The Science of Science Fiction

Posted: March 20, 2011 in All, Comic Books, Movies, Prose, TV
Tags: , , , ,

The technology of something doesn’t matter to me.

We were watching “Untraceable” last night. There was a scene in which Diane Lane explains how this website owner was keeping his site from being shut down. It was very elaborate. The person she was explaining this to said “I don’t understand a single word you said.”

Was it all gobbledygook? Or was there a science behind it? Probably somewhere in between. The writer knew enough about computers to propose something that made sense, but that a hacker would get annoyed by.

So is that the level of science we need to be writing at? Either you’re an expert or just don’t bother?

We should know enough about the subject that we’re not totally wrong, and that the majority of the audience wouldn’t know any better. There’s no way to do any better, unless we’re an expert at that particular realm of science. And we’re not scientists; we’re writers. At best, we should contact experts to get their takes on what we write.

I’m sure a NASA worker grew up watching movies about space, and now looks at some of his favorite movies as maybe a little trite. He probably can’t get excited about any new space movies coming out and hates it when he’s at a party and someone wants to talk to him about a new space movie.

In science fiction, there’s a distinct audience for “hard science fiction” or “sociological/soft science fiction.” One concerns itself on the science, the other more on the fiction.

Maybe some people who really like hard science just can’t suspend disbelief long enough.

Ray Bradbury wasn’t a rocket scientist, but he sent people to Mars. Isaac Asimov wasn’t a robotics expert.

I remember reading Michael Crichton’s “Timeline,” and there was a very detailed explanation of the quantum physics behind time travel. It seemed believable when I read it. This means that I was able to suspend disbelief. Immediately after the book was finished, I forgot everything because I just don’t have a technical mind.

I don’t care how they go back in time, I just want to know what happens when they get there. I don’t care how they get to Mars, clone a human, give someone superpowers, jump dimensions, hack a website…just tell me a good story after it happens.

I just need a short explanation of the “why.” In a way, it might as well be magic.

Disclaimer/background: I’m a traditionalist. I don’t think people should break rules of storytelling unless there’s a good reason. I write comic books, short fiction and children’s books. Just to put my comments in perspective, these are my interests and favorites: My favorite superhero is Spider-Man, and I also like Justice League and Batman. My favorite comic writers lately have been Kurt Busiek, Peter David, and Geoff Johns. I am a huge Transformers fan. In children’s books, I go either simple or meta: either really simple stories or books about stories. In movies and books, I am more impressed with something small that makes me feel something rather than something I’m told is a “must-read” or a must-see.”

I make silly videos and post them here:

  1. Greg Gale says:

    I would imagine that any person watching a film they have some expertise on will see every flaw and not able to enjoy the film as much. I work in the mental heath field and when I see a mentally handicapped person played poorly it takes me out of the moment. Hollywood has made every autistic person “Rainman” although the idiot/savant is pretty rare.

    I value a writer who puts the details into the story (God is in the details right?). Michael Crichton is a perfect example. A lot of what he puts in his stories is based of fact, and then he’ll change a few facts to suit the story. Usually makes a pretty good story.

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