They seem to make a big deal about world building and characterization and don't care how bad or indifferent the science is in a story. A common response is, "when I want science I'll read a real science book". My suspicion is they don't read real science books.
I think Joanna Russ explained it in 1975.
Star Wars is not didactic though it is entertaining. I think C. P. Snow's Two Cultures is relevant to this also.
My feeling is that this genre offers to the most freedom as the sciences are constantly evolving. Having never experienced interstellar travel ourselves we can only speculate what it's like based on what we know and that is constantly changing. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the scientific disciplines are not necessarily exact and therefore anything goes (well, almost). So sometimes we force ourselves to turn off our brains for a moment in order to enjoy a entertaining story so be it.
Still, I do sometimes go back and look up some of the more interesting aspects of the science in the stories to better understand what's going on and so I do learn something.
By the way, I haven't given up on the circular orbit (hopefully it's not a trick i.e. circular orbits are not possible!).
The planet problem is fairly easy if you approach it right. I had more trouble figuring out how to set the velocity with the mouse.
Put the planet at 200 units straight above the Sun. Then set a velocity perpendicular to gravity from the Sun. I first tried a velocity of 40. That was too fast. Then I tried 20, which was too slow. So I just experimented until I got the right number.
The smart aleks behave as though science is all about math which helps them look intelligent. But it was EXPERIMENTATION that led the people with REAL BRAINS to find the right equations. The math was derived from the empirical data but most of the people teaching this stuff who have memorized the equations talk as though math controls and is more important than physics. The physics does not care.
The velocity at a distance of 50 has to be double the velocity for the distance of 200.
So there is a 2 to 1 and 4 to 1 inverse relationship. The velocity must increase in inverse proportion to the square of the distance. Science fiction from the 50s and 60s that was mostly about "flying" around the solar system had lots of orbital mechanics. But now that everything is interstellar and we still don't know if that is possible the "physics" is more "fanciful".
I usually write SF based pretty tightly on existing science, so as not to fall into the hole of hard science speculation... it's a slick tightrope to walk, researching the science, trying to postulate a supposedly workable premise, being able to describe enough of it to convince your readers, then building your story around that.
When I wrote Verdant Skies, I based the science therein upon a number of articles, mostly from Scientific American, about quantum theory and universal constants. I read up as much as I could to convince myself that the idea I was developing was reasonably sound. Then I bounced it off of a friend with a good science background, to see if it worked for him (it did). Then I built the story, confident that the science would not throw it off-track.
Actually, the book is more about the story, characters and situation than it is the science; I just wanted to make sure the science wouldn't leave readers laughing or puking so hard that they couldn't enjoy the story.
I've also been guilty of accepting one bogus piece of SF--for instance, FTL flight--within a more concrete universe, for my Kestral series.
Last edited by Steven L Jordan; November 28th, 2011 at 09:23 AM.
Don't forget some action. I've recently read some good books that had almost NO action (heart pumping chases, fights, etc). And, to me, i just feel like something was missing. Political and social conflict is great, but get in a scrap or 2 if you can. Good luck
But it is still possible to say something meaningful about science with BOGUS science.
That is why Komarr by Bujold is one of my favorite stories.
Bujold uses wormholes for interstellar travel. As far as we KNOW they don't really exist. But she has some rebel patriots develop some new technology that affects these wormholes. But the physics does not work the way they think it does and it backfires on them.
That tells us something about reality and science. Reality works the way reality works. It is incapable of caring what people think. Get it wrong and the unexpected happens. To a certain extent it is the same message as The Cold Equations.
Our present understanding of physics has given us only brute-force methods of getting to other planets. But to assume that we will never learn more than the level of physics we know now, or that we might never discover a way to travel through the stars that doesn't require brute-force methods, is akin to a Roman stating that we'd never have television.
People knew about radio by the time they reached the north pole.
The US explorer Frederick Albert Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908 with two Inuit men, Ahwelah and Etukishook, but he was unable to produce convincing proof and his claim is not widely accepted.
Peary's sledge party "at the North Pole," 1909. From left: Ooqueah, Ootah, Henson, Egingwah, Seeglo.
The conquest of the North Pole was for many years credited to US Navy engineer Robert Peary, who claimed to have reached the Pole on April 6, 1909, accompanied by Matthew Henson and four Inuit men named Ootah, Seeglo, Egingwah, and Ooqueah. However, Peary's claim remains controversial. The party that accompanied Peary on the final stage of the journey included no one who was trained in navigation and could independently confirm his own navigational work, which some claim to have been particularly sloppy as he approached the Pole.
Considering that they just began noticing that the rate of expansion of the universe was increasing around 2000 there are obviously things in physics's bag of tricks that we have not figured out. So FTL "travel" cannot be totally excluded. But since no method has been worked out any FTL could be legitimately called "unscientific" at this point in time. That does not mean some really great sci-fi stories can't be based on it anyway.
500 years ago people could not control magnetic fields. So is using such a field to levitate a steel ball "magic"? In part sci-fi is the writer attempting to imagine what cannot be done yet. Of course that means they are inevitably sometimes going imagine what cannot be done at all. That is why I have no objection to science fiction and fantasy being classified together. I just insist there is a quite fuzzy line separating science fiction from fantasy.
But a decent science fiction book should not get the KNOWN Science wrong or convey the attitude that science is unimportant. Every writer has the right to play as fast and loose with his writing as he wants, it just means some of it is not going to be sci-fi. I don't consider Hyperion to be science fiction just as I don't regard Heinlein's Glory Road as science fiction. I also think that since the 70 science fiction has been invaded by liberal arts people who don't know or care about science and want to write stuff they CLAIM is science fiction and lots of readers don't care. Why should the publishers care? To them selling a book is selling a book.
But now our educators are talking about the STEM crap.
Science is a way of thinking. I believe that exposing young kids to "realistic" science fiction at an early age can help create a scientific perspective of reality. Fantasy is imaginative but it requires no "rational" limits. Like Vinge with his packs has separate minds supposedly communicating acoustically. I think it is interesting but ridiculous. Trying to carry enough data with sound and the amount of brain power required to encode the data. Imaginative but ridiculous.
Congrats BillyTooma on your recent publication. I love time travel, but I think what's equally important is what people don't like in sci fi. For me, I don't like too many silly aliens with things like ridged heads, antennas etc. Other worldly life forms must be well thought out and not tacky.