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Pirate Jenn
July 19th, 2002, 12:08 AM
I've been kicking around this question for a while.

There are some re-curring technological themes in SF, some of which have the same names for the same devices: phaser, for example.

Some ideas are obvious, but some are less so. Some authors re-use an old theme and I'm annoyed and other things I'm less annoyed at.

My question is this: what are the Trans-Universal (trans-author?) technological 'things' that crop up in more than one story-system?
Does anyone know of any good book that coveres the standard technologies and how they work?

What I'm concerned with is that I'm re-using ideas that aren't for re-use or creating new 'things' which may actually be unorigonal. (Does anyone else worry about this?)

July 19th, 2002, 05:57 AM
Read some books on Quake, Unreal and Star Trek.

July 19th, 2002, 05:23 PM
I just posted a long winded reply to this, but I don't know what happened. I think my login timed out on me - serves me right for not getting to the point.

Anyway, the gist of what I wrote was that it's generally okay to use the same kind of technologies as other writers in SF, but it's necessary to put your own spin on them. For example, some kind of technology that warps space-time to make travel to other solar systems possible in a reasonable period of time is a staple of a number of mainstreme SF storylines. However, if I were to write about aliens speeding towards earth at "warp 9.5" then I'd be using someone else's "spin" on the idea. I'd have to come up with some sort of "distance compression generator" on my own.

The best way to avoid crossing-over into the ideas of others, is to start with current trends in real technology. Read "Popular Science," or "Discover" magazine and extrapolate from something real - rather than just playing off of the ideas of other writers.

There are books out there that cover proposed methods of star travel, and even instructions on how to build a phasor. ("Build Your Own Laser, Phasor, Ion Ray Gun" by Robert Ianninni (sp?) is a technical step-by-step guide.)

Another idea is to simply avoid using "catch phrases" to describe things. Unfortunately I can't tell you what these are, but try to describe technology as if the reader had no idea how something worked. Eventually you'll develop your own jargon.

What is a "flux capacitor" anyway?


Pirate Jenn
July 19th, 2002, 09:44 PM
Thanks, Choppy, that was very helpful. :)

I generally try to do my own thing, but I've never actually thought about the 'unspoken rules' before. There's so d**n much out there! I agree with the Discover/Popular Science reading; it's important to have fresh ideas. My only worries were: how fresh is fresh?--and--whether certain ideas are taboo to repeat. For instance, anything Big Brother-ish would seem stale and ripped off no matter what name you put on it.

But, I think I'm starting to get my mind around this. (Ahh, the ethics of creativity...)