1. Olle1087

    Olle1087 New Member

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    Lecturing new recruit a cliche for Sci-Fi/Fantasy? Or a good way to info-dump?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Olle1087, Dec 19, 2016.

    Hey

    I'm writing a hard science fiction novel that involves a lot of scientific concepts which are not widely used in the popular culture. While I cannot talk about the specifics, a new recruit of scientists has to be lectured on a scientific innovation (whereby helping the readers understand the science). While my plot and setting are vastly different from that of Jurassic Park, the situation is the same - lecturing is as inevitable as JP.
    What are some ways of not writing like you're info-dumping while actually info-dumping in lecture situations?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!
    Thanks!
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Have the guy giving the lecture make odd science jokes, or give him a weird personality
    to distract from the fact that your infodumping. Make it entertaining as opposed to Waspy
    Professor.
     
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  3. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Banned Contributor

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    I would suggest that you write a short story not related to your central plot but containing all the necessary data that the reader needs to know. Be sure to finish the short, bring it to an end, so that the reader doesn't wonder what happens next.
     
  4. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    I'm the person who literally made my info dump a history lesson and was told it was a decent idea.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
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  5. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Check out how MC did it and his contemporaries. Get a feel for it.

    This is from Crichton-

    "Anyone floating to the surface after 800 pages of this book feels a compulsion to speak plainly," he began. "For plainly, this book represents monumental self-indulgence." He went on to mock Eckstein's pretentious statement that "a literary tone fell of itself over the writing" of the book. "One yearns to reprimand the author, and shoot his editor," Crichton wrote. "We remember Galileo, among other things, for his crisp writing style. He set the tone for all scientific writing of the last 350 years. He got to the point, said what was on his mind, and shut up."

    That's a pretty good summation of what Crichton tried to do in his books and why they sold millions of copies even though critics, as you will see, have generally found his characters to be cardboard. I wish I could give you electronic links to the full texts of all these reviews, but I can't; some of them appeared so long ago that I had to retrieve them from the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database."

    from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/shortstack/2008/11/why_readers_loved_michael_cric.html
    It is an interesting article and it may help you.
     
  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Welcome to the site!
    Actually, one example of a recruit attending a lecture is exactly what I always point to as the Gold Standard of exposition:

    Old Man's War features a few examples in chapter 2 about expositing space elevators and nuclear war in a scene that I've always thought was perfect, but more relevantly to this discussion, halfway into the book the Space Marine narrator is being shown a slideshow of the different alien species that humanity have made contact with. The narrator reacts to one slide of a crustacean-like species in horror as though it were the antagonist of a monster movie, and an anthropomorphic elk-like species gives him the same warm feeling as a wise old nature spirit.

    The commanding officer providing the slideshow informs the recruits that the crustacean species have produced some of the greatest artisans and mathematicians that humanity have ever seen, and a tribe of the elk-species slaughtered an entire colony in the most viciously torturous ways imaginable. "If you don't get your stupid anthropocentric biases out of your head now, then you are going to get people killed."

    TLDR: There are always 2 or 3 components to any exposition:
    • The information being provided
    • The characterization person sharing the information (either a character or an objective narrator)
    • If dialogue, then the character receiving the information
    Why do the recruits need to be given this information instead of other information? How is the lecturer delivering the lecture differently than another lecturer would? What is the POV character thinking about as they process the information they're being given?
     
  7. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Sounds like Islam.
     
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  8. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Bingo. A good guy with superficial differences from you is better than a bad guy with superficial similarities.

    I wouldn't call it a perfect lecture in terms of the real-world messages that I try to convey in my own work, but it exposited the information perfectly.
     
  9. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    That hadn't crossed my mind, yet. I was really thinking literal- Islam gave us higher math and a number system, introduced the world to art and architecture based on math that had never been seen.
    Personal writing from the crusades describe the muslims as 'crabs' or 'spiders', due to their bodies blending with the horse, so when horses were charging toward you, you saw a horse with 'eight legs', like a herd of crabs or spiders.
    Then I started thinking about the horrible racism in Star Wars movies......
     
  10. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    ... That is crazy.

    Do you think John Scalzi did that on purpose?
     
  11. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    He probably did, or unconsciously, from accumulated knowledge. A lot of stuff shows up in popular fiction that are less than footnotes in history. I would guess that if you really looked through your writing it is sprinkled with obscure facts you have picked up over the years; it is one of the things that leads to creative writing. All this goop in our heads is spat out, chopped up, rearranged, and put together to form a different narrative.
    The novel I am outlining is already planning it. It will be kind of tech centric, but more at a street level, and will include random things like how to stop Stingray from sucking your data, and other things like that that are almost unknown to those who don't follow it.
     
  12. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    A scene in which new recruits are lectured is no problem, in and of itself. Just like any other scene, you have to do it right. If the scene fits the story, do it. Don't shy away just because its been done before.

    If, however, you read the scene and it feels trite, boring, or irrelevant, cut it. Cut. Cut. Cut.

    I recommend you write the scene, finish the book/story, then handle the details during editing. Only after seeing the story as a whole can you really know what belongs and what doesn't.

    Best of luck.
     
  13. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Another thing to try, if you have a block of data text, think about it from another direction.
    Think- "I have to get this concept across to my mom, the kid next door, someone 'normal'; and then heavily edit sentences out until you have 5-6 that allow a person to make the leap, in their head, from A to B to C. If you try this, print out 10 or so copies and start crossing out.
    When you have it distilled down, then go back and add flourishes of other bits of info.
     
  14. Olle1087

    Olle1087 New Member

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    This is awesome guys! Thanks so much it helped a ton. Wow this site is useful.
     
  15. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Make sure when you do things like that that you truely understand the science you are supposedly explaining. Lots of sci-fi readers have background in science.

    Nothing bothers me more than when writers use science that is well understood and tested completely wrong.

    I remember watching The Core. Supposedly two leading geologists were explaining that if you stopped the core of the earth from spinning the magnetosphere would cease. Thats completely false, the inner core doesn't produce the magnetic field, the outer one does. The outer core is liquid, not solid so it can't be stopped. And stopping it would release ungodly amounts of energy that would likely melt the surface. /rant
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
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