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Thread: If all stories were written like SciFi stories

  1. #1
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    If all stories were written like SciFi stories

    Interesting read.

    I don't just see that in scifi though - I see it a lot when an author tries to explain something they themselves were not familiar with when they started the book, such as computers. You can sometimes imagine them quoting verbatim from the explanations they got when going into how computer systems work.

    Last edited by jokergirl; 2009-Oct-12 at 10:16 AM.

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    It depends on the audience it is written for.

    Around here, if I say it's a General Products #2 hull, hyperspace, or Bussard Ramjet, odds are many of you would have an idea about what it is (and even tell me how it would or would not work); while if I say about -70 set-up, I'd lose nearly everyone.

    Just my opinion.

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    Actually, that's the way a lot of kids' books are written. And a lot of kids' science fiction. Juvenile literature tends to be more obvious, even sophisticated juvenile. Maybe, that's as far as the author, Mark Rosenfelder, has read in science fiction.

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    I wouldn't be reading much fiction.
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    I can see explaining airplanes to a little kid who had never flown before, but not to a fellow adult, as both Ann and Roger seem to be.
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    It sounds like the author picked up a copy of Astounding Stories of Superscience from the early 1930's. It also brought to mind Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.

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    You know, if SF stories were written like the "mundane" stories, as SF Fandom calls them, we'd have things like:

    The spacecraft zipped between the stars, stopped for a while to give the engines a rest, then continued, but this time, waited too long to stop this time, and the hydrogen fusion Ramscoop blew up in a mushroom cloud.

  8. #8
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    It is also an example of yuk-yuk-stoopids parody, overexplaining everything. Unlike, say, Melville, in the chapter "Squid" of Moby-Dick:

    ...notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the Sperm Whale his only food. For though other species of whales find their food above water, and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the Spermaceti Whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and only by inference is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that food consists. At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length. They fancy that the monster to which these arms belonged ordinarily clings by them to the bed of the ocean; and that the Sperm Whale, unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it.
    OK, Herman, now catch the damned whale, already!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jokergirl View Post
    ..."...From here we’ll take a smaller vehicle into the city”...
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    --If they were written like say, Ursula K. Le Guin stories, or Greg Egan stories?

    It matters.

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    More like, if everything was written like bad SF. Actually, the place I seem to see this sort of thing most is by SF stories by non-SF authors. By mainstream authors who are consciously "slumming" in the SF world, and everything is so new to them they don't grasp how much is already part of the basic assumptions of the readership.

    More interestingly, though, I heard an argument once that reading SF is rather like reading a detective story. The difference is that in the detective story, you are following all the little clues the author drops to try to figure out (basically) Who Did It. In the SF story, you are depending on all these little clues to figure out what the heck It is.

    I guess the contrast would have to be slice-of-life, or maybe romances. Both also are written with cue cards expected to be understood by their target audience, but neither puts forward to you the proposition that the world may not be what you think it is, and you have to be on your toes and pay attention to those key details that inform about how things actually are.

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    Mark Rosenfelder seems unaware that "science fiction" is not a writing style. There are as many ways of writing science fiction as there are writers. He seems to think early-season Star Trek The Next Generation sums up all of science fiction everywhere.
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    Someone (maybe it was here long ago) argued that the Elvis Presley films were science fiction.

    The argument is that they must take place in an alternate universe.

    You see, in every one of them, Elvis plays some mostly ordinary guy: a soldier, sailor, boxer, cowboy, garage mechanic.

    In every one of them, at various points in the story, he starts to sing and dance.

    And never does anyone who sees him say: "Hey, it's amazing! Johnny/Willy/Teddy/Fred sings and dances just like Elvis!!!"

    Ergo, these tales take place, not on the familiar Earth, but rather in some universe where there is no Elvis. Or where there never was an Elvis. (Or the former instead of the latter, but the theory that he's still alive falls under inappropriate CT.)

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    Like opera?

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    By changing his character's name from Elvis to something else probably meant they wouldn't have to pay him royalties in addition to salary....
    So many bugs, so little time.

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    Smile If Elvis were alive today....

    He would be doing denture adhesive ads....and "I've fallen and I can't get up...." I can imagine the songs and presentation....."Are you hungry tonite, do your teeth fit alright?"

    He was born in 1935.....positively ancient these days...for a Rock and Roll star.....

    Dale

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    That was lovely!

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    do your teeth fit alright?
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    He had a ready-made jingle for Shake and Bake, too.

    You know, this is beginning to sound like a new FnG thread....Dead Celebrity Product Endorsements.
    So many bugs, so little time.

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    If Elvis was alive today, the rock band Luxuria would not have sung the following lyrics in their song Beast Box:

    Its shape tells us plainly
    Time inside is curved
    It holds Elvis Presley's body
    Perfectly preserved.

    When Kennedy came with Monroe
    Late in '55
    The senator carved their names
    On the overdrive

    It's an accident of nature
    Designed by architects
    NASA built it from an alloy
    They'd stolen from the Czechs.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    Someone (maybe it was here long ago) argued that the Elvis Presley films were science fiction.

    The argument is that they must take place in an alternate universe.

    You see, in every one of them, Elvis plays some mostly ordinary guy: a soldier, sailor, boxer, cowboy, garage mechanic.

    In every one of them, at various points in the story, he starts to sing and dance.

    And never does anyone who sees him say: "Hey, it's amazing! Johnny/Willy/Teddy/Fred sings and dances just like Elvis!!!"

    Ergo, these tales take place, not on the familiar Earth, but rather in some universe where there is no Elvis. Or where there never was an Elvis. (Or the former instead of the latter, but the theory that he's still alive falls under inappropriate CT.)
    It's been claimed that the most unrealistic aspect of the British soap opera EastEnders is that none of the characters ever hangs around the pub talking about the most recent episode of EastEnders.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek View Post
    It's been claimed that the most unrealistic aspect of the British soap opera EastEnders is that none of the characters ever hangs around the pub talking about the most recent episode of EastEnders.
    That was addressed in an episode, apparently. Although I know loads of people who never ever mention the soap.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    Like opera?
    No, I wouldn't say that Elvis was like opera. Matter of fact, if I had to . . .


    Oh, I get it. You mean that we accept the fact that other people in an opera performance don't confront the singer with "Why don't you get to the point! Quit singing and tell us what's going on and what it is that you require!!"


    I guess that the Elvis paradox has to involve a contemporary setting. Nobody in the old Westerns ever says "Didja ever notice how the Sheriff walks and talks just like John Wayne?" It doesn't bother us because because it's supposed to be 1880 and John Wayne hasn't been born yet.

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    There is also the question of why none of the residents of San Francisco recognized Kirk, Spock, et al in "The Voyage Home."

    The answer in that case, though, is that the bum who accidentally vaporized himself with McCoy's phaser in "The City on the Edge of Forever" was one of Gene Roddenberry's progenitors, and thus there is no "Star Trek" in the world of "Star Trek."

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    There is also the question of why none of the residents of San Francisco recognized Kirk, Spock, et al in "The Voyage Home."

    The answer in that case, though, is that the bum who accidentally vaporized himself with McCoy's phaser in "The City on the Edge of Forever" was one of Gene Roddenberry's progenitors, and thus there is no "Star Trek" in the world of "Star Trek."
    One article from "The Best of The Best of Trek II" suggested that the bum had children and that his death caused the oldest son to turn to alcoholism and kill Roddenberry in a hit-and-run several decades later.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    There is also the question of why none of the residents of San Francisco recognized Kirk, Spock, et al in "The Voyage Home."

    ...


    An exception that I can think of: Jackie Gleason exists in Ralph Kramden's universe. There's one old episode of The Honeymooners wherein Kramden tries to meet Gleason. Of course the two are never face to face, although the bus driver meets the other stars (who look just like his wife and his neighbors).

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    would that still be bad sci-fi if it was written in the 19th century?
    "let's say he would simply write "they took a plane to San Fransisco", but do so to a 19th century audience: what are planes? are those a type of train engine? *looks onlin..er, in the library, for an entry on planes* ah, a concept of flying machines... but why would they take flying machines to travel on the same continent? isn't it more dangerous? and doesn't it suppose to fly like a bird? most birds certainly aren't faster then steam engines... is it a long journey? does ann become old by the time they get there? how does it work? how do they have the power to flip the wings? is it steam based? wouldn't so much water and coal be too heavy to lift? are there horses moving some wheel inside? and how does the flying machine look? are you in a giant mechanical birds stomach or is it like bird shaped suit? and is it commercialized like horses where everyone can have one or like trains & ships when you need to go to a station and travel with a lot of people? is it expansive? if so wouldn't they need to carry a lot of cash? why aren't robbers looking to mug people on the outskirt of the station? is the author simply not considering the social ramification of flying machines in our society? did he not think of the details? did he just include it to make it sound cool?"
    ...that definitely wouldn't be good sci-fi IMO.

    now lets see the other options:

    3rd person descriptions going on & on? they practically mean that for several pages nothing happens.. some of us might truly be fascinated by the setting for this to work for us, in fact i think the ability to endure that is almost a defining requirement of a sci-fi literature fan.... but if anyone is interested in the characters, the relationships, or the actual story - then they are practically getting nothing for the entire run. its not reading something interesting, its looking for interesting lines in something that isn't interesting for them at all. is that good writing?

    alternatively, you can use cliche's, which basically mean your limiting yourself to the very audience who had the object-oriented interest and patience to read those descriptions in previous work, without providing them the same type of interest. your setting is unconceivable to people who aren't from that group and boring to people who are. is that good writing?

    or, in theory you can design your plot so that every single element of the setting might be a focus for the plot, if for example the story above is about someone sabotaging the plane, or if by giving the person in the counter his credit card number he has become vulnerable to a crime central to the story or perhaps exposed his identity & location to people after him, then its possible... but then the entire story is a series of combined cliche's about the dangers of the technologies your describing, you have no room for your actual story, not to mention your greatly decreasing the believability of a world when such dangers are so common that they can all happen to the same people on the same trip. is that good writing?

    or, make a character that lived under a rock (got frozen & revived, was stuck in the matrix, came from another dimension, lived with the Amish, works at NASA, got lost in a 20th century recreational replica and ended up living there and using a 20th century copy of the Internet)... again, somewhat of a cliche', and it sort of very hard to reason that your protagonist would have much importance for the story given he has none of the required skills, which means it has something to do with "who he is", which either means his freaking Albert Einstein and would thus have a much smarter grasp of the future world then the reader, or there's some stupid **** about some silly legend and you are officially writing King author in space.

    the scifi author has a completely different task in describing the world he created.
    ...so you make it a subject matter for your characters.
    i can't think of a lesser evil then that when it comes to books.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkhunter View Post
    It depends on the audience it is written for.

    Around here, if I say it's a General Products #2 hull, hyperspace, or Bussard Ramjet, odds are many of you would have an idea about what it is (and even tell me how it would or would not work); while if I say about -70 set-up, I'd lose nearly everyone.

    Just my opinion.
    I know what those are, and their limitations.

    It's like the other day I was talking to Boo, my youngest, about this very thing, just a different subject. She asked for examples. So I told her what every school kid in my day knew that just went over her head.

    Punji sticks. (No, not from Hasbro. And different than pixie sticks.)

    Clackers. (From Hasbro. AKA the greatest boon to eye doctors since the release of lasers to the general populace.) http://www.timewarptoys.com/klackers.htm

    I was telling Boo since she's female odds are she'll live long enough that kids won't know what an "IED" is. (And the way things are going, skateboards or monkey bars either.)
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    (John, not the other one.)

  28. #28
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    The "spoof" story irritated me, and it took a while to work out why.

    There is no one way of writing SF, although there is a certain kind of story that has been spoofed for years - Lin Carter's "IM4SF+" did pretty much the same thing as the quoted story, but decades ago.

    Thing is, a real SF writer has an idea of what sort of story s/he is trying to tell. If the means of transport is an important part of it, then it will be described - probably quite elegantly. If it is not a major story element, it will be glossed over - "We crossed the continent in a commercial flying vehicle and met Doctor Jacobs as planned."

  29. #29
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    It irritated you because Mark Rosenfelder clearly has no clue about SF, and is deriding something he does not understand. No deeper explanation is needed.
    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    Clackers. (From Hasbro. AKA the greatest boon to eye doctors since the release of lasers to the general populace.) http://www.timewarptoys.com/klackers.htm
    I never heard of these "clackers". Curiously, the only use of word "clackers" I had heard is a Steampunk term -- the priest-like attendants of Babbage-style Analytical Engines.

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    I remember those

    For those who don't know them, here's a YouTube clip.
    And yes, he demonstrates pretty much the entire range of what you can do with them without converting them to something else, such as bolas.
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