08 October 2007

To The Stars and Back

A few weeks ago I started reading a book about writing science fiction. In it the author expounds on how if you write sci-fi your facts had better be correct or you're only writing fantasy. Only? Only! Hurrumph.

I'm sure the point the author was making - in the midst of his numerous mathmatical equations - was that science fiction has to be based on science fact. If you are proposing FTL travel, you had better know the "current" acedemic thoughts on the concept. All right, I agree with that to a point. If you are going to write a book where you are reciting scientific principals, yes, you'd better have them right. But for me, in my sci-fi romances...

Sorry, Homey don't play that.

When I read a contemporary, I don't need to know how the engine of the car the characters are driving works to believe it can get from 0 to 60 in X seconds. I don't care how a warp engine works on a starship either. Don't get me wrong, I've read hard sci-fi and loved it, but in today's market with faster-than-light plots, using 10 pages to describe the way the hero's starcruiser can skim the galaxy in less than a month isn't all that important. It tends to bog things down and take away from the actual story which is... characters and conflict. Unless of course the way in which the ship works is central to the plot and you have villians trying to hijack the technology - all right then, maybe I'll go with you on that, but not for 10 pages.

One of my favorite writers is Micheal Crichton. While reading his book Timeline, I thought my head would explode from his ad nausem recitation of why time travel in his world was possible. All right, anyone who reads TT romances or has watched an episode of Star Trek will pretty much say..."Time Travel plot. Gottcha. Check. Move on." Despite this skipable portion of the book, as a whole, I liked it. But I was left to wonder why it was allowed to stay in and why the editor or powers that be didn't say...."Whoa, babe, you need back it up there." - And before anyone comments that "But he's so big a name, he can get away with it." I would like to say that even big names can and have written real stinkers.

So, food for thought here: when you write or read sci-fi to do you prefer long detailed descriptions of principals or just enough that you're able to suspend disbelief?

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