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Media => Books => Topic started by: DaveTheReader on June 22, 2008, 07:56:31 pm

Title: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 22, 2008, 07:56:31 pm

I just listened to an interview with Phil Plait (bad astronomer) talking about Star Wars. He pointed out some of the rediculous ideas in Star Wars such as Anakin Skywalker fighting with a light saber while floating on a boat on a sea of lava. He would be vaporized in seconds. It is a problem when you know more than the audience the book or movie was intended for.

In my case, computers, the way I make a living.
Robert A. Heinlein wrote a book: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I enjoyed the story, but some of the base premises were ridiculous. There was a colony on the moon and they had 1 computer. I read the rest of the book anyway. It was still an interesting story idea. The computer is important, but not central. It could have been a distributed Wintel network and the story would pretty much have held together the same.
I find that when a writer uses a piece of technology as a central part of the plot, it is unlikely to be revolutionary 50 years in the future. The problem then is, should I be reading 50 year old books or even older?
I have only read a few of Asimov's robot series, because the robots are too central to the story. I don't seem to be able to ignore that. A humanoid robot is an autonomous ambulatory computer shaped like a human. A Mars rover is a is an autonomous ambulatory computer shaped like a what? Of course, most robots aren't humanoid. Computers keep my car running. Is my car a robot? The robots used to make automobiles don't look like humans either, but are generally labeled robots. And my Creative Zen:M mp3 player is a computer. It has a computer, a hard drive, a display device, a battery and a case. They don't look like humans or what we traditionally think of as robots or what we think of as computers.

If I only read the books written in the last 10 or 20 years, I run out of science fiction books. Good sci-fi movies are rare.
There are old, sometimes dead, writers who were able to avoid the problem. For example, Philip K Dick has a fair bit of technology in his stories, yet stories written in the 1960's are still good stories. The movie Truman Show seems to have gotten its base ideas from Dick's A Joint Out of Time. And of course there is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Bladerunner), Minority Report, Paycheck and A Scanner Darkly to name a few.

Slightly off the topic of books:
I am watching the new Battlestar Galactica series on DVD. Problems: the vipers make sounds as they travel through space. The pilots, who are flying in the dark, have lights shining in their faces. They would be completely blinded. In reality, you make the cockpit as dark as possible for at least 15 minutes before launch. You shine red light on the instrument panel so that it won't destroy your night vision. It takes about 15 minutes to be fairly dark adapted. About 90 minutes for maximim dark adaptation. I suspect that many people in the US are not actualy aware of dark adaptation. They even use night-lights at home.  Farmers and pilots are a few of the exceptions.
BSG is filled with robots, the Cylon. Some very nice looking robots, but robots none the less. Chrome toasters in the old series?

Dr. Who is completely rediculous, but my favorite sci-fi series. It is out on a BBC book series - I have 2 of the books.
Arthur C. Clarke's 20XX series was quite good and the movies were pretty good as well, without getting too crazy with fantasy.
The difference between science fiction and fantasy. Faster-than-light is fantasy. Sleeping on the way to Jupiter is more future science.

I guess that a complete purist wouldn't be able to read many science fiction books or watch many science fiction movies.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 22, 2008, 08:27:58 pm
(http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w195/Kullsrusher/peterthread.jpg)

Kidding, but only just barely. You really need to approach a book with the context of the time and place it was written in mind. Without doing so, as well as remembering artistic license and suspension of disbelief, nothing in the realm of scifi will be enjoyable. Most authors tried to keep what they wrote scientifically plausible within the understanding of science available to them at the time. Remember though, that "fi" part of "scifi" is there for a reason.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: bjza on June 22, 2008, 11:33:47 pm
I understand trying to enjoy things as a product of their time, but it still seems odd to me from my perspective here in the future that at one time sci-fi writers could easily imagine a robot in every home, a spaceship in every garage, but only one computer per city/colony.

The humanoid robot thing also bothers me, but moreso when the robots think like humans. I've only continued watching BSG because of the writing otherwise and the hope that the re-imagined and all-too-human Cylons have a forthcoming explanation.

But Dr Who is supposed to be ridiculous.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: pandamonium on June 23, 2008, 12:17:30 am
see, the thing about any science fiction that you read is, it's the author's thoughts on society and technology's impact on society.  it's best not to take their predictions too seriously.    it's really hard to swallow the science, sure, but if you keep it in mind that it's not real, it can be a hoot.  and like kurt said, it's science fiction, not science fact.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MisterMarc on June 23, 2008, 02:13:34 am
(http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w195/Kullsrusher/peterthread.jpg)

Kidding, but only just barely. You really need to approach a book with the context of the time and place it was written in mind. Without doing so, as well as remembering artistic license and suspension of disbelief, nothing in the realm of scifi will be enjoyable. Most authors tried to keep what they wrote scientifically plausible within the understanding of science available to them at the time. Remember though, that "fi" part of "scifi" is there for a reason.

So true.

I think Science Fiction literature should be judged based on how it uses technology or it's "fictional science" to tell a story or address an issue. It's not about fore-guessing technological advancements, but about using ideas about technology to raise thoughts about ourselves. Examples would be Asimov's robot series, and Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which both address human moral issues through fictional scientific advances.

Though, I would grant that it's cool when people guess it right years ahead of time.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 23, 2008, 06:00:28 am
If anyone is interested in scifi and its roots, i recommend the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Scholar-Exploration-Literature~-Audiocassettes/dp/1419388754
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Zookster on June 23, 2008, 06:53:12 am
If anyone is interested in scifi and its roots, i recommend the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Scholar-Exploration-Literature~-Audiocassettes/dp/1419388754

Hey Kurt, as a big Sci-fi fan, have you read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan?  Not having met you I cannot be sure, but I absolutely loved that book, and also the others from Morgan, and I think you would....
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 23, 2008, 11:35:44 am
BSG series creator Ron Moore actually noted in one of the episode podcasts that he had the lights shining on pilots' purely for a visual effect, despite the fact that it was unrealistic and impractical for pilots to have lights shining on their faces. He thinks it's purty.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion on June 23, 2008, 11:52:38 am
see, the thing about any science fiction that you read is, it's the author's thoughts on society and technology's impact on society.  it's best not to take their predictions too seriously.    it's really hard to swallow the science, sure, but if you keep it in mind that it's not real, it can be a hoot.  and like kurt said, it's science fiction, not science fact.

Yes.  Although sci-fi has been rather prescient at times, I don't think that's the purpose of it. Sci-fi is all about the ideas... the big "what if's" of our day. I think it's supposed to say more about now than later.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 23, 2008, 03:50:29 pm
BSG series creator Ron Moore actually noted in one of the episode podcasts that he had the lights shining on pilots' purely for a visual effect, despite the fact that it was unrealistic and impractical for pilots to have lights shining on their faces. He thinks it's purty.
As a pilot, I find it very disconcerting to see a blinded pilot flying a plane. I watched an episode from season 2 last night. The pilot, the driver, was blinded by the light shining in her face, while the passenger sitting next to her did not have a light shining in his face. The astronauts walking on the moon didn't have lights shining in their faces. I guess that you put the good and the bad on a balance scale and decide whether to continue watching. So far, I am still watching. The Cylons are pretty good.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 23, 2008, 03:53:55 pm
see, the thing about any science fiction that you read is, it's the author's thoughts on society and technology's impact on society.  it's best not to take their predictions too seriously.    it's really hard to swallow the science, sure, but if you keep it in mind that it's not real, it can be a hoot.  and like kurt said, it's science fiction, not science fact.

Yes.  Although sci-fi has been rather prescient at times, I don't think that's the purpose of it. Sci-fi is all about the ideas... the big "what if's" of our day. I think it's supposed to say more about now than later.
When the author or director gets many of the details wrong, doesn't that make you a bit suspicious about the big ideas?
Which brings back the question about whether there is much value in reading 50 year old science fiction?
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: roger on June 23, 2008, 03:56:44 pm
BSG series creator Ron Moore actually noted in one of the episode podcasts that he had the lights shining on pilots' purely for a visual effect, despite the fact that it was unrealistic and impractical for pilots to have lights shining on their faces. He thinks it's purty.
As a pilot, I find it very disconcerting to see a blinded pilot flying a plane. I watched an episode from season 2 last night. The pilot, the driver, was blinded by the light shining in her face, while the passenger sitting next to her did not have a light shining in his face. The astronauts walking on the moon didn't have lights shining in their faces. I guess that you put the good and the bad on a balance scale and decide whether to continue watching. So far, I am still watching. The Cylons are pretty good.


Watching a black screen wouldn't be all that great. 

The X-Files had a similar conundrum when they were always walking through dark tunnels and rooms.  The solution: the actors would shine their flashlights at careful placed balls of aluminum foil to suddenly light up the actors face now and then.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 23, 2008, 03:57:26 pm
Maybe that is why bookstores typically group science fiction and fantasy together.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: roger on June 23, 2008, 03:58:00 pm
see, the thing about any science fiction that you read is, it's the author's thoughts on society and technology's impact on society.  it's best not to take their predictions too seriously.    it's really hard to swallow the science, sure, but if you keep it in mind that it's not real, it can be a hoot.  and like kurt said, it's science fiction, not science fact.

Yes.  Although sci-fi has been rather prescient at times, I don't think that's the purpose of it. Sci-fi is all about the ideas... the big "what if's" of our day. I think it's supposed to say more about now than later.
When the author or director gets many of the details wrong, doesn't that make you a bit suspicious about the big ideas?
Which brings back the question about whether there is much value in reading 50 year old science fiction?


Only if you are trying to learn your science from scifi.  I read Ray Bradbury for the stories, I read Phil Plait to learn about Mars.

Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 23, 2008, 04:11:42 pm
If anyone is interested in scifi and its roots, i recommend the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Scholar-Exploration-Literature~-Audiocassettes/dp/1419388754

Hey Kurt, as a big Sci-fi fan, have you read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan?  Not having met you I cannot be sure, but I absolutely loved that book, and also the others from Morgan, and I think you would....

I have not read it. I will add it to my library requests, thanks :)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion on June 23, 2008, 04:13:47 pm

When the author or director gets many of the details wrong, doesn't that make you a bit suspicious about the big ideas?

Not usually.  At the risk of flinging tautologies... ideas are ideas.  Technology in books becomes just like any other plot device.  It's used to drive and frame the narrative and give the characters something to talk about.  The social commentary (and plot for that matter) comes from how people relate to each other and their environment.

And that's why this...

Quote
Which brings back the question about whether there is much value in reading 50 year old science fiction?

...is an odd thing to ask.

Electrifying dead flesh will never (as far as anyone knows) reanimate a corpse. And yet, the tale of Frankenstein's monster is still relevant and interesting today. Why?  Because the monster's confusion and search for purpose, Victor's short-sighted but somewhat pure motives, and the sometimes catastrophic drive to create for the sake of creation... these ideas and analogies are relevant to all of science, even today.  

The regret of many of scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project isn't unlike the regret that Victor felt toward what he had created.

And that's why ideas matter in sci-fi, and the science doesn't.  



Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MisterMarc on June 23, 2008, 05:54:26 pm

When the author or director gets many of the details wrong, doesn't that make you a bit suspicious about the big ideas?

Not usually.  At the risk of flinging tautologies... ideas are ideas.  Technology in books becomes just like any other plot device.  It's used to drive and frame the narrative and give the characters something to talk about.  The social commentary (and plot for that matter) comes from how people relate to each other and their environment.

Well in defense of David, I agree that if an author fails to convince me of some technology, it makes me enjoy the story less. I mean, a good author can make you believe that little kids can fight wars with scary bug-eyed aliens better than adults. Doesn't have to be accurate, just written with verisimilitude.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion on June 23, 2008, 06:31:01 pm
Well in defense of David, I agree that if an author fails to convince me of some technology, it makes me enjoy the story less. I mean, a good author can make you believe that little kids can fight wars with scary bug-eyed aliens better than adults. Doesn't have to be accurate, just written with verisimilitude.

Well, I'm not saying sci-fi shouldn't obey its own internal logic... only that if you drop an otherwise good book or series because of the laser swords or spice... you're not seeing the ngem for the drzewa.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MisterMarc on June 23, 2008, 06:39:08 pm
...  if you drop an otherwise book or series because of the laser swords or spice... you're not seeing the ngem for the drzewa.

True dat! I don't know why, but that laser sword mention reminded me of Thundarr the Barbarian. ;D
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MikeHz on June 23, 2008, 08:36:33 pm
Science fiction can have a short shelve life. This is especially true if it is supposed to take place in the near future, say 20-50 years. I put out a novel ten years ago, and already it's outdated by the facts.

Heinlein wrote "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" at a time when computers were huge, costly things that no one imagined would get so cheap and so common. The general assumption was that the machines would be time-shared, with a large number of people utilizing the same mainframe.

The way I get around anachronisms in fiction is to imagine that whatever science fiction book I'm reading takes place in some other reality, maybe in a nearby parallel universe which is almost like our world, except for some differences.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: KarenX on June 23, 2008, 08:54:54 pm
Stupid facts.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: pandamonium on June 24, 2008, 02:42:55 am
Stupid facts.

stupid fax.

on another note, i like how MikeHZ put it:
Quote
The way I get around anachronisms in fiction is to imagine that whatever science fiction book I'm reading takes place in some other reality, maybe in a nearby parallel universe which is almost like our world, except for some differences.

and MisterMarc:
Quote
these ideas and analogies are relevant to all of science, even today.

also, the fact that science fiction and fantasy are lumped together irritates me, not because i'm opposed to fantasy, but because the two are definitely two distinct genres.  altho i'm sure that there are plenty of line-blurring authors - mercedes lackey.  speaking of which,  this podcast  (http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/) is pretty great.  well, the first book is the better half.  it starts to weaken in the second book, but is still ok.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Espresso Frog on June 24, 2008, 07:57:55 am
I sort of see a line between anticipation novels that focus just on a new technology and less on character development and the literature form of Sci-Fi which uses a new setting as an excuse to explore one more trait of humanity and society.  Then again I've fled the A.C. Clarke genre of sci-fi to embrace the P.K. Dick mindfuck scenarios where society gets reversed or changed.  other examples René Barjavel, Pierre Boulle




Electrifying dead flesh will never (as far as anyone knows) reanimate a corpse. And yet, the tale of Frankenstein's monster is still relevant and interesting today. Why?  Because the monster's confusion and search for purpose, Victor's short-sighted but somewhat pure motives, and the sometimes catastrophic drive to create for the sake of creation... these ideas and analogies are relevant to all of science, even today. 

The regret of many of scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project isn't unlike the regret that Victor felt toward what he had created.

And that's why ideas matter in sci-fi, and the science doesn't. 

Indeed, and there is also this other line of though (feminist) which mentions the death of Mary Shelley's mother when she was giving birth.  Later, Mary would lose her 3 children successively at a very young age.  This may have marked her enough to equate birth with death and may have had an influence into the Frankestein's monster story.  Some say Mary finds herself in that monster. 


All that to confirm that sci-fi that only rely on one gadget or technological context end up pretty fast in the rubbish bin.  Maybe "Sci-Fi" is too vague a category.

Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Espresso Frog on June 24, 2008, 08:03:03 am

also, the fact that science fiction and fantasy are lumped together irritates me, not because i'm opposed to fantasy, but because the two are definitely two distinct genres.  altho i'm sure that there are plenty of line-blurring authors - mercedes lackey.  speaking of which,  this podcast  (http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/) is pretty great.  well, the first book is the better half.  it starts to weaken in the second book, but is still ok.

Yup, pretty much.  Being associated with Trekkies just because you like P. K. Dick or Jorge Luis Borges is an insult, a humiliation, a degradation.   

Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 24, 2008, 08:42:28 am
And vice versa.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MisterMarc on June 24, 2008, 11:36:08 am
and MisterMarc:
Quote
these ideas and analogies are relevant to all of science, even today.

also, the fact that science fiction and fantasy are lumped together irritates me, not because i'm opposed to fantasy, but because the two are definitely two distinct genres.  altho i'm sure that there are plenty of line-blurring authors - mercedes lackey.  speaking of which,  this podcast  (http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/) is pretty great.  well, the first book is the better half.  it starts to weaken in the second book, but is still ok.

Well, actually, musteion said that. I know, I know, usually you see something smart written down and automatically think it's me. 8) It's cool, but credit where credit is due. ;)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: pandamonium on June 25, 2008, 12:40:37 am
and MisterMarc:
Quote
these ideas and analogies are relevant to all of science, even today.

also, the fact that science fiction and fantasy are lumped together irritates me, not because i'm opposed to fantasy, but because the two are definitely two distinct genres.  altho i'm sure that there are plenty of line-blurring authors - mercedes lackey.  speaking of which,  this podcast  (http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/) is pretty great.  well, the first book is the better half.  it starts to weaken in the second book, but is still ok.

Well, actually, musteion said that. I know, I know, usually you see something smart written down and automatically think it's me. 8) It's cool, but credit where credit is due. ;)

 :'(  many great apologies, musteion.

in my defense, i was posting at 30% brain capacity. (tired, not drunk... unfortunately).
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: pandamonium on June 25, 2008, 12:43:23 am
Maybe "Sci-Fi" is too vague a category.

definitely.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion on June 25, 2008, 08:25:34 am

Well, actually, musteion said that. I know, I know, usually you see something smart written down and automatically think it's me. 8) It's cool, but credit where credit is due. ;)

*adjusts his tie*

Can't get no respect, I tell ya...

 ;)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: wastrel on June 25, 2008, 03:17:30 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Grimner 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 :)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader 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?
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt 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?


(http://i149.photobucket.com/albums/s59/thekikdrum/infinite12.jpg)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 26, 2008, 08:59:05 am
+1
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: pandamonium 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)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MikeHz on June 26, 2008, 05:49:31 pm
Firefly managed to do good science fiction without resorting to FTL.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: roger 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion 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.    ;)

I keed, I keed!
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: MikeHz 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt 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. (http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=898.msg12066#msg12066)


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-
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader 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.

Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: musteion 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Ah.hell 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.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Ah.hell on June 28, 2008, 01:11:52 pm

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.

The show is about humans living on 12 earth like planets in close proximity to one another who are destroyed by the human clones created by their former robot slaves.  Now they rely on their former education ministers profect visions to lead them to Earth.  And you have problem with lights shining in the wrong direction and disordered press conferences.

Quote
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?

How about;

Hard Science Fiction for the really sciencey stuff.
Soft Science Fiction for the less sciencey stuff.
Space Opera for the really not sciencey at all but still happens in space.
Fantasy for the really not sciencey at all and doesn't happen in space.

I've always thought Larry Niven had decent science given that he wrote mostly in the 70's.  Usually there is only one or two really questionable leaps of science.


And because I'm a nerd, it bothers me that the humans had such a hard time detecting cylons.  Boomer plugged herself in to the BSG mainframe in one episode and they can down load.  There has to be some easily detected hardware or a signal that can be detected.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 28, 2008, 01:14:41 pm
Well, my husband has actually complained about the Quorum always being depicted like a bunch of spoiled children with no manners and no capacity for logical thought or comprehending words. I am more in the suspension of willing disbelief camp, so even though it may be true that the press conferences and Quorum bits are maybe not done so well, who cares? The show still rules overall. Wah, when will it be back?

As for hard/soft/space opera/fantasy - I mean, I believe those distinctions are already out there. But I think the thread is really about whatever David thinks is bad sci fi, as he already admitted ;)
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 02:04:30 pm
Quote
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?

.....
How about;

Hard Science Fiction for the really sciencey stuff.
Soft Science Fiction for the less sciencey stuff.
Space Opera for the really not sciencey at all but still happens in space.
Fantasy for the really not sciencey at all and doesn't happen in space.

I've always thought Larry Niven had decent science given that he wrote mostly in the 70's.  Usually there is only one or two really questionable leaps of science.


And because I'm a nerd, it bothers me that the humans had such a hard time detecting cylons.  Boomer plugged herself in to the BSG mainframe in one episode and they can down load.  There has to be some easily detected hardware or a signal that can be detected.

As a nerd, I also agree that the humans ought to be able to detect the cylons. If you can’t detect them, the distinction is meaningless.
In Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / Bladerunner, the androids were given an empathy test. As good as the movie was, the book was better. In the book, the lack of empathy made them unsuitable as playmates. In the movie, Bladerunner, Decker goes off with an android babe. Which comes back to the original problem. If you really can’t tell the difference between the two, then what is the point. I guess that the movie public (16 – 25 year old male?) prefers fantasy (female that does whatever you want) over a better guess at what reality may look like. In DADOES, the androids were not desirable as playmates, so, it didn’t happen.


Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 02:18:32 pm
Well, my husband has actually complained about the Quorum always being depicted like a bunch of spoiled children with no manners and no capacity for logical thought or comprehending words. I am more in the suspension of willing disbelief camp, so even though it may be true that the press conferences and Quorum bits are maybe not done so well, who cares? The show still rules overall. Wah, when will it be back?

As for hard/soft/space opera/fantasy - I mean, I believe those distinctions are already out there. But I think the thread is really about whatever David thinks is bad sci fi, as he already admitted ;)

Probability theory gives you something of a different perspective on things. The average adult American doesn’t read books, probably under 15%. What percentage of Americans who do read, are reading science fiction, maybe 10%? Of the science fiction reading Americans, how many read the books I read? Don’t know. The number making it through all of those probabilities is quite small, probably well under 1% of all Americans. SGU fans seem to be people who read. There is a grouping called “books”. Under books, I noticed that there are mentions of science fiction.
So, I have managed to find a small group of people against the odds.
In California, the Huntington Beach Barnes & Noble had a science fiction reading group. Unfortunately, I am on the other side of the country.
It has been great to throw ideas around, particularly when others throw them back.

Thanks everyone!

Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: KarenX on June 28, 2008, 02:32:02 pm
From a 2007 USA Today poll (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-08-21-reading_N.htm):

Quote
One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.

That means about 75 percent of American adults did read books last year. They do report that in 2002 only 57 percent of adults read a book. They did not say how many people read sci-fi.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 02:52:53 pm

...
...

...
...
How about;

Hard Science Fiction for the really sciencey stuff.
Soft Science Fiction for the less sciencey stuff.
Space Opera for the really not sciencey at all but still happens in space.
Fantasy for the really not sciencey at all and doesn't happen in space.

I've always thought Larry Niven had decent science given that he wrote mostly in the 70's.  Usually there is only one or two really questionable leaps of science.


...

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye is one of the best science fiction stories I have ever read. Fortunately, there are no gods in the story. I would have read it sooner if I had known that.
I also recently read The Gripping Hand.
A few weeks ago, I finished Dream Park By Niven and Barnes.
I am working my way through the Ringworld series. There are also books on the Kzin.
I enjoyed Footfall – Niven and Pournelle.
I recently read The Draco Tavern.
Burning City was very disappointing.

When a sci-fi writer writes a book with someone else, does that mean the other person wrote the book?
For example, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the Rama series with Gentry Lee, after the first one, does that mean that Lee wrote most of the book? Yes. When Niven wrote with Pournelle, does that mean Pournelle did the wrting? Niven oversaw the project?
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 03:23:24 pm


When a sci-fi writer writes a book with someone else, does that mean the other person wrote the book?
For example, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the Rama series with Gentry Lee, after the first one, does that mean that Lee wrote most of the book? Yes. When Niven wrote with Pournelle, does that mean Pournelle did the wrting? Niven oversaw the project?


I think it varies greatly. The only thing I have ever read on how a book with two authors was written is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Omens#Authorship

I suspect however that Arthur C. Clarke's last few co-authored books were largely written by his collaborators.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: KarenX on June 28, 2008, 03:26:31 pm
I don't know about how the "and" collaborations work, but the word "with" is a guaranteed ghostwriter. The lead name puts forward the story idea and maybe gets veto power and the supporting name does all the work.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 03:35:29 pm
From a 2007 USA Today poll (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-08-21-reading_N.htm):

Quote
One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.

That means about 75 percent of American adults did read books last year. They do report that in 2002 only 57 percent of adults read a book. They did not say how many people read sci-fi.


An interesting article! Well worth reading.

I try to limit my definition of reading to books.

Our group leader at Barnes and Noble for the science fiction group, worked at Barnes & Noble. She thought that about 25% of people read books. Anecdotal.
I find that when I ask people about the books they read, I usually get something about how they have been really busy and haven’t been doing as much reading as they would like. On the other hand, they are usually well up on the things where I fail, such as Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City and many that I don’t know about.

If you do a survey, how many people will answer honestly?

On one of the other threads, mention was made of TANSTAAFL and grok. You either know what it means or you don’t. I don’t think that they have been turned into movies. So, these people probably read Heinlein’s books or heard of it from someone else.

It would be interesting to know how accurate the data is. Also, what is the precise definition of reading?
One thing that I became aware of recently was the bias of surveying people by telephone. Older people have land lines, younger people often do not have land lines, only cell phones. In my case, I haven’t had a personal land line since 2002. I don’t answer surveys when I am working. I was living in the Los Angeles area, where I was being charged long distance to call from one area code to another. With a cell phone, I can call anywhere in the continental US for the same rate. It was cheaper to simply disconnect the land line.

Since I don’t have anything better than the AP-Ipsos poll, I guess that will have to stand, though it goes against my own informal survey. The people I ask, are typically computer programmers and network engineers that I work with, perhaps that is the bias.

Do the statistics fit your own experience? I assume that you read, since this is a book blog.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 04:15:51 pm


When a sci-fi writer writes a book with someone else, does that mean the other person wrote the book?
For example, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the Rama series with Gentry Lee, after the first one, does that mean that Lee wrote most of the book? Yes. When Niven wrote with Pournelle, does that mean Pournelle did the wrting? Niven oversaw the project?


I think it varies greatly. The only thing I have ever read on how a book with two authors was written is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Omens#Authorship

I suspect however that Arthur C. Clarke's last few co-authored books were largely written by his collaborators.

I haven’t read much Gaimen or Pratchett, but an interesting article.

I have noticed that female science fiction is distinctly different from male science fiction. There seems to be few female science fiction writers, so, when I find such a book, I try to read it.

I don’t remember where I read it, but Orson Scott Card wrote an “And” book with Kathryn H. Kidd called Lovelock. I greatly enjoyed the book and I think that it was fairly obviously written by a female. Card said that collaborating on the book was twice the work for half the pay. I haven’t seen any other Kathryn H. Kidd books.

I have read a few anecdotes on Clarke and others. One of the better sc-ifi books I have read is The Trigger by Arthur C. Clarke and Michael K. Kube McDowell. I did read another Kube McDowell book – Alternities, not a bad read. It seems that there are a lot of emails, before that there were faxes. As I understand it, Gentry Lee wrote most of the books in the Rama Series that were “and” books. It would be interesting to know.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 05:26:14 pm


When a sci-fi writer writes a book with someone else, does that mean the other person wrote the book?
For example, when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the Rama series with Gentry Lee, after the first one, does that mean that Lee wrote most of the book? Yes. When Niven wrote with Pournelle, does that mean Pournelle did the wrting? Niven oversaw the project?


I think it varies greatly. The only thing I have ever read on how a book with two authors was written is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Omens#Authorship

I suspect however that Arthur C. Clarke's last few co-authored books were largely written by his collaborators.

I haven’t read much Gaimen or Pratchett, but an interesting article.

I have noticed that female science fiction is distinctly different from male science fiction. There seems to be few female science fiction writers, so, when I find such a book, I try to read it.

I don’t remember where I read it, but Orson Scott Card wrote an “And” book with Kathryn H. Kidd called Lovelock. I greatly enjoyed the book and I think that it was fairly obviously written by a female. Card said that collaborating on the book was twice the work for half the pay. I haven’t seen any other Kathryn H. Kidd books.

I have read a few anecdotes on Clarke and others. One of the better sc-ifi books I have read is The Trigger by Arthur C. Clarke and Michael K. Kube McDowell. I did read another Kube McDowell book – Alternities, not a bad read. It seems that there are a lot of emails, before that there were faxes. As I understand it, Gentry Lee wrote most of the books in the Rama Series that were “and” books. It would be interesting to know.



Um, right now the most award winning scifi author (Hugo and Nebula awards for fiction) is a woman. As for saying there is a distinction between men and women writers, have you never read any James Tiptree, Jr. ?


edit: If you really can't find them, here are a few I recommend:

Kage Baker
Lois McMaster Bujold
Octavia E. Butler
Nancy Kress
Ursula K. Le Guin
Doris Lessing
Elizabeth Moon
James Tiptree, Jr
Joan D. Vinge
Connie Willis



Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 28, 2008, 06:21:37 pm

...

...

...


Um, right now the most award winning scifi author (Hugo and Nebula awards for fiction) is a woman. As for saying there is a distinction between men and women writers, have you never read any James Tiptree, Jr. ?


edit: If you really can't find them, here are a few I recommend:

Kage Baker
Lois McMaster Bujold
Octavia E. Butler
Nancy Kress
Ursula K. Le Guin
Doris Lessing
Elizabeth Moon
James Tiptree, Jr
Joan D. Vinge
Connie Willis






I hadn’t heard of James Tiptree, Jr. until you mentioned her. It looks like she mostly wrote short stories and novelettes.
I didn’t read a lot of science fiction until after 9/11. I read almost exclusively non-fiction. I had read 3 or 4 science-fiction to that point, mostly Heinlein. With all the time on my hands, I looked for some escapism.

I read an Unsula K. LeGuin, which sits near Gentry Lee at the bookstores. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursula_K._Le_Guin
Where it is described as soft science fiction.
I haven’t tried Elisabeth Moon yet.
My observation, based on a limited sample, is that women authors spend more time on character development and aren’t as concerned about the science aspects, the objects.
For example, all of the physical activity in the LeGuin storey I read could be summarized in a few sentences. The character development was all of the rest of the book.

Thanks for the list. Maybe I will try Moon next. I see that Moon wrote some stories with Anne McCaffrey.
Well, next trip to the bookstore.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 06:46:14 pm
If you want to try Moon first i would say that The Speed of Dark is her best novel.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 28, 2008, 08:52:39 pm
Kurt - I actually recently added Moon to my queue, but had planned starting with the Vatta's War series. Have you read it / did you like it?
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 09:48:57 pm
Kurt - I actually recently added Moon to my queue, but had planned starting with the Vatta's War series. Have you read it / did you like it?

No, I haven't read those yet, but I plan on reading them. I've mostly read her short fiction in analog and SF&F. If you read vattas war first let me know what you think. I try to go alternate between "literary" scifi/fantasy and "pulp" scifi and i just finished up Charles Stross's family trade books so as soon as im done with this 2nd damn Malazan book i will need to find more pulp to start, which it sounds like the vattas war would cover. Just to clarify I don't mean pulp in a bad way, just in the space opera / adventure kinda way. Which reminds me the Kage Baker books are awesome too. check those out if you get time. Infact, if you have an e-reader, Tor gave away pdf's of the first book, In the Garden of Iden, I can email it or something. Tor has been giving away a book a week through their newsletter and some have been great. This weeks was the Battlestar Galactica novel.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 28, 2008, 10:17:34 pm
Kurt - I actually recently added Moon to my queue, but had planned starting with the Vatta's War series. Have you read it / did you like it?

No, I haven't read those yet, but I plan on reading them. I've mostly read her short fiction in analog and SF&F. If you read vattas war first let me know what you think. I try to go alternate between "literary" scifi/fantasy and "pulp" scifi and i just finished up Charles Stross's family trade books so as soon as im done with this 2nd damn Malazan book i will need to find more pulp to start, which it sounds like the vattas war would cover. Just to clarify I don't mean pulp in a bad way, just in the space opera / adventure kinda way. Which reminds me the Kage Baker books are awesome too. check those out if you get time. Infact, if you have an e-reader, Tor gave away pdf's of the first book, In the Garden of Iden, I can email it or something. Tor has been giving away a book a week through their newsletter and some have been great. This weeks was the Battlestar Galactica novel.

Ha, Stross is also in my queue - specifically, The Atrocity Archives. Double Ha - I am also reading the 2nd Malazan right now. :) How far are you? I'm some chunk past the midway point, I think chapter 15. Last I heard from you, you were trudging through the first one. Although this has probably turned into a discussion better off in the Malazan thread, I suppose. But anyway, after I read the first, I chose to alternate with something lighter, so I guess I know how you feel. Usually if I go into a series I don't leave for other stuff.

 I understand what you mean by pulp, I don't take it as bad, and I'm sure I read quite my fair share of it. Perhaps I'll check out the Baker stuff too. A book a week, that's cool. I don't have an e-reader though. I actually recently started giving the Amazon Kindle some thought. Typically I don't like reading stuff electronically, and strongly prefer paper, even if I end up printing out pdfs.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 10:23:31 pm


Ha, Stross is also in my queue - specifically, The Atrocity Archives. Double Ha - I am also reading the 2nd Malazan right now. :) How far are you? I'm some chunk past the midway point, I think chapter 15. Last I heard from you, you were trudging through the first one. Although this has probably turned into a discussion better off in the Malazan thread, I suppose. But anyway, after I read the first, I chose to alternate with something lighter, so I guess I know how you feel. Usually if I go into a series I don't leave for other stuff.

 I understand what you mean by pulp, I don't take it as bad, and I'm sure I read quite my fair share of it. Perhaps I'll check out the Baker stuff too. A book a week, that's cool. I don't have an e-reader though. I actually recently started giving the Amazon Kindle some thought. Typically I don't like reading stuff electronically, and strongly prefer paper, even if I end up printing out pdfs.

I thought about the Kindle but the fact that it doesn't read pdf's turned me off. It seems to proprietary to me.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: KarenX on June 28, 2008, 11:02:21 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on June 28, 2008, 11:07:30 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.

The fact that they have the ability to convert pdf to kindle but charge you for it rather then provide the software as part of the devices basic package makes me hate them all the more.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 29, 2008, 04:35:33 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.

I am very tempted by Kindle. It bothers me a great deal to think that I would have to buy content from one source only. I haven't been able to determine if I can download from other sources. Does anyone know? There is apparently a USB connector.
I have been thinking that I should just buy one - $360.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 29, 2008, 05:07:21 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.

The fact that they have the ability to convert pdf to kindle but charge you for it rather then provide the software as part of the devices basic package makes me hate them all the more.

Nah, looks like not necessarily a fee:

Quote

There's also been a great deal of confusion about Amazon charging for the conversion and delivery of our own content into our own Kindles. Amazon *only* charges for wireless delivery, the conversion is 100% free. If you eMail your content to YourKindleName@kindle.com it's converted and downloaded into your Kindle for 10 cents. But if, instead, you eMail your content to YourKindleName@free.kindle.com it's converted and a link to the converted file is eMailed to your registered eMail address at NO charge. You can then download it and use your PC's USB connection to transfer the content to the Kindle.


from a reviewer on the site
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: carrotflowers on June 29, 2008, 05:11:45 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.

I am very tempted by Kindle. It bothers me a great deal to think that I would have to buy content from one source only. I haven't been able to determine if I can download from other sources. Does anyone know? There is apparently a USB connector.
I have been thinking that I should just buy one - $360.

David,
I found some of the reviews on the product at the website to be pretty helpful in learning about how it all works. You may have already looked at these. I always do, positive or negative, I find the details about what a person liked or disliked can be informative. At any rate this one here is pretty thorough and pretty much convinced me to hold out for the next generation.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3R24QH3CDS83N/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3R24QH3CDS83N
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 29, 2008, 06:50:44 pm
I think the Kindle will convert files from PDF to a Kindle format for you. I also think there's a fee, but it's less than a dollar and may be ten cents. I don't have the device but I know the conversion fee is a lot less than the price of a book through Amazon.

I like the idea of Kindle but I hate the thought of how much I'd spend on content. Most of my books come through the library these days, and most of them I don't love that much.

I am very tempted by Kindle. It bothers me a great deal to think that I would have to buy content from one source only. I haven't been able to determine if I can download from other sources. Does anyone know? There is apparently a USB connector.
I have been thinking that I should just buy one - $360.

David,
I found some of the reviews on the product at the website to be pretty helpful in learning about how it all works. You may have already looked at these. I always do, positive or negative, I find the details about what a person liked or disliked can be informative. At any rate this one here is pretty thorough and pretty much convinced me to hold out for the next generation.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3R24QH3CDS83N/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3R24QH3CDS83N

Thanks. That pretty much answers the questions that I had.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: DaveTheReader on June 30, 2008, 06:04:56 pm

...
...

...
Quote
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?

...

And because I'm a nerd, it bothers me that the humans had such a hard time detecting cylons.  Boomer plugged herself in to the BSG mainframe in one episode and they can down load.  There has to be some easily detected hardware or a signal that can be detected.

Just like Lois Lane not figuring out that if Clark Kent took off his glasses he would be Superman. I think that is called a thin disguise.

In Isaac Asimov’s Forward the Foundation, Hari Seldon was unaware that his companion of 25 or 30 years, Dors Venabili was a robot, p.302. The woman who was called the “Tiger Woman” for her speed and strength was apparently just a regular girl to Hari Seldon. Also, she didn’t seem to age, except that her hair changed color.
Even mathematicians aren’t that unaware.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Frank on July 01, 2008, 04:11:18 am
In BSG, they had one scientist working on the problem who, working with poor quality equipment, managed to solve the problem of "Cylon or Not?"

Unfortunately, we all know (and love) this character and can thus understand why everyone else had such a hard time.

For me, Scifi gets divided up into lots of madness. SF is the stuff that tries hard to be scientific and not simply resort to fantasy and magic veiled as technology at every given turn. Scifi is...stuff themed as SF, but that doesn't require it as a premiss. A romantic tale needn't involve much romance, so to speak.

Similarly, we have Space Opera, Science Fantasy, Space Fantasy, Future Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Historical Fantasy etc etc.

All involve science, technology and a degree of 'fantasy'. Given we don't quite understand how real-life characters work entirely, it's hard to see why we apply such rigid tests to our fiction. But there we are, we do it anyway.

Personally, I read alot of Games Workshop fiction and my Scifi program of choice is still Doctor Who. I like to look at my 'taste' as that of exploring ideas, not necessarily exploring science (so it's really more fantasy than SF). Of course, I'm very pleased and quickly drawn to anything that has some sort of science in it, but not everything will and even less than those that do will do it well, so it's best for me to keep low standards.

Provided there's a feasible degree of consistency and logic involved, I can usually cope. Too much inconsistency and I just can't keep up my Suspension of Disbelief. But then that applies to everyone! For me, I've found my SoD to last quite long. This way, I think, I begin to appreciate neat and clever SF alot more.
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: spiney on July 11, 2008, 02:40:20 pm
Prediction is futurology (and always wrong). Stuff about robots in every home was 1950s Hapers,Colliers, it wasn't Asimov! Actual hard sci fi has always been extremely rare. Most of the famous stuff was social satire.

I can't see anything wrong with hyperspacial jumps, the problem would be power needed.

Sci fi amost disappeared, a while, but now seems fashionable again.

Note, 2001 is really about The Overmind, an Olaf Stapedon obsession which recurrs though Clarke's novels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf_Stapledon
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: Kurt on July 11, 2008, 02:52:09 pm
Prediction is futurology (and always wrong). Stuff about robots in every home was 1950s Hapers,Colliers, it wasn't Asimov! Actual hard sci fi has always been extremely rare. Most of the famous stuff was social satire.

I can't see anything wrong with hyperspacial jumps, the problem would be power needed.

Sci fi amost disappeared, a while, but now seems fashionable again.

Note, 2001 is really about The Overmind, an Olaf Stapedon obsession which recurrs though Clarke's novels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf_Stapledon

Where the hell you been, spiney?
Title: Re: Bad science and science fiction
Post by: spiney on July 11, 2008, 03:21:53 pm
Orbit highly elliptical, I can only post when within range.