Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Science Fiction is Hard

So, I’ve started my space dinosaur story, and in general things are going well, but I’ve discovered I was underprepared in some aspects.

Yes, I had the history of the world between now and the start of the book, had thought through cultural changes, set up a military-run organization, populated my ship with officers, gave them stuff to do, but I forgot a key aspect of science fiction.

The technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I did plan out some of it. I did research on possible interstellar forms of travel and designed an engine that could, theoretically at least, allow a ship to travel faster than the speed of light. I figured out the purpose of my ship, which inspired its overall design.

What I didn’t think about was day to day technology. And that became an issue almost immediately. How did the officers receive messages from home? How did the doors work? If someone wanted to search the computer for something, what was the process?

A lot of space adventure scifi gets away with a lower form of technology–computer screens, metal doors, projectile weapons–but it feels weird to go that way, when we have voice-activated computer controls and pocket computers and doors that open automatically at every single supermarket ever now. And yes, I have a traumatic event between now and then, something that more or less destroyed much of human civilization, but it still feels weird to think that that we wouldn’t have any progress between now and then, even with a major disruption.

So this is my hangup. I can tell you how the ship works overall, but I’m a little unsure about the rest of it. Are things digital, virtual? Or have we gone back to analog? Is there any conceivable reason to go back to analog?

It’s always the little things that get you in the end.

With Great Technology Comes Great Responsibility

Good day, Squiders. I am out of town this week, and originally I was just going to abandon you to your own devices, but then a friend offered to guest post for me. So aside from this, you will actually get a real post on Thursday as well. You may thank Di for that.

Di is nicely setting up a new WordPress theme for me to use at Kit Campbell Books, which I think we can all agree needs it. Aside from that, she is also an aspiring author.

I be Dianna. I am coding a new theme for Kit’s site thingy. And because apparently ‘guest blogging’ falls under ‘coding new theme’, I am here to provide a blog post.

I stand by what I have said: I don’t write genres, I write ideas. However, of late my ideas have fallen into two genres, fantasy and sci-fi. I can’t explain why this is, but it is. And it’s making me realise how little I actually know about sci-fi, which, believe it or not, makes it a leetle hard to write it. Apparently there is much more than just ‘technology’ to it. Which makes me realise how little attention I pay to things in one sense.

Star Trek, for instance, has a bunch of technology and I could name a lot of it, but beyond obvious things, like transporters, I wouldn’t know what it does. Apart from what is important for the plot, I don’t think I could tell you what technology was used in Star Trek: Into Darkness. However, it’s not only Star Trek. Plenty of sci-fi books have been written, so they have stuff too. And I, regrettably, likely skimmed over it. “Oh, they have gizmo. Whatever.”

This is important. It says a little about me; I quite probably care more about the plot and the characters than I do about whatever technical gizmo the heroine is using. It can also say a little about the writers: they knew when to give details and when not to (although that is speculation because I can’t name a book).

Don’t overload your story with so many gizmos that all semblance of a plot and characters is lost. Please. If your story is becoming “This gizmo brought trouble, this gizmo got them out, but this gizmo interrupted them in the midst of celebratory shagging and of course, brought trouble, which other gizmo…” I would definitely rethink the story.

Use the accoutrements of sci-fi to enhance. Not dominate.

Dianna is a twenty-something girl living in Australia. It may be the future, but there are no robots–yet. She writes, she games, she reads. She blogs at Echoes of Dust, tweets at @moredibell and is okay with not being normal.

In Defense of Fantasy: Magic vs. Technology

To go in a slightly different direction, this week we’ll be looking at aspects of fantasy that tend to get flak from readers. Unlike science fiction, of course, fantasy doesn’t need to conform to modern-day scientific knowledge, but that can be both an asset and a liability.

Fantasy still has to make sense, after all.

One of the biggest issues you run into with fantasy and making sense is in the magic vs. technology debate. This manifests in a couple of ways:

1) The levels of magic and technology on a single world don’t make logical sense together.
2) People think fantasy can’t have advanced technology because it’s fantasy.
3) People think magic doesn’t have to make sense and so their magic rules make no sense.

THINGS MUST MAKE SENSE.

Let’s address these one at a time.

1) It’s perfectly fine to have magic and technology co-exist on a world. What is unlikely to happen is that you have widespread, powerful magic combined with rocket-science level technology. If magic can control the weather, why would you create a machine to do the same thing? That need is already filled. But just having both magic and technology is not a deal breaker as long as there’s a reason for both to be at the level they are.

2) Fantasy is an overarcing term that includes most things that are in the least bit fantastical. There does not need to be magic, necessary, so technology is fine. (And I would argue that science fiction falls under the general “fantasy” umbrella, but I know I am a minority in that opinion.) Just because something has technology doesn’t make it science fiction. Thrillers thrive on technology.

3) It was a trend among early fantasy novels to have magic but not explain how it works. This leads to some people thinking that your magic can just do whatever, but in general, you have to do this really really well or you just come out looking like you don’t understand cause and effect. Magic needs to be consistent. (And realistically, there needs to be limits on what it can do, or else you face having your planet destroyed by magical battles on a daily basis.)

So, long story short – you can have both in a single story, as long as they both make sense.