. Others accept any story where it's mentioned because that's their preference. Some love it but are very picky about what explanation is given. So you gotta keep in mind there's all types out there and making people believe is always a 50/50 chance.
     
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  16. LordWarGod

    LordWarGod Member

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    I believe that science is just a means to an end, it isn't the be all and end of all things. It is currently the only way we can explain the things around us using mathematics and empirical evidence based on repeated observations. But what happens when we go to an alternate dimension or universe that just completely goes "fuck all your logic and scientific laws"? What then?

    Sci-fi readers demand that you apply real life sciences to your sci-fi content but they don't realize that we're going to get to a point where we encounter omnipotent beings that just defy everything we've ever known about our universe. They don't really like the idea of an alternate dimension completely disobeying the laws of nature and scientific laws because it's uncharted territory and therefore they consider it silly or pure fantasy.

    People have a hard time suspending disbelief when I introduce monsters the size of planets or multiple galaxies in my universe that come from an alternate universe that do not age, do not need to feed and do not collapse on their own bodies. They say it's pure fantasy because none of it follows scientific logic but at the same time, support theories that there may be alternate realities or multiple universes which baffles me.
     
  17. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    I think it can work, but it definitely depends on how you approach it. From the sound of your OP, you want actual ghosts and supernatural phenomenon, and not energy beings or holograms or super advanced technology designed to give the impression of ghosts.

    I think it's a good idea to avoid using advanced technology as the reasoning behind ghostly activity, unless the "ghost" is only there to serve as a memory of a past being. I think ghostly energy beings can also work, but my overall opinion is that the less you try to ground the supernatural in the known science, the better. In my opinion it just undercuts the point of supernatural elements.
     
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  18. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Member

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    Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from logic.
     
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  19. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from trickery.
     
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  20. AbyssalJoey

    AbyssalJoey Member

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    My thoughts are: None of the franchises you mentioned are actually Sci-Fi, Star Wars and Metroid are future fantasy/space fantasy, and Ghost Busters is... I dunno, urban fantasy?

    The distinction is important, if someone wants to read Sci-Fi they're probably not going to react well to the idea of ghost, spirits, specters or any other ethereal beings.
     
  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    I'm with @newjerseyrunner, @AbyssalJoey et al, if it's got honest to god ghosts in it it's ceased to be science fiction, it's some sort of fantasy or horror in a futuristic setting. There are gray areas like some of Lovecraft's work: Is it a demon or a creature that's evolved abilities beyond our powers to comprehend? However, if you're billing it as SF, I think it needs some mechanism for SF readers to satisfy themselves that it's not just fantasy.

    To pull a few examples, in Childhood's End, Arthur Clarke proposes that the next step of human evolution is a sort of a Brin-esque Uplift, midwifed by creatures who just happen to resemble the classic Satan. The children gain (it's been a few decades, forgive me if I misremember) telepathy among other powers and leave the Earth. SF? Mostly, but there's also a Ouija board and memories of things yet to come which are harder to square with science than a telepathy through evolution is.

    Event Horizon, on the other hand, is horror set in space. The initial premise, that the human mind can't handle FTL (wormhole?) travel is SF-ish enough, but then ghosts start coming back. I liked the movie, but in my book it's one of the better horror films of the last few decades, but not really an SF movie at all.

    Everybody is going to draw their own lines, and you should feel free to play about between them if you want, but make sure you have a clear idea what you're doing when you do.
     
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  22. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Member

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    Any sufficiently advanced trickery is... Hey! Wait! WHERE IS MY WALLET!
     
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