Does your science fiction have a goal besides entertainment?

Robert Zwilling

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#1
science-fiction-ideas.png


Without breaking down into specific genres, science fiction can be purely entertaining, everything in it can be imaginary. None of the science is anywhere near being applicable in our lifetimes. None of the characters are related to anyone or anything that is real. The characters act however the character wants to act without regards to how people might realistically respond to the situation. Basically some kind of escapist adventure story, serious, comical, or both. The point is that it was written to entertain people, to take their minds off reality. Being able to do this is a highly valued accomplishment.

The flip side is writing something that will leave people with something more than what they bargained for when picking up a book to read. Various methods exist, from flat out descriptions of things actually happening, such as Prey by Michael Crichton to allegorical devices that can have any number of interpretations, like a Bosch or Bruegel painting. A person could come away from the story with a better idea of how to do something that actually exists or a better idea of the domino theory of life that keeps trying to ignore the consequences of actions. The insights can be easily seen or they can be disguised by multiple layers of fantasy that are only camouflaging the underlying topics being examined, which can be anything from social behavior to flying to the moon.
 
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#2
The most current work, yes.

Although my original intentions began with something vastly different than even the first evolution of that work (having an understanding of Ma-Ma (Madeline Madrigal) from the 2012 film 'Dredd'), once I had concluded my research and it had evolved into something else, I needed a catalyst to rapidly bring the world to its knees.

I didn't want to use the typical scenarios (nuclear war, plague, aliens, zombies, etc.), I wanted something that was taken for granted by many. Something that we deal with everyday, yet we never seem to be able to overcome like we did the last Dodo. Then it struck me...

>>>WARNING ~ POLITICS AHEAD!<<<

For over a year I had been ranting and raving about our new president, the Mad Clown. Of the countless things he does that infuriates me, his day-one till present attacks on the EPA had me incensed. I'm old enough that I remember the vast differences that occurred after the EPA was formed, and for those of you born in even the 70's, take it from me... America was a much different place, parts of it a toxic wasteland.

Without beginning a rant, that was it. I found my catalyst being the 'Mad Clown,' and among countless other things he brings to the table which help my story... A LOT :LOL:... a collapse of the environment was the ticket I needed.

So, why not make it any President between any dates relieving me of urgency and so on? Because though the scenario takes a considerable effort to make happen, I want to make a point that whether during the Mad Clown's term or another, by reversing course on environmental issues can have dire consequences.

It is not so much what someone might mess up today that can be fixed in a few short years, it is the destruction of something that cannot be fixed that concerns me. So, I simply want to point out that to stay this course (reversing course and destroying the efforts of the last 50-years), might have consequences that we cannot control once they begin to happen.

To tread lightly and always in a positive direction, not one for quick profit.

So yes, my current work is as much of a political statement against the Mad Clown and a warning, as it is entertainment. That said however, if it is not entertaining, and does not get people thinking... Then it accomplishes nothing.

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Anthoney

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#3
I don't think that science fiction has any goals. Authors may or may not have goals. Some may want to teach some lesson or get people to ask or think about a subject. Some may only wish to entertain. I personally feel that good sci-fi needs to entertain, tell a story that connects on more than one level, and invokes thought on one or more subjects. Ideally, that's what I want from any work of fiction.
 
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#6
The most rewarding aspect that science fiction has offered to me is the critical thinking that comes from posing questions that are outside current human experience, and then examining their ramifications. The concepts posed don't have to come true, but be consistent and far reaching in scope. Mystery does this sort of "what if?" as well, but SF has much greater scope.

"Entertainment" is a word similar to "dessert", signaling something pleasurable without much redeeming value. I think "art" is a much better word for literature that doesn't exist for its utility in transmitting morality or fact. That said, some of the best SF I've encountered has offered many historical insights and scientific concepts in a form that is easier digested than non-fiction or text books.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#7
I'm not sure how I describe literature. I'm thinking when it comes to art, most of the work is done by the artist, and the rest of it is the audience viewing it, wearing it, some sort of passive activity. With literature the author does as much work as the artist, but the audience is working hard to read and appreciate the finished work. To be on the safe side, music is in between art and literature.

For me, the word entertainment has gone a long way past desert. I would argue that there is an entertainingly industrialized news complex that aims to keep people happy by delivering alternating bursts of news that is hardly ever good along with something pleasurable without much redeeming value. This entertainment is packed with contrived emotional drama that defuses the tensions of everyday life. People who don't watch the news to avoid news still know what's in the news. The same machines are publishing the bad news programming along with the the entertaining programming, in video, audio, and print formats.
 

Joshua Jones

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#8
I think it really depends not just on the author, but the story itself. I have two WiPs with two very different points. One is basically for entertainment, but it does explore the theme of being cursed with near immortality. The other seeks to entertain, but a big point of it is exploring the idea that humanity is its own problem, no amount of changing location, advancing tech, or creating societies and governments will ever fix the problems with humanity, though they may make some areas better at the expense of others.

So, it really depends on what someone is hoping to do with their particular work.
 

Brian G Turner

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#9
Even though my first book was published as epic fantasy, it has a rich science fiction vein running through it - conceits necessary to the genre, but also speculative ideas as well very serious visions of the future.

As a reader I want to be challenged and made to think in different ways - so that's what I try to include in my writing.

At least, I hope so. :)
 

James Bridie

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#10
The way I'd put it, thinking as a reader or consumer: the best works - even, the best entertainment - makes you think about things outside of the story itself - like a new attitude or take on life, for example, that you carry with you afterwards. It doesn't need to be an explicitly targeted influence or goal - it could be just about a point of view, or a possibility, or maybe just some reflection on life/humanity.

I suppose, you could still do good entertainment even if it doesn't go that extra step, but then it depends what you want to do. And of course, basic 'good entertainment' may be a high enough bar, that you can't even necessarily assume to achieve in the first place.

I can't help thinking about something like the film Apollo 13 (of course a true story not fiction) which I suppose I'd rate as entertaining - keeps you pretty engaged from start to end - but I don't remember taking anything much else away from it. It happens, it ends, you turn off the TV and go back to normal life.

On the other hand, Apollo 18 is a film where for periods not much happens (in a conventional narrative sense) and - unless you're into it - I think some might feel to be not that 'entertaining' - and yet has food for thought in it that goes beyond the story itself.

You may not share my verdict on those 2 particular films but I hope the generic depictions of entertaining and beyond entertaining make sense...
 

Jay Greenstein

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#11
None of the science is anywhere near being applicable in our lifetimes.
I don't know what you've been reading, because one hell of a lot of the things that were sci-fi when I was a kid, way back in the "50's" are now real. Try computers, cell phones, undersea tunnels, lunar landings, gene splicing, battery powered tools, and a host of such things on the horizon, now, like self driving cars, and a human presence on Mars. When it's all made up we call it fantasy, not sci-fi.

None of the characters are related to anyone or anything that is real.
Perhaps in superhero stories, but the moment your character doesn't act and think like a real person the reader will close the cover.

John W. Campbell, the longtime editor of Analog magazine changed the genre from it's "Gee-wiz, focus on the technology to reality when he told his writers the wanted them to write the story as it it was to be printed in a magazine contemporary to he society in which it takes place. In other words, the science isn't the focus because the people in the story take it for granted. The human interaction is what matters. Fail to make your character look, feel, and behave as a real person, from paragraph one and that's where the rejection letter appears.Stories aren't about things and events, they're about people, even if that person is a being who lives in space and eats rocks. Their motivations have to make sense and be consistent. They have to react to what matters to them in a way that makes sense to the reader. And their viewpoint is what matters because it's what drives them to act.

And behind it all, the science must make logical sense within the framework of the story, and physical possibility. Yes, Steam-Punk makes up the science, but it's not sci-fi, it's Steam-Punk.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#12
I don't know what you've been reading, because one hell of a lot of the things that were sci-fi when I was a kid, way back in the "50's" are now real. Try computers, cell phones, undersea tunnels, lunar landings, gene splicing, battery powered tools, and a host of such things on the horizon, now, like self driving cars, and a human presence on Mars. When it's all made up we call it fantasy, not sci-fi.

I was trying to cover the complete range of science fiction stories, I wasn't saying that all science in science fiction is never anywhere near being applicable in our lifetimes. Of course it is. It was just an extreme example. Deciding what is fantasy and what is science fiction is a whole another story.
 

dannymcg

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#13
Science fiction reading is one of my main interests for decades. I wanna be awed and entertained, not educated.

I find it disconcerting nowadays, with 'cli fi' and the like, that there's an underlying message of "look after our planet or this will happen".

That's not why I spend way too much every month on new SF books, I want the authors to take me to new worlds/situations, not subliminally preach at me.

I also spend a fair bit of money on rock music, if they started sneaking green messages into that I'd stop buying pretty rapido!
 
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#14
I find it disconcerting nowadays, with 'cli fi' and the like, that there's an underlying message of "look after our planet or this will happen"....[edit]...I also spend a fair bit of money on rock music, if they started sneaking green messages into that I'd stop buying pretty rapido!
This has music in it (sorry, I'm compelled to ;))


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Serendipity

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#15
Science fiction reading is one of my main interests for decades. I wanna be awed and entertained, not educated.

I find it disconcerting nowadays, with 'cli fi' and the like, that there's an underlying message of "look after our planet or this will happen".

That's not why I spend way too much every month on new SF books, I want the authors to take me to new worlds/situations, not subliminally preach at me.

I also spend a fair bit of money on rock music, if they started sneaking green messages into that I'd stop buying pretty rapido!
I have seen various factions of society use science fiction as their soap box, including those concerned about climate change.

IMHO, those that come across as preaching are poorly written whatever the subject.
 

Toby Frost

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#16
Well, I'd like it to make me vastly wealthy...

In the real world, however, the primary purpose of what I write is to entertain, and as Onyx and Danny say, there's nothing wrong with that. Entertainment doesn't mean mindless distraction and a good book must, on some level, be entertaining to work at all.

On the other hand, nobody writes 70,000 words about something in which they've got no real interest (unless the money's really, really good). I've heard it said that, in Starship Troopers, Heinlein was just throwing ideas around, but I find it hard to believe that he would have produced an entire novel preaching a theory that he didn't care about. A writer who writes a comedy about mountaineers probably is interested in mountaineering in some way.

I also find that writing acts as a kind of vent for bad emotions (not that I have many), often in quite a roundabout way, and also as a way of discussing things without having to pin myself down to one answer or situation. By that, I mean that an SF novel can discuss, say, tyranny, without having to say that it is about one particular tyranny and all the issues that follow from that. Nobody is going to claim that I'm not entitled to speak for a species that I just made up.

So I suppose I would also like to "make people think" on some vague level, whatever that means. But primarily, it's entertainment.
 

tinkerdan

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#17
I think that escapism and entertainment aren't exclusively tied together.
What I mean by that is that I have some friends who are entertained by reading all the works of Winston Churchill, but eschew most escapist fiction.
However, many of the same enjoy historical fiction such as the Hornblower books.

They would be hard pressed to read one of my novels.

I, in fact, recall placing my hard volume first novel in the hands of one of them and had them kindly give it back while politely explaining that they don't read that type of fiction.

Some time much latter when someone brought it to their attention that I had written the book they politely came back and asked for a signed copy. (I never asked if they read it after that.)
 
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#18
I have seen various factions of society use science fiction as their soap box, including those concerned about climate change.
I have a hard time imagining SF readers that need a fiction book to educate them about climate change any more than a mystery reader that needs to be educated on the forensic power of fingerprints. The idea had been suggested by Jules Verne and has appeared commonly in SF novels starting in the '60s. This is not new ground for anyone.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#20
Personally I don't think anyone has the slightest idea of how the world works beyond a rudimentary understanding of one tiny pixel they have concentrated on, which is surrounded by millions of other pixels that may or may not be contributing to the big picture at the time in question. Extend the reference frame of reality past the video screen and there must be trillions of pixels in the mix. I do believe we have a big say globally in how some things work out and have no effect on others.

Reading is like drinking, you certainly aren't going to drink something that you really don't like or even if it's the wrong kind of drink. If you want to relax you don't want something that blasts you into the stratosphere. Loading a story up with facts is tricky. The closer to what is actually happening on a personal level, the smaller the eye of the needle gets when trying to balance imprinting with the use of background scenery that only sets the story up and doesn't require the reader to be subject to opinions they don't use in order to read the story. A non neutral background served up in a neutral way. In a way it's like kicking the can down the road. Fortunately it's a long road.

Do stories require warning labels so people know in advance what they are getting into. Maybe that is what the forward is for. That is usually jettisoned in the ebook age to get more pages into the limited free sample. The flip side for me is that the farther away from a true description one gets, the more allegorical it becomes, the more likely people of opposing viewpoints will like the same paragraph for opposite reasons which takes skillful writing. For generating a broad readership that's always good.
 

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