Author Topic: Bad science and science fiction  (Read 11275 times)

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Offline Grimner

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #30 on: June 25, 2008, 05:29:53 PM »
Interesting question. Depends on who you are, I guess :)

Heinlein's computer is nothing. Stanislav Lem has some truely monsterous Babbages doing the rounds in 'The Cyberiad' - but they do their job for the story just like Asimov's positronic brains.
Dick has a few stories with pretty advanced ticker tape going in and out of machines, but darn, the concepts he gets up to with crappy tech and medicore writing - still turns my little mind.

Mostly I'll take anything in the stride, but as the years advances, I like my authors to at least try to explain or throw in a little history on the development of the devices. Details, details...
An FTL engine thrown in as a side remark... well, the rest had better make up for it.

But when Stross or Gibson take today's technology and twists it a little; that tickles me pink - tough I suspect they'll look a bit dated in twenty years time.

Love the 30-second bomb, by the way :)
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Offline DaveTheReader

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #31 on: June 25, 2008, 06:39:22 PM »
BSG is filled with robots, the Cylon. Some very nice looking robots, but robots none the less. Chrome toasters in the old series?

You really aren't bother by this, are you?  This is the central plot point to the entire series.
Cylon robots. I am a male (not robot). Robot 6 is gorgeous. And Sharon (Boomer). Starbuck in the new BSG is a substantial improvement over the original Starbuck from a male perspective. I am only on the second series at the moment. I have heard female sci-fan fans talking wistfully about David Tenant (Dr. Who). I like Frema Agyeman and before her, Billie Piper, who is now doing Secret Diary of a Call Girl on Showtime. What can I say? Guilty. Not bothered by this.

It still bothers me to see blinded pilots. Did you see the episode where the new pilots were practicing shooting at asteroids and trying to dock with Galactica for refueling? No wonder they had problems, they had lights shining in their faces. The pilots could be really rebellious and turn off the lights in their faces; I certainly would. Instantly better pilotage.

Another one:
Have you ever seen a press conference? In real life, they sit quietly and take turns asking questions. On BSG, they are very badly behaved indeed.
In the movies, there is a problem and people start screaming, pushing, shoving. As Douglas Adams said: Don't Panic. In real life, on 9/11, on the hijacked plane over Pennsylvania, some of the passengers called home on cell phones, which work very well on commercial aircraft by the way (illegal). They found out about the planes that were crashed into the World Trade Center. As far as I am aware, the passengers did not scream in panic and make things worse. They did attempt to regain control of the aircraft, but were unsuccessfull.

It can become confusing, when you only get some director or writer's version of real life and almost never see reality. Few of us have been on a hijacked aircraft to find out. Which goes back to earlier replies about where you get your science. I don't think Phil Plait writes science fiction. Then again Carl Sagan wrote some pretty good science fiction. I couldn't take Douglas Gibson.

Maybe we should make a distinction between science fiction such as Arthur C. Clarke (hard sci-fi?) and Fantasy science fiction such as Battlestart Galactica and Star Trek? FTL, hypercommunications, Cylon babes etc flying with a light shining in your faces 'cause it looks purty?

Offline Kurt

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #32 on: June 26, 2008, 07:19:33 AM »


Maybe we should make a distinction between science fiction such as Arthur C. Clarke (hard sci-fi?) and Fantasy science fiction such as Battlestart Galactica and Star Trek? FTL, hypercommunications, Cylon babes etc flying with a light shining in your faces 'cause it looks purty?


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Offline carrotflowers

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #33 on: June 26, 2008, 08:59:05 AM »
+1
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Offline DaveTheReader

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #34 on: June 26, 2008, 01:42:56 PM »
When Arthur C. Clarke “wrote” 2001 A Space Odyssey”, he was actually collaborating with Stanley Kubrick. The book was written after the movie. Clarke provided some science to the Kubrick fantasy science fiction. The rest of the books in the series stay more with science. Then again, the failed star Jupiter, becoming a star without becoming substantially more massive isn’t likely, but not too far off of actual science - 2010. The later books weren’t turned into movies and are more hard science.
Clarke’s Rama series doesn’t resort to FTL.

Most of Clarke’s books stay fairly well with the science.

FTL is a device used by most sci-fi writers. Otherwise you would get: day 2, same as day 1, day 3, same as day 2 etc. Orson Scott Card stayed away from it in the Ender Series, but used FTL communications, oh well. Harry Turtledove didn’t use the device until well into his WW II series.

I guess fantasy has a way of creeping in.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2008, 01:48:20 PM by David Neises »

Offline Kurt

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #35 on: June 26, 2008, 04:33:10 PM »
When Arthur C. Clarke “wrote” 2001 A Space Odyssey”, he was actually collaborating with Stanley Kubrick. The book was written after the movie. Clarke provided some science to the Kubrick fantasy science fiction. The rest of the books in the series stay more with science. Then again, the failed star Jupiter, becoming a star without becoming substantially more massive isn’t likely, but not too far off of actual science - 2010. The later books weren’t turned into movies and are more hard science.
Clarke’s Rama series doesn’t resort to FTL.

Most of Clarke’s books stay fairly well with the science.

FTL is a device used by most sci-fi writers. Otherwise you would get: day 2, same as day 1, day 3, same as day 2 etc. Orson Scott Card stayed away from it in the Ender Series, but used FTL communications, oh well. Harry Turtledove didn’t use the device until well into his WW II series.

I guess fantasy has a way of creeping in.


Clarke's laws:

   1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
   2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
   3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
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Offline pandamonium

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #36 on: June 26, 2008, 04:56:00 PM »
When Arthur C. Clarke “wrote” 2001 A Space Odyssey”, he was actually collaborating with Stanley Kubrick. The book was written after the movie. Clarke provided some science to the Kubrick fantasy science fiction. The rest of the books in the series stay more with science. Then again, the failed star Jupiter, becoming a star without becoming substantially more massive isn’t likely, but not too far off of actual science - 2010. The later books weren’t turned into movies and are more hard science.
Clarke’s Rama series doesn’t resort to FTL.

Most of Clarke’s books stay fairly well with the science.

FTL is a device used by most sci-fi writers. Otherwise you would get: day 2, same as day 1, day 3, same as day 2 etc. Orson Scott Card stayed away from it in the Ender Series, but used FTL communications, oh well. Harry Turtledove didn’t use the device until well into his WW II series.

I guess fantasy has a way of creeping in.


Clarke's laws:

   1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
   2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
   3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


the only laws i obey.  (i quote #3 constantly)
I am become destroyer of biology.

Offline MikeHz

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #37 on: June 26, 2008, 05:49:31 PM »
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.
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Offline roger

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2008, 09:22:09 AM »
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.

How did they get from planet to planet?  They weren't all orbiting the same star.  I think they also talk about going to the "Core systems".  They just never mention FTL.
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Offline musteion

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #39 on: June 27, 2008, 10:04:08 AM »
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.

Yah, and look how long that show lasted.    ;)

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Offline MikeHz

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #40 on: June 27, 2008, 11:12:27 AM »
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.

How did they get from planet to planet?  They weren't all orbiting the same star.  I think they also talk about going to the "Core systems".  They just never mention FTL.

They were orbiting a very large system with hundreds of planets, many with large moons.
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Offline Kurt

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #41 on: June 27, 2008, 06:43:59 PM »
Here is a good editorial by Mike Resnik, which he posted over on another forum I read.


Quote
Steve -- Sure.

OK, here it is:

Editorial #3 (June, 2007 issue)

               Straitjackets

           by Mike Resnick


   I’ve received some interesting comments over on Escape Pod, an audio site where they read one of my stories every now and then. To date they have read two Hugo winners and a Hugo nominee – and each time someone, or a few someones, write in to say that the stories are all well-written and moving and all that crap, but they clearly aren’t real true-blue science fiction.
   Which gave me my topic for this issue’s editorial, because people have been trying to put science fiction in a straitjacket for close to a century now, and it just doesn’t work.
   The first guy to define it was Hugo Gernsback, the man who created the first all-science-fiction magazine (Amazing Stories, back in April, 1926). He’s the guy our most prestigious award is named after, even though he had some difficulty speaking English, clearly couldn’t edit it, and usually refused to pay for it except on threat of lawsuit.
   Hugo declared that “scientifiction” (his first term for it) existed solely to interest young boys in science. (Young girls, presumably, were too busy playing with their dolls.) The science had to be reasonably accurate, and central to the story.
   Now, at about the same time Hugo was creating science fiction, H. P. Lovecraft was perfecting a fantasy fiction that rarely involved science (although he did sell a few pieces to Astounding in the 1930s), and clearly wasn’t meant for the impressionable young boys Hugo saw as his audience.
   Okay, move the clock (the calendar?) ahead 80 years. Lovecraft is just about a household name. Eleven of his books are still in print. You’d need extra fingers and toes to count the movies adapted from or suggested by his work. Science fiction is happy to claim him as one of us, at least a close cousin if not a wandering son.
   And Papa Gernsback of the rigid definition? Not a single word he wrote in his entire life – and that includes novels, editorials, non-fiction, the whole shebang – is still in print.
   The first major critic to come along was Damon Knight. Damon knew that science fiction was the pure quill. It annoyed him when science fiction writers didn’t know the craft of writing, and it annoyed him even more when they got their science wrong.
   But what really drove him right up a tree was when they didn’t even try to make the science accurate. When, for example, they put the key in the ignition and the spaceship started up just like a car. When, for example, they put an oxygen atmosphere on Mars.
   When, for example, they were Ray Bradbury.
   Damon acknowledged that what Bradbury did was Art; he knew his craft too much to argue with that. But Art or not, it sure didn’t fit his notion of science fiction, and his criticisms and essays left no doubt that Ray Bradbury was a gifted imposter who should either mend his ways or stop posing as a science fiction writer.
   The result? Almost every word Ray Bradbury has written for the past 60 years is still in print, and the Pulitzer committee just honored him for a lifetime devoted to science fiction. Of all the dozens of pure science fiction books Damon Knight wrote or edited, only two are in print today.
   The next major critic was James Blish, not quite the writer Knight was and a hell of a lot nastier, but he knew his stuff, and that meant he knew science fiction was Important (note capital I), that no practitioner dared take it lightly, that it was just this side of sinful to be flip and flippant, and that the greatest offender was Robert Sheckley. How dare he make fun of the honored tropes and traditions of science fiction?
   Okay, move the clock ahead a quick 60 years and (you saw this coming, right?) there are 11 Sheckley books in print. Of all the books, fiction and non-fiction, that James Blish wrote, only two remain available. Even his Star Trek books have gone the way of the dodo.
   But more to the point, no one argues any longer that humor cannot be valid science fiction (and indeed, such humorous stories as Eric Frank Russell’s “Allamagoosa” and Connie Willis’s “Even the Queen” have won the Hugo). No one says that the science is more important than the emotional impact of a story, by Bradbury, by Zelazny, by anyone. And no one denies horror and supernatural fiction (perhaps excepting vampire novels that are thinly-disguised category romances and outsell science fiction ten-to-one) a place in our family tree.
   Now you would think that after the originator of our field and our first two major critics all fell on their faces trying to keep science fiction within their rigid definitions, future generations of self-appointed Keepers of the Flame (or the Definition) would have slunk off into the shadows. But they didn’t.
   At the midpoint of the 20th Century, everyone knew that sex had no place in science fiction. Our field was like a George Bernard Shaw play, which is to say that an alien, reading (or watching) it could learn everything there was to know about human beings except that we come equipped with genitals and an urge to use them. Then along came Philip Jose Farmer with “The Lovers” and its sequels, and when God didn’t strike him dead, all the writers who had been avoiding Topic Number One for years, even such traditionalists as Heinlein and Asimov, began making up for lost time…and by 1960 it was never again suggested that sex had no place in science fiction.
   J. G. Ballard got a lot of grief, because clearly you couldn’t fool with the actual form of the science fiction novel. But after he did it, so did dozens of others, experimenting every which way as the New Wave was born, fought for its right to exist, and was finally incorporated into the body of the literature.
   So okay, they lost a lot of battles, but there was one thing the traditionalists knew would never change, and that was that science fiction took place in outer space. Then Robert Silverberg began exploring “inner space” with books like Dying Inside, Barry Malzberg explored it with Herovit’s World, the Defenders of the Faith howled like stuck pigs, and a few years later everyone agreed that Outer or Inner Space were equally valid venues as long as the story worked.
   Alternate history was okay for historians like McKinley Kantor and politicians like Winston Churchill, and the very occasional science fiction short story, but everyone knew it wasn’t really science fiction -- until Harry Turtledove began proving it was on a regular basis, and suddenly dozens of writers followed suit. Now there’s no more controversy. Of course alternate history is science fiction.
   And what’s driving the purists crazy these days? Just look around you.
   Connie Willis can win a Hugo with a story about a girl of the future who wants to have a menstrual period when women no longer have them.
   David Gerrold can win a Hugo with a story about an adopted child who claims to be a Martian, and the story never tells you if he is or not.
   I can win Hugos with stories about books remembered from childhood, about Africans who wish to go back to the Good Old Days, about an alien tour guide in a thinly-disguised Egypt.
   The narrow-minded purists to the contrary, there is nothing the field of science fiction can’t accommodate, no subject – even the crucifixion, as Mike Moorcock’s Nebula winner, “Behold the Man”, proves – that can’t be science-fictionalized with taste, skill and quality.
   I expect movie fans, making lists of their favorite science fiction films, to omit Dr. Strangelove and Charly, because they’ve been conditioned by Roddenbury and Lucas to look for the Roddenbury/Lucas tropes of movie    science fiction – spaceships, zap guns, robots, light sabres, and so on.
   But written science fiction has never allowed itself to be limited by any straitjacket. Which is probably what I love most about it.
   About the only valid definition that I’m willing to accept is this: all of modern, mainstream, and realistic fiction is simply a branch, a category, or a subset of science fiction.

              -end-
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Offline DaveTheReader

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #42 on: June 27, 2008, 11:14:11 PM »
I am not saying that you shouldn’t like science fiction that is bad science; I am saying that I don’t like science fiction that is bad science. It seems to be a personal thing. It seems to be a simple relationship for me. The worst the science, the more of a problem I have paying attention to the story. The skeptical parts of me cringe and overwhelm the pleasure of reading the story. If the story is well written, and the science isn’t too bad, I simply enjoy the story. If it is really badly done, I become overwhelmed by the bad science.

I have read some HP Lovecraft and simply found it too crazy. In one of the short stories, Lovecraft used Lamarkian evolution! This was well after Darwin.
I read Douglas Gibson and found his stuff completely ridiculous. Gibson didn’t use a computer to write the story, He only became familiar with computers later – I think it may have been a MacIntosh. That’s a computer isn’t it?

L Ron Hubbard’s first mention of Dyanetics was in Astounding Science Fiction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyanetics
May 1950, I have tried reading Dyanetics (the book) and Battlefield Earth. I couldn’t get very far into either one.

I have even read most of Turtledove’s Worldwar and Colonization Series. It is alternative history. In the early parts of the series, he talked about historical figures that I was already familiar with; that bothered me. I found that as he went from the past into the future, I enjoyed the stories more. When he was well into the future, the stories were quite good. He did bring in FTL. Well, can’t be perfect.

On the other hand I am still watching the Cylon babes on Battlestar Gallactica. I still cringe when I see the pilots blinded flying with the light shining in their faces. I tell myself that the director is laughing all the way to the bank, and that gets me through it. Did you notice that most of the Cylons are female? Is that a coincidence or maybe a male fantasy? I am still on series 2, so, I will have to wait.

It is nice to see that so many people have thoughts on the subject. Great image from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Clarke tries to explain it in the last book in the series - 3001. Didn’t make a lot of sense, then either.

-----
Kurt, thanks for the paste from Resnick.


Offline musteion

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #43 on: June 27, 2008, 11:16:46 PM »
I am not saying that you shouldn’t like science fiction that is bad science; I am saying that I don’t like science fiction that is bad science. It seems to be a personal thing.

Yes.

Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Bad science and science fiction
« Reply #44 on: June 28, 2008, 01:01:59 PM »
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.

The needed a star system with over a dozen habitable planets, that's pretty fantastic without FTL.

 

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