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  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    And I meant to indicate that I don't believe that's true.
    OK.

    But with all the inexplicable stuff that does actually make it onto the air, let alone become a hit, there are clearly no reliable limitations either.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But with all the inexplicable stuff that does actually make it onto the air, let alone become a hit, there are clearly no reliable limitations either.
    I don't think the stuff that makes it on to the air is inexplicable--it's just considered to be engaging enough for a large enough group of people to make it potentially economically viable.
    The problem with hard science is that it's not very interesting, in story-telling terms, and it can be confusing if not explained. So it gets in the way of pretty much any narrative you care to construct. That's doubly so in a visual medium, because either the characters have to explain stuff to each other all the time ("As you know, professor ..."), or the stuff is left unexplained. So hard science is the first casualty of writing for viewer engagement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't think the stuff that makes it on to the air is inexplicable--it's just considered to be engaging enough for a large enough group of people to make it potentially economically viable.
    The problem with hard science is that it's not very interesting, in story-telling terms, and it can be confusing if not explained. So it gets in the way of pretty much any narrative you care to construct. That's doubly so in a visual medium, because either the characters have to explain stuff to each other all the time ("As you know, professor ..."), or the stuff is left unexplained. So hard science is the first casualty of writing for viewer engagement.

    Grant Hutchison
    I disagree that the setting's not very interesting, and also that it needs complex explanations. Layman's language can cover things like spin, thrust, and such well enough to make most of the basics of a space setting understandable if the script uses clear examples and terms. You don't need to solve a brachistochrone equation to enjoy a story set on a rocket.

    A good story can work in a spaceship or a cave. The audiences, I believe, are up to the challenge of a show with some thought in its premise.

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The problem with hard science is that it's not very interesting, in story-telling terms, and it can be confusing if not explained. So it gets in the way of pretty much any narrative you care to construct.
    I don’t agree. I mention Planetes every now and then, about later 21st century astronauts cleaning up space junk. Quite hard science fiction, they don’t spend a lot of time with explanations, but they don’t have to, since they don’t get into technical issues where you need to know deep details of, for example, orbital mechanics. And at the same time, the story is about people living and working in space and has a number of themes that had great emotional impact for me.

    Now compare to Another Life, which is more of a parody of science fiction. I only watched one episode because it is a perfect example of a story that uses SF themes that the author doesn’t even vaguely understand. From one minute to the next, I asked “Why are they doing that?” “What was that for?” “How could that happen?” and so on. The issue wasn’t that it was complex hard science fiction, but that they were throwing in things that fundamentally didn’t make sense.

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    Well, I get what you two are saying, but I don't think it undermines my point that the more hard science you incorporate, the harder it is to write an engaging narrative for general viewers. Christopher Nolan, for instance, is quite frank about ignoring the science if it gets in the way of the narrative and visuals he wants, or if he thinks it will confuse the viewer. And he's someone who cares more than most about the science, and cares less than most about confusing the viewer.
    So I'm saying there's a reason why accurate hard science fiction is extremely rare in TV and movies. Kip Thorne's book The Science of Interstellar is a great description of how and why the science comes to be mangled, even when people go into the process with a lot of knowledge and the best of intentions.

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    I once had some ideas for science fiction stories rolling around in my head, but never did anything in particular with them. Fleshing out something like that in detail is lots of work, and there was practically no chance it would ever have an audience even if I did bother. On top of that, these days, I always find thinking about future technology depressing. I keep up with physics research, and keep noting the stark difference between new discoveries in physics now and the ones we were making a century or two ago. Back then, we were learning stuff that we could use to create new technology; these days, it's all about learning stuff that we'll never be able to apply. As a result, most of what would be nifty story ideas in SF depend on technology that doesn't just not exist yet, but can't ever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Well, I get what you two are saying, but I don't think it undermines my point that the more hard science you incorporate, the harder it is to write an engaging narrative for general viewers.
    Nope. You don't need to spell out the precise details of the science. You just need to make your elements consistent with existing science. The audience does not need a lecture in astrophysics or a blueprint of an ion drive, just a plot and characters that are engaging and entertaining, and that can just as easily happen in a realistic space setting as on a warp-drive starship with transporters.
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    I'd contend that a "realistic space setting" is actually quite hard to do properly, and would be full of narrative impediments and distractions. What we get instead is a cut-down version of a truly realistic space setting, in the same way that a medical drama shows a cut-down version of the reality of medical practice, and a police drama shows a cut-down version of real police procedures.

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  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I'd contend that a "realistic space setting" is actually quite hard to do properly, and would be full of narrative impediments and distractions.
    A space show is never going to appeal to people who aren't interested in space shows anyway. Viewers self-select. The ones who want to watch a realistic space setting will enjoy such "distractions", feature not bug, unless the explanations devolve into esoteric technobabble which is just bad writing, in my opinion. A good writer can work the concepts in without them dominating the attention of the viewers.

    But I believe there's enough of a smart audience to make such a concept a success. In my lifetime I've seen audiences demand more sophisticated content and art in their entertainment options. Not always good content, but more sophisticated.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    A space show is never going to appeal to people who aren't interested in space shows anyway. Viewers self-select. The ones who want to watch a realistic space setting will enjoy such "distractions", feature not bug, unless the explanations devolve into esoteric technobabble which is just bad writing, in my opinion. A good writer can work the concepts in without them dominating the attention of the viewers.
    And yet people who self-select to watch medical shows are evidently untroubled by medical inaccuracy--some of the most popular medical dramas on TV made little effort in that regard, and none of them got stuff right in a way that would satisfy a medical practitioner. All of them used pseudomedical tropes as shorthand to keep the story moving.
    A friend of mine worked for a while as the medical adviser on a very popular and long-running medical drama in the UK. Every week he'd give them detailed story notes, and every week they'd ignore them. Sometimes they'd phone him urgently to ask for a medical justification for some plot twist they had planned, he'd tell them it couldn't happen ... and then watch it happen later in the season. Basically, the writers saw the medical adviser as an impediment to good storytelling. The parallels between his experience and the experience of Kip Thorne working on Interstellar were quite striking for me.

    So I'm not in the least surprised that the writers of science fiction dramas neglect hard science in the same way medical drama writers neglect medical science and standard clinical practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    And yet people who self-select to watch medical shows are evidently untroubled by medical inaccuracy--some of the most popular medical dramas on TV made little effort in that regard, and none of them got stuff right in a way that would satisfy a medical practitioner. All of them used pseudomedical tropes as shorthand to keep the story moving.
    A friend of mine worked for a while as the medical adviser on a very popular and long-running medical drama in the UK. Every week he'd give them detailed story notes, and every week they'd ignore them. Sometimes they'd phone him urgently to ask for a medical justification for some plot twist they had planned, he'd tell them it couldn't happen ... and then watch it happen later in the season. Basically, the writers saw the medical adviser as an impediment to good storytelling. The parallels between his experience and the experience of Kip Thorne working on Interstellar were quite striking for me.

    So I'm not in the least surprised that the writers of science fiction dramas neglect hard science in the same way medical drama writers neglect medical science and standard clinical practice.

    Grant Hutchison
    Everyone has gone to a doctor. Not everyone has gone to space. Not equivalent.

    And the way things usually happen are not the way things universally happen. Different show runners have different views on what they want to convey and advise from experts, producing many levels of technical accuracy. Sturgeon's Law at work; 90% of television is crap, no matter the setting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Everyone has gone to a doctor. Not everyone has gone to space. Not equivalent.
    So doesn't that make you expect that viewers and writers and directors would be more demanding of medical accuracy than of spaceflight accuracy? And they're clearly not remotely demanding of medical accuracy, to judge from popular medical dramas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And the way things usually happen are not the way things universally happen. Different show runners have different views on what they want to convey and advise from experts, producing many levels of technical accuracy. Sturgeon's Law at work; 90% of television is crap, no matter the setting.
    You seem to be making a case for something you'd like to be true, whereas I'm trying to observe how this works in practice.

    We're just going to differ on this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    We're just going to differ on this.
    Yes, apparently so.
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    Back on topic:
    Quote Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
    Were you cautious in naming an alien species, or planet? How and why did you name them what you did?
    I'm absolutely terrible with names. I can go through dozens of names for someone and end up with "Smith". And it's far worse with aliens, planets, cities, etc.

    If there was an alien species, were they malignant or benevolent, and why did you make them that way?
    Are humans malignant or benevolent? Yes.
    I try to make a sapient species as varied and contradictory as we are (except hive minds, and even then multiple hives may exist). The simplistic "evil race/good race" concept isn't even valid in role-playing games anymore; only Star Trek and Star Wars still do whole-world monocultures.

    As for fantasy races like elves, I usually prefer to either use humans, or make them truly non-human in nature. Pointy ears and a bad attitude are in my eyes, insufficient to define a relevant difference; I'd be just making humans in funny suits. Even our close human relatives had different brains than modern H. Sapiens after all, we shouldn't expect a whole other species to think like ours.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    As for fantasy races like elves, I usually prefer to either use humans, or make them truly non-human in nature. Pointy ears and a bad attitude are in my eyes, insufficient to define a relevant difference; I'd be just making humans in funny suits. Even our close human relatives had different brains than modern H. Sapiens after all, we shouldn't expect a whole other species to think like ours.
    Consequent to this, communication between species is even more complicated than communication between humans of differing cultural backgrounds, values, concepts and assumptions. I usually posit a long lag after first contact before we can exchange meaningful messages with aliens. And I have to make up a consistent speaking style and pattern for the aliens for the reader to follow.

    I usually try to come up with a basic set of "universals" for the species just as all human societies have tendencies in common such as music or marriage. I don't often spell them out explicitly in-story, but it helps me to keep track of what I attribute to the aliens as a group and their voice.
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    How many writers here struggle with the non-worldbuilding aspects? Human characters are harder for me than aliens. Probably because I can make my own rules for my creations.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Well, I don’t really consider myself a writer. Fairly often, I’ve come up with ideas that amuse me, spend a fairly decent amount of time developing some of them, do some scenes, but actually doing the mechanics of a full story that doesn’t come across as horribly amateurish is hard work. I’m not sure if this is an exact quote, but as I think somebody else said, writing is something I would very much like to have done, but don’t like doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I’m not sure if this is an exact quote, but as I think somebody else said, writing is something I would very much like to have done, but don’t like doing.
    Re the quip: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/10/18/on-writing/ Paraphrased from author Frank Norris. Often expanded and misattributed to more famous individuals.
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  19. #79
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    As someone once mentioned in a writing course:

    “Do you want to write? Or do you want to publish? “

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    How many writers here struggle with the non-worldbuilding aspects? Human characters are harder for me than aliens. Probably because I can make my own rules for my creations.
    This isn't a response to your question, but rather something that I wanted to mention that was just triggered by it.

    I don't know what other people think, but my impression has always been that part of the reason that space-based TV shows are not that popular is not only because of the difficulties with the physics, but also that a lot of people who write in that area are not very good writers. When I was young I did read a lot of SF, and I read people like Arthur C. Clarke, but to be honest even then I didn't like him as a writer. There seem to be a tendency among people in that genre to focus on things like world-building and characters, but not to be very good with the things that are really important in fiction, such as suspense and development, and the quality of prose. It's not always true, of course, but I just mean as a generalization.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Consequent to this, communication between species is even more complicated than communication between humans of differing cultural backgrounds, values, concepts and assumptions.
    Just as an observation, I don't know how difficult intercultural communication is. Communication between people with different languages is definitely difficult. But I think communication with people with different backgrounds is really an extension of the fact that communication with any other human is inherently difficult because we don't really say what we think and can only guess about other people's real thoughts. Or maybe it's better to say that we all have different backgrounds, concepts, and assumptions.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Just as an observation, I don't know how difficult intercultural communication is. Communication between people with different languages is definitely difficult. But I think communication with people with different backgrounds is really an extension of the fact that communication with any other human is inherently difficult because we don't really say what we think and can only guess about other people's real thoughts. Or maybe it's better to say that we all have different backgrounds, concepts, and assumptions.
    The phenomenon of culture shock is well known, one that I have personally experienced. And that was just from moving around within my own country. I didn't make this up out of whole cloth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The phenomenon of culture shock is well known, one that I have personally experienced. And that was just from moving around within my own country. I didn't make this up out of whole cloth.
    I didn’t say that culture shock doesn’t exist...

    I specifically used the word “extension” to try to make it clear that I wasn’t saying that. Communication is inherently difficult and having a different cultural background makes it more difficult, is what I meant to say...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I didn’t say that culture shock doesn’t exist...

    I specifically used the word “extension” to try to make it clear that I wasn’t saying that. Communication is inherently difficult and having a different cultural background makes it more difficult, is what I meant to say...
    Guess we're both right! It is difficult.

    We can look at it through Card's Hierarchy of Foreignness from Ender's Game: Foreign humans, other planet humans, human-like aliens, really weird aliens.
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    I'm working on a setting now that has a few species of hominid aliens descended from primates sampled from Earth. All humanoid but none of them think or act like humans. It's only this shared origin of the brain that makes any communication possible. In the same setting I have advanced AI that have to copy human mental patterns and use them to create an avatar to interact with humans.

    Generally I make alien communication a major issue not easily overcome. That itself becomes a plot point in most cases.
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    While I’m skeptical of the concept, some time ago I realized that if you’re going to do science fiction with other worlds and Earthlike biology where we might be able to live and eat native life, panspermia is absolutely the way to go. If you want humans or near humans on other worlds now, and not in the future, then you also pretty much need aliens that picked up some samples or time travel (I’ve seen examples of both). Even with long term panspermia, we are a recent evolutionary development.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    While I’m skeptical of the concept, some time ago I realized that if you’re going to do science fiction with other worlds and Earthlike biology where we might be able to live and eat native life, panspermia is absolutely the way to go. If you want humans or near humans on other worlds now, and not in the future, then you also pretty much need aliens that picked up some samples or time travel (I’ve seen examples of both). Even with long term panspermia, we are a recent evolutionary development.
    So two sets of aliens, ones that spread life in general, and ones that spread hominids.

    Star Trek did a one-and-done by positing a genetic code that controls directed evolution, making humanoids the dominant form in the Galaxy. And it also can reprogram 24th century tricorders to deliver a message recorded billions of years ago.

    Now that's a hell of a thing to go unnoticed by everyone of any age. Star Trek aliens have in some cases been advanced for millions of years, surely one of the older species would have found out by now.

    In any case that would explain why "evolution" in ST works so differently than biological evolution in the real world. Animals to humanoids to superhumans to energy beings to Godlike immortals, always in that order. Unless you travel above Warp 10 and turn into a salamander.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    So two sets of aliens, ones that spread life in general, and ones that spread hominids.

    Star Trek did a one-and-done by positing a genetic code that controls directed evolution, making humanoids the dominant form in the Galaxy. And it also can reprogram 24th century tricorders to deliver a message recorded billions of years ago.
    Actually, Star Trek did both and more. There were the ancient (a couple billion years past) humanoids that did the panspermia bit, then the relatively recent Preservers that, for example, moved a tribe of American Indians to another world, as well as proto-Vulcans and others. On top of that, aliens go everywhere. Earth was visited at least a dozen times in the Star Trek universe before we started doing the visiting. Some visits involve time travel too . . .

    In any case that would explain why "evolution" in ST works so differently than biological evolution in the real world. Animals to humanoids to superhumans to energy beings to Godlike immortals, always in that order. Unless you travel above Warp 10 and turn into a salamander.
    Energy beings are one thing I would avoid in anything I wrote. Star Trek did it, Babylon 5 did it, and I’ve seen it elsewhere, but it makes little sense to me. Oh, and I consider the salamander episode to be a myth. There is no such episode, it was just a bad dream I had once.
    Last edited by Van Rijn; 2021-Jul-16 at 09:56 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    In any case that would explain why "evolution" in ST works so differently than biological evolution in the real world. Animals to humanoids to superhumans to energy beings to Godlike immortals, always in that order. Unless you travel above Warp 10 and turn into a salamander.
    Oh, I'd call that a special kind of Sci-fi... Unfortunate.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Oh, I'd call that a special kind of Sci-fi... Unfortunate.
    And it influences the public perceptions about evolution. Which both screw up the actual knowledge, and makes it easier for deniers to argue against a popular but wrong strawman.
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