Sci-fi actually needs science

Gregory

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I just tried reading a "space opera" book and had to give up after the first chapter. (I'll save the author the embarrassment of naming the book.) I know, I know, I haven't published anything (yet) but hey, I'm a huge fan of reading Sci-fi too.

I am all for stretching science and suspending belief,,, to a point. I just can't forgive when someone seems to have forgotten every thing they ever learned in school. I can not think of any educational curriculum that never spoke about Isaac Newton or discussed the LAWS of motion but apparently there must be some out there somewhere. Space ships that bank, barrel roll, fire afterburners, have braking thrusters capable of stopping them from near light speed and can come around (multiple times) for another pass or have long extended military engagements between two space ships at .9 C coming from opposite directions or the worst one, they coast to a stop if they run out of fuel or shut down the drives. (the book had all that and more in the first chapter.)

So I have a question for the folks here, the author has a link to his site and asks for feedback. Is it acceptable to just tell him he needs to go take a refresher course in basic science if he intends to keep writing sci-fi or do all of you just kind of blow it off and move on? I'd honestly like to explain why I gave up on his book but not if it will just anger him. I know if I had something so basic, so horribly wrong, I'd want to hear it but that's just me.

Thoughts???
 

Brian G Turner

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Is it acceptable to just tell him he needs to go take a refresher course in basic science if he intends to keep writing sci-fi or do all of you just kind of blow it off and move on?

The question is - do you think anything constructive will come from that?

I just tried reading a "space opera" book

One of the more - apparently - realistic books/series for space battles is Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell:
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (Book 1) (Lost Fleet 1): Amazon.co.uk: Jack Campbell: 9780857681300: Books

If you can get past the King Arthur plot device, the space battles are unique for their focus on issues of space and time.
 

Ray McCarthy

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Space Opera:
Clue in name.
It's set in space and it's fun. Space opera doesn't work as a genre if the science is real.

it acceptable to just tell him he needs to go take a refresher course in basic science if he intends to keep writing sci-fi or do all of you just kind of blow it off and move on?
No, because traditionally Space Opera doesn't bother.

It sounds like you want Hard SF, Space Opera is very much very soft SF.

StarWars and Star Trek TNG are more Space Opera than real SF, for instance.

I like both. I tried to write Space Opera and can't do it, though I can write Fantasy.
 

J Riff

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The best writers managed to dodge it somehow. They put you in deep space and do not attempt to detail the high-end science behind it all, or the singularity(s?) attached to same, except as needed, and that's why their books are so good, and read like adventure stories, without insulting intelligence, such as it is.
Hard science fiction is great fun, but it takes a skillful write to bring it down to us layman-type brains, yuhp.
 

Gregory

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The question is - do you think anything constructive will come from that?

I can't say, that's sort of in his hands isn't it?
 

J Riff

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If there's a market, someone will fill it. SF has more or less been somewhat static for a few decades now. It's a great genre, with great traditions and conventions and inventions. But - reality has bypassed a lot of it already.
 

Gregory

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Ray, I've read quite a few of them that don't rewrite the laws of the entire universe. :) I hear what you are saying and to some extent I agree but like I said, I can only bend things so far before they break. I suspect one reason is I don't really care for military themed stories and rarely read them.

Fantasy, I have no idea what that even is. ;-)
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
The question is - do you think anything constructive will come from that?

I can't say, that's sort of in his hands isn't it?

Frankly, if someone told me to go and take a crash course in science to write sf, I'd cry with laughter for a week (although, in my defence, I try to get most of it right, bar the Space opera standards of ftl travel and what not.)

Not all sf fans want science. Some want escapism and, frankly, very few hard sf books I've picked up give me that. The genre is huge. If you don't like Space Opera or science fantasy, move on. Someone else will drink it up, because it's escapist and unreal and fun. And none of us - from either side of the debate - have the right to tell the others they're wrong.

Rant over. :D
 

Gregory

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Jo, I was being factitious. Of course I'd try to explain some very, very basic bits and see what happens. Keep in mind he has asked for feedback.

As to space opera, I like the genre but in this case he may have well had said, "hocus pocus" occurs here and moved on.
 

TheDustyZebra

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No. Just don't pick up any more space opera books, and you'll be fine. If you find a hard SF book that has the problems you name, then complain. In this case, you're complaining that the book is what it claimed to be.

For the space opera thing where hocus pocus occurs here, you want Star Wars. May the force be with you. :D
 

Ray McCarthy

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in my defence, I try to get most of it right,
You do actually ask here.
Sometimes you even get useful answers and sometimes those are scientifically correct. :)

People don't want text books, though if it's not Space Opera or Science Fantasy, then it shouldn't obviously contradict known science.
 

Gregory

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"No. Just don't pick up any more space opera books"

I honestly don't understand that at all, as I said I've read many space operas that respect something as basic as inertia.
 

NbDawn

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Could you be talking about my space opera story? I have no fight scenes like the one you described, but I do sort of fit into the general scenario you're describing. I'm not a scientist but my story is set in space. I suppose I could tell it in a fantasy scene instead of a space scene, but I really like it as a space scene. I try to make things believable, but I'm sure there will be a few places in my story that will fail the scrutiny of a science geek.

Would I want you to tell me? Yes, but in a constructive way. Don't just tell me when my science is wrong. Tell me why it is wrong and possibly direct me to some resources that will help.
 

Gregory

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Folks I think we got off the direction I was heading. I wanted to know if the author has asked for feedback as this one did, do you give them feedback?
 

chrispenycate

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I'd probably write a nice, clear list of the technical errors - but I sent a letter to Arthur C Clarke, explaining an error he'd made, when I was about twelve, and got a very pleasant letter back from him agreeing with me.
 

Ray McCarthy

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I've read many space operas that respect something as basic as inertia.
I can't remember one like that :)

I wanted to know if the author has asked for feedback as this one did, do you give them feedback?
Appropriate feedback... say about plot holes, continuity errors.
Or maybe typos etc.
Really getting into criticizing the science would be akin to complaining to Paramount about the idiot explanations and science in ST:TNG.
 

J Riff

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Another thing is - writers can research much more accurately and easier now, as opposed to say, at the end of WW11, when things like electric motors were still classified information, and you had to go to the library for most intel. Chris wrote to AC Clark and got a response, that's a n absolutely great memory to have, backs up what is being said here. Clark was up-to-date I bet - but he was also a writer, not the same thing as a scientist. How much of today's science is over the head of the general population? Ask a scien tist.
 

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