What is (qualifies as) Sci-Fi ?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by jmc, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. owlcroft

    owlcroft Webmaster, Great SF&F

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    It's what is or isn't vital.

    A strong test is whether the elements pertinent to a given genre are in fact necessary to the tale. Not a few "genre" stories and novels could easily be rewritten with only minimal changes in some other genre, or even as "mainstream" (which is, of course, itself a genre). In such tales, the "genre" elements are merely wallpaper, and could be changed at will. Only if the genre-relative elements are essential to the tale--that is, the tale is basically impossible without them--is the tale of that genre.

    Many less-able writers write "genre" fiction that is just a plain story with fancy curtains and wallpaper. An example that always pops up in my mind is David Gemmell's "Jerusalem Man" series, always listed as "fantasy" but in plain fact just westerns. Glen Cook's "Black Company" tales, after the first set (which is basically one extended novel") are effectively Vietnam war stories. And so on.
     
  2. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    They were also inside the belly of a space slug, not just in a cave. It allows for some leeway as to what the outside environment was.
     
  3. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    I have often read of this test, but when it comes down to it, few stories that I know of that I would say pass with flying colors. There are all sorts of ways to change stories and have the characters do essentially the same thing making it essentially the same story. Everything is window dressing and terminology. But then I think that all stories, no matter what genre, are about the characters more than anything else.
     
  4. owlcroft

    owlcroft Webmaster, Great SF&F

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    Well, examples were mentioned.

    The "test" is a shorthand way of stating that the chief proper reason for writing "speculative fiction" tales (or tales in any genre, including "mainstream") is that the rules of that world, and to a lesser extent the conventions of that genre, best allow the author to examine, dissect, and make statements about The Human Condition. The peculiar rules of the world in a speculative-fiction tale are essentially a sort of spotlight that the author can shine on those aspects of Life, The Universe, And Everything that he or she is interested in examining. Just right off the top of my head, I would say that Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness is a fine example of both meeting the criteria of the test (absent the peculiar nature of the inhabitants of that world, the story cannot be told) and of the idea of using special rules as a way of focussing on some aspect of The Human Condition.
     
  5. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Horsesh!t!!! When they flew in there was nothing to indicate they flew through any kind of barrier to block air flow. That is what FANTASY does. Just make up stuff as they go, don't even try for a plausible explanation.

    And what could a creature that big and capable of moving that fast feed on. Total lack of realism.

    psik
     
  6. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Most of the reviews of Komarr go on and on about the characters and totally ignore Bujold's portrayal of the technology to manipulate wormhole physics which was the justification for the entire story. It is one of the most well integrated sci-fi stories I know of.

    psik
     
  7. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    A creature like that would likely be dormant most of the time and not have anything standing in the way of a free meal falling in. It isn't a far reach to suppose that such a creature would detect when something enters and could start excreting chemicals to prepare to digest whatever it was that entered. It is not far reaching to hypothesize a biology that would allow the events as they transpire on screen to happen. There are stranger creatures here on earth, though admittedly nothing that big. My point is that there are many plausible explanations and in Soft SF, many things require some suspension of belief and the adoption of plausible explanations. Otherwise you have no FTL, no anti-gravity, no ESP, or a host of other things. Now if Hard SF is your thing then we shouldn't be talking about how loose soft SF can be with science. That is kind of the point and one of the ways people get inspired to push the boundaries of what is possible.
     
  8. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    I read one of Bujold's books, but I wasn't temped to read more. Not my thing, but I'll take your word for it. I remembered her writing describing a very logical world.
     
  9. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    If Warrior's Apprentice had been the first book I read I would not have been impressed. Barrayar was the first book of hers that I thought was really good. But WA was the first she wrote. Her father was an engineer with a sci-fi collection. It shows in her writing.

    psik
     
  10. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    While some of your premises here are reasonable for soft SF (and in a book could be explained) Psik was pointing out the one truly major flaw that destroyed the entire scene. The creature had an obviously open mouth and it was exposed to open space. No amount of soft SF handwaving can compensate for this complete lack of knowledge of physics that they displayed. I gave a lot of leeway to Star Wars for the sake of story but things like this can destroy my willing suspension of disbelief.
     
  11. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    I assume they just don't care and that most of the audience either won't notice or won't care either.

    I consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the best of the original three movies but that sequence bugged me and I expect 7th graders to understnad the flaw even if they don't care about it in a movie. But it takes the work out of the "science" fiction category.

    Of course Luke falling down that funnel in the middle of the floating city is nonsense also. It looked really cool though.

    psik
     
  12. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    Star Wars is Science Fantasy, not Science Fiction.
     
  13. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Techno-fantasy, Lucas called it space fantasy. Science fantasy is an oxymoron.

    The Matrix is a techno fantasy also but it has no space flight.

    psik
     
  14. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    Only because there was no opportunity to show it in the trilogy. Can't remember if there's anything like it in The Animatrix.

    And Science Fantasy is not an oxymoron. Science fantasy is what we deem scientifically impossible, science fiction is what we deem scientifically possible (with harder sci-fi going into plausibility if not out-right certainty).
     
  15. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    The Matrix is an excellent example of techno-fantasy. The central technology involved is computers but because of the scope other areas of science would be necessary to complete the picture.

    This brings up the issue of one's attitude about science. Science is the study of HOW REALITY WORKS. Technology is the application of that knowledge to manipulate reality. One thing SOME science fiction writers do SOME OF THE TIME is extrapolate current technology to envision things which the technology at the time of writing cannot do. Obviously this means they will often get things wrong because the technology will never do it. But how can we know what is coming 1000 or 10,000 years from now? But it also leads to the temptation to throw out the science and do whatever is convenient to the story.

    The Matrix does this with that hilarious excuse of getting energy from human bodies. It would take more energy to feed all of those encapsulated bodies than could be gotten from them so the entire story is a scientific oxymoron. That does not mean a story cannot have many interesting and entertaining things to say even though it is fundamentally flawed on a scientific level. So I think techno-fantasy serves as a more encompassing term. Space ships are just another technology so space fantasy would simply be a subset of techno-fantasy involving space travel.

    I think science fantasy contradicts scientific and semantic rigour.

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

    psik
     
  16. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    Actually, what you are forgetting about this scene is a very solid element of science/physics; gravity. The asteroid is sizable, evidently sizable enough (in the writer's mind) to have enough gravity for the 3 characters to walk around outside the ship (and there are examples of asteroids like this in our own asteroid belt). Also, they are in a moist cavern. Water, exposed to a vacuum, will turn to gas. In a contained area, such as the slug's stomach or esophagus, that water vapor would remain contained and not just dissipate. When you mix gravity, water, and a vacuum in a contained space, you will no longer have a vacuum. Now if it were just a cavern, this would slowly dissipate off into space, but inside a living creature that would continue to produce more liquid and therefor more gas, it would be self renewing. From the nature of the scene the liquid isn't very acidic and the atmosphere isn't breathable or probably even thick enough to breathe. It is thick enough that in the mynocks that were already there can fly in that air/gravity combination.

    So really the biggest problem with that scene is ascribing what looks like fairly normal gravity to a smaller body where that level of gravity shouldn't be possible and that is pretty common occurrence in Hollywood SF (where they are limited to filming in a 1g environment). It also isn't something most writers stop to consider.
     
  17. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    If it was a contained area then how did the ship fly in and out?

    That entire sequence depends on the viewers not thinking.

    psik
     
  18. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    Yes, this is always a factor. There are only so many tricks you can play without busting the budget. A man wearing an alien suit is easier to pay for than a digital creation ala Jar Jar Binks. Off hand I can't think of too many movies where they had partial gravity like the moon. Zero G seems easier to do by the effects wizards than that, makes me wonder why. I guess that is why we have the phrase 'willing suspension of disbelief' which naturally is different for each person.

    On the writing side of the forum there was a thread about when a written work uses too many commonplace terms when the work is not in a commonplace world and where does this become jarring and kick you out of the story mentally. Not surprising there were just as many opinions on that as we have here with this topic. People, you just can't satisfy them. :rolleyes:
     
  19. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    The slug's body provides containment on the bottom and sides and gravity keeps it from traveling up the slug's throat. That leave it as open as any atmosphere for the ship to fly in and out.
     
  20. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    Seriously? It is time to drop the analysis of this scene because it is approching mystical gyrations trying to 'prove' this could happen. As physics stand today there is no explanation that can justify this scene. A worm with a gravitational field as strong as a planet? We (I am guilty here) have hijacked the original intent of this thread, which was a good one, into a microscopic study of about 5 minutes of a film scene.