How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

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How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby Multnomahn » Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:48 am

Can a story feature advanced technology without any theory of how it might be designed, or would that, then, be Fantasy?
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit19292 » Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:43 am

The short answer is yes. The actual answer is that the presentation should be 'scientific.' Science fiction should maintain the illusion that the situation is viable -- that it could possibly be real. If the tale does not have the reader 'believe' it is science fiction, it then does fall into the realm of space opera or even fantasy.
I will not deny myself having my opinions.
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:12 am

[Reposted from sff.net user <d...@s...> (Dragonwriter)]


Does the technology use the basic laws of nature as currently understood? If yes, then it is SF for sure. A lot of people use the term "speculative fiction" however, to include all the maybe true stuff as well.

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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:42 am

[Reposted from sff.net user Arthur T. <A...@e...>]


In Message-ID:<4...@n...>, Mult Nomahn {Multnomahn on www.NewNewForum.com} <N...@e...> wrote:


Can a story feature advanced technology without any theory of how it might be designed, or would that, then, be Fantasy?



I tend to classify SF vs F more by the tone of the story. If the devices are treated as technological, with real rules for what I might then expect to see, then I normally consider it SF.

Some people include a classification of Science Fantasy for things like Poul Anderson's "Operation Chaos". That's obviously fantasy, but it has rules and treats the fantastical elements as technology.

-- Arthur T. - ar23hur "at" pobox "dot" com
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby Sff.net » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:12 am

[Reposted from sff.net user <m...@s...> (Mary Catelli)]


Quoth Mult Nomahn {Multnomahn on www.NewNewForum.com} (<N...@e...>) in (<4...@n...>) on Mon 07 Nov 2011 07:12:04p (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)


Can a story feature advanced technology without any theory of how it might be designed, or would that, then, be Fantasy?



Sure it can. Happens every day and is always classified as SF. The important thing is to include enough rivets and stuff to ensure that the reader thinks "technology."

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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit32715 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 10:46 pm

I think that the tone and technology or appearance of scientific viability are more important than the actual function and merit for story purposes.

As a perfectionist and a biologist as well as an author I tend to try to make my science fiction as factual and possible or believable as possible.

That said, a very lucid and detail oriented writer might do the same thing in a fantasy story. If they described an alchemist mixing certain roots or chemicals to create a smoke affect, or harmonic resonance as a way to "magically" unlock a portal, or if they kept with biological viability when describing a dragon as a large reptilian creature with forelimbs modified into batlike wings and fire breathing being due to a combination of two chemicals the reptile mixes from two glands as it exhales, then even a fantasy story can sound immensely viable.

I believe that these genera's rely more on general perception than accurate viability, all things told.
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit32856 » Fri Oct 28, 2016 12:25 pm

Could the difference between "magic" and "technology" in fiction might be how the characters in the story view it?

For example, Cordwainer Smith's universe had telepathy, animal-derived people, FTL travel through space-three and space-two, and a drug that could grant immortality. How did any of that work? He never says, of course. But everyone in the universe looks at it as technology. Telepathy is a mental ability that can malfunction, be augmented by mechanical devices, and be cured. Underpeople are created by processing (weekly) animals. FTL travel is done by machines that can breakdown (except in Drunkboat, where a man travels by sheer force of will). Stroon is harvested, refined and universally traded, with exchanges and futures contracts.

The terms used with the "advanced technology" are technological terms, and the people in the stories view it all as technology. So that's why it is.

Make any sense?
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit33324 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:58 am

It depends upon what type of science fiction you want to write, but I'd say that - definitely - the basic elements of the story's universe must be clearly technological, and should follow (whether deeply detailed or not) clear and logical rules. If you do only this, you can have a good space opera, or even good speculative fiction.

The one category where you must include clearly recognized scientific fact and theory, is what was known as "hard scifi". "The Martian" is an excellent example of this narrow genre. "Contact" and "Jurassic Park" are other examples. These stories are still speculative, but those authors restrict themselves to imagining the logical extension of current scientific theories to create new technologies. It is not as limiting as it may sound. But avid readers of this genre usually want to see the underpinning theories - how the new technology works (i.e. could we really build this?) - to make the story real for them.

I confess I like this genre most. Science is like sex…the real thing is far more exciting than the fantasy.
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit33524 » Thu Jul 06, 2017 6:38 am

How much is required? No more than for any other fiction (exclusive of political news, where facts are never allowed :mrgreen: ).

You can simply assume FTL travel exists and we've made sufficient contact with aliens that we have tourists, and have a story with an alien tourist in a New York nightclub. It's science fiction.

How much can there be? As much as you like.
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Re: How much fact must there be in Science Fiction?

Postby crit33321 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:04 pm

I'm not a very technologically-saavy person myself, which is why I write fiction instead of tech articles for trade publications like Wired or Popular Mechanics. Of course, it probably also means I'll never publish stories in magazines like Asimov's or Analog either, but oh well -- that's not really my audience.

That being said, I think about popular series like Star Trek, where the science behind the technology is filled with all kinds of nifty-sounding garbledy-gook that makes absolutely no sense, but sounds cool enough that we figure, "Well, it sounds like SOMEONE understands it, so that's good enough for me."

There's a lot in science fiction that's simply taken for granted: no one's going to question how you got from planet A to planet B in a matter of hours because the technology has been a trope for long enough that no one bothers asking anymore. But if you introduce a piece of science into your story that no one's ever seen before, you better have SOME kind of explanation for it that sounds at least feasible, even if it's completely made up. No one questions that Marty McFly can travel back to the past in a time machine. But do it in a DeLorean? That's new. And all it took to satisfy our sense of science was a little plutonium, a schematic of something called a Flux Capacitor, and a need to accelerate to 88 MPH. Simple right, and no further explanation needed. Or the ability to fold space in the Dune saga? Meh, tell us it can only be done by the Guild, who depend on the spice Melange. Good enough.

We read science fiction not to be oohed and aahed by your deep understanding of quantum physics, but because your explanations -- whatever they are -- overcome our intellect long enough that we can suspend our disbelief and enjoy the cool new world you've developed for us.

Hope that helps,
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