Sci-fi actually needs science

Brian G Turner

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Hi. New to the forum today.

Hi @ChatBot and welcome to the chronicles forums. :)

Going back to the topic, and my earlier reference to Dune, I just came across this profound reference on Wikipedia:

Herbert deliberately suppressed technology in his Dune universe so he could address the future of humanity, rather than the future of humanity's technology.
 

mosaix

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I’ve always thought ‘future fiction’ a better description for the genre.

Anyway the genre is so wide in scope it’s difficult to encompass it all in a discussion such as this and draw any one-fits-all conclusion.

Let’s take The Day of The Triffids (and indeed most of Wynham’s work). Wyndham seemed to want to put society into unusual and stressful situations and then see what happened. The science itself was merely a vehicle to create these situations.
 

Onyx

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I’ve always thought ‘future fiction’ a better description for the genre.
And then you'd run into present day SF by Gibson or Stephenson, or past SF by... Gibson, or Stephenson. :unsure:

But it is usually future fiction (function?).
 

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Ah the Dune series, what a really great yarn! As a teenager it renewed my interest in Sci-Fi by revealing the genre's world building potential, and seemed to make sense of human cultures - as developing as strategic responses to conditions.
 
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Vertigo

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OMG, there is some point to Solo:

Solo's Greatest Accomplishment Was Correcting One of the Most Infamous Star Wars Plot Holes
Han Solo Parsec Kessel Run Plot Hole Correction - Solo's Corrected One of Star Wars's Most Infamous Plot Holes

:lol::lol::lol: :cool:
When did Lucas ever say it was a plot hole in the first place? I've always assumed that the line meant exactly what it was sounds like - he made the run in less distance. Why does everyone think that it was written in error when it clearly can mean exactly what Solo confirms it meant.

It is just a kind of bizarre arrogance on the part of fans that they believe that they know scientific terminology and SF luminaries like Lucas, Dykstra and McQuarrie are idiots. Lucas wrote that line the way he did to be provocative, not because he's a moron.
Ok I'll bite (though I don't want to drag this thread off into a semantics discussion). Here's that actual conversation from the film:

Obi: If it's a fast ship
Solo: Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millenium Falcon?
Obi: Should I have?
Solo: It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. I've outrun Imperial starships.

Now that to me is specifically a discussion of the speed of the ship not the cleverness of the pilot in finding a shortcut. And I do not think it arrogant to say that the reference to 12 parsecs was clearly meant to suggest how fast the Falcon is.
 

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By the way, anyone else really enjoy the new Westworld remake? I thought this was a good example of a story that got a lot of mileage out of very little kryptonite.
 
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Joshua Jones

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Hmmm... I think one of the things we need to be extremely careful of is the idea that if I don't like it, it isn't SF. Personally, I like harder SF, but that doesn't mean that Space Opera is not SF. Perhaps, instead of debating how much science is necessary for SF, we should just embrace the fact that there is a range of great and not so great SF available for a range of readers.

Oh, and for the love of Pete, can we please stop making hard SF that is little more than an author tract for a pet technology, and focuses more on this than the storyline and characters!? And while we are at it, characters with no background in, say, physics discussing wormhole theory? Please?
 

Vertigo

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...Oh, and for the love of Pete, can we please stop making hard SF that is little more than an author tract for a pet technology, and focuses more on this than the storyline and characters!? And while we are at it, characters with no background in, say, physics discussing wormhole theory? Please?
That always bugged me in Star Trek Voyager; although Janeway had started out as a science officer that does not mean, as was almost always the case, that she automatically knows more about all the engineering system than her engineering team and knows better than them how to fix them....
 

Dan Jones

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Solo: It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. I've outrun Imperial starships.

Shurely it should be, "fewer than 12 parsecs?"

Personally, I believe that the science in science fiction needs to be kept reasonable, interesting, and perhaps more importantly at least advanced enough that it makes readers think "gee, wouldn't that be great?"

This seems reasonable to me, with the addendum that making readers think, "gee, wouldn't that be awful" is an equally valid reaction to provoke.

I've always gone by the broad dictum that any science in an SF story ought not to be there simply as window dressing (there are certain exceptions*), but should be there for a reason. And in a reasonably well-constructed SF story, it seems to me that that reason is to shine a light on people and how they might be affected: so how tech and science enables / prevents people from doing things, how it might affect human relationships, human attitudes etc.

*Because sometimes it's good just to throw in cool ideas.
 

Onyx

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Now that to me is specifically a discussion of the speed of the ship not the cleverness of the pilot in finding a shortcut. And I do not think it arrogant to say that the reference to 12 parsecs was clearly meant to suggest how fast the Falcon is.
Sorry I wasn't clear in my thoughts: it is to say how fast the ship is, not how clever the pilot. What I took away from the original is something like hyperspace is also curved like real space, and some ships can straighten those curves more than others. A slow ship, for instance, would be one who's hyperspace jumps have to stay closest to the path furthest from stars, while a faster ship can skirt gravity wells to a greater extent - and such an ability isn't just raw power but data processing of the hyperdrive unit.

Alternately, this was a way to acknowledge the causality factor - by making a common statement about speed where the terms seem jumbled because of the inadequacy of English to represent paradoxical events. A similar language situation to trying to use the correct tenses to talk about time travel.

And I don't think it is arrogant to think that it reads like it sounds - about speed. I think it is arrogant to conclude that the people who wrote it and listened to it thought "parsec" is a unit of time. I think Lucas wrote exactly the sort of cool SF line that we should encounter in SF stories - one that reflects the true or SW nature of physics rather than Newtonian way we're used to thinking about distance and time as separate concepts. Like Luke calling the magnificent Falcon a piece of junk upon first seeing it, Lucas is purposely challenging our preconceptions to keep the audience off balance, drawing them in.

I know that doesn't fit with everyone's comfortable perception that Lucas is a bumbler who just happened to accidentally make some good films, but you can't watch THX 1138 and conclude that this is a guy who doesn't have some rather finely tuned sensibilities when it comes to SF.
 
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Onyx

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This plays into my earlier post about articles on SF believability - if you want to participate with the author in a journey to a fictional place, you're going to have to trust the author (director, illustrator) is competent. If you view fiction with an eye to how you think it should be, you aren't acting in good faith as a reader. Until proven otherwise, stop looking for evidence that the artist doesn't know her craft. If the ships don't have radiators, maybe that's because the author thinks radiators are dumb ways of using available energy, rather than just doesn't know anything about spaceship design.

Which isn't to say that every writer is a science genius, but most works went through a lengthy collaborative process prior to publishing, and everything in there was sorted through by multiple people. Trust your author until it is clearly proven they don't know their craft.
 

BAYLOR

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In Star Wars ther is point that Ive found a bit confusing. In space Above Tatoine Han Solo and company in Millennium Falcon are escaping from Imperail Destroyers and Han is talking about making the Jump to Light Speed ? and then they talk about going to Hyperspace ? Two different things or it simply confused terminology?
 

Onyx

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In Star Wars ther is point that Ive found a bit confusing. In space Above Tatoine Han Solo and company in Millennium Falcon are escaping from Imperail Destroyers and Han is talking about making the Jump to Light Speed ? and then they talk about going to Hyperspace ? Two different things or it simply confused terminology?
Same thing. The characters are referring to "light speed" colloquially for "above light speed", which is what hyperspace travel gives them. Unlike Star Trek, SW ships don't appear to ever move a large percentage of the speed of light when they are not in hyperspace.
 

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I first saw Star Wars in 1979 and its 'realism' really blew my mind. Not because it was scientifically realistic in terms of space travel etc. (it wasn't) but because the worlds were all shabby and lived in. At the time this was a big step forward for screen sci-fi - which usually took place in sleek modernist starship bridges in clean spandex uniforms. And of course Star Wars, like Dune, showed an ecosystem of competing cultures and factions. Then came Ridley Scott's worlds for Alien and Blade Runner. More grime - fantastic!
 

Phyrebrat

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I suspect the general public will not be bothered; more it is a matter for scholars and sf writers to anguish over.

To me, boiling a kettle is pretty science fiction-y so I’m happy with pretty much any claims in Sf.

Also, comparing the film SW to the written word is imprecise, if not reductive. A film can show great detail and things that suggest logic and purpose in a flash without lingering on the why’s and wherefores. A book has to include relevant world-built facts more frugally.

pH
 

SilentRoamer

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Ok with the Kessel run, if you want to take into account EU stuff (which is no longer canon) then the reason the Millenium Falcon covered the Kessel Run in a smaller DISTANCE was due to its expert navigational systems and brilliant piloting.

Lucas alluded to this in the Blu Ray release of Star Wars when he stated that ships can't travel in straight lines due to celestial objects (gravitational bodies) so flying the distance at a smaller value is necessarily a feat of piloting. I don't see any reason to doubt the veracity of the source.
 

Ursa major

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I always found it it problematic that they ban thinking machines
Why is it problematic? The society did not want machines that could think for themselves, so they banned the technology that would enable such thinking machines to emerge...

...and to guarantee that machine thinking cannot emerge inadvertantly, they would have to set the bar very low for what machines are allowed to do.


As it happens, my WiPs are set in a political entity where computers do exist, but where they operate under strict rules on what they can do and, particularly, how they are networked**. This is because they fear the emergence of an intelligence greater than theirs, particularly given the destructive technology that they have.


** - They see the processing power available as less important than the emergence of intelligence from the interconnection of countless numbers of machines (and virtual machines, for that matter). The limitations put on bandwidth, and on immediacy, impacts the story in various ways, even though machine intelligence -- or, rather, its emergence -- is not really an active issue to the characters.
 

Onyx

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That always bugged me in Star Trek Voyager; although Janeway had started out as a science officer that does not mean, as was almost always the case, that she automatically knows more about all the engineering system than her engineering team and knows better than them how to fix them....
She might simply be smarter than everyone else. Those sorts of people often are able to do everyone's job better, but they simply can't.
 

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