Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Less Science, More Fiction, Please

   I remember, as a young man, reading some of the early, great Science Fiction writers of our time. This was long before we actually put a man in space, but the idea of space travel was always taken for granted. The stories were about the experiences of the characters, and how they dealt with the situations they encountered in their travels. It was rarely about the science involved.
   Even in later stories such as Star Trek and others like it, Warp drive, transporters, etc, were just means of travel, not the point of the story. You never saw an episode where Spock goes into a long discussion on how transporters work, or Scotty explaining the physics of Warp drive.
   Someone writing a modern murder mystery doesn't go into an explanation of how jets fly or how the internet works. These things are part of the world and accepted by the people involved. While some may understand the science behind flight, the majority of the population doesn't give it a second thought, it just works. Why do some writers feel it's necessary to fill up their story with scientific discussions of how everything works in the world they've created? Is it important to the characters and their journey, or is the author trying to impress me with their technical knowledge?
   This applies to Fantasy stories as well. I don't need, nor am I interested in all the discussions about how a particular magic system works and why. What is important to me is how the characters with this special ability use it. Do they use this power to help others, or help themselves? How do others without this power perceive those who do?
   Also, a fantasy doesn't need hordes of magical creatures to make it a creative story. I've recently read a fantasy without fiercesome beasts or an all powerful wizard. Transportation was by horse or wagon, weapons were swords, and a small portion of the population had the power to heal with their mind. The story was about relationships, political power and greed. The power to heal was an important part of the story, but not the focus. It was one of the most engaging stories I've read in a long time.
   Personally, don't try to impress me with your knowledge of physics or your ability to create outrageous creatures. Tell me a story about the human experience. How do your characters handle their emotions, strengths and weaknesses, compared to others in your world? Technical advances are expected in science fiction, and so is magic in fantasy, but they shouldn't be the focus of the story.
   Maybe I'm just a simple man, but less science and more fiction works best for me.
   Thanks for reading.  

1 comment:

  1. I'll dido that. So much so, that I'll add any item with to much detail that doesn't move the story along. For instance, I get raised eyebrows when I say I couldn't get through Moby Dick because of the hundreds of pages of whale descriptions. I, frankly, don't care how many whales there are and every little nuance about them.

    I suppose I don't have the refinement to appreciate a great classic like Moby Dick for it is used as example after example for great prose, use of metaphors and creative use of first person that is dead. I have gone into a little for detail on that in my blog

    It is irksome though, when someone breaks a rule of physics to further their story without some attempt to explain how that got done.

    Yet, your are spot on when you say all we really need to know about the science is it provides the means for the characters to be themselves.

    Great insights as usual, Roland.