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realityfix
05-20-2016, 04:56 AM
I am working on one novel that involves the existence of a static time bubble. My dilemma is making the time bubble "real" to the reader. To me, without the proper application of scientific principles, the whole time bubble concept would be more like magic and less like science. Without giving away the farm, I have cobbled it together with scientific elements of String Theory, Quantum Physics, and vibration harmonics. It still does not sound believable but my wife reminds me that it is supposed to be science fiction and not real scientific research. I am trying to make this look more believable than Scotty telling Kirk that the dilithium crystals can't take any more. Any comments or feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

lizmonster
05-20-2016, 05:35 AM
Without reading what you've written, it's hard to comment. But I will say that readers have different plausibility tolerances. Some people are very, very picky. Others don't care, as long as you're consistent throughout the story.

For me, personally, I pay much more attention to the parameters of fictional tech. As a reader, I'm very forgiving from a plausibility standpoint if the author is consistent in what she's created. (Of course, for me character is more important than tech; you can sell me almost anything if you wrap good characters around it.) Different readers are going to have different breaking points.

You say "it still does not sound believable" - is this your assessment, or did you hear this from someone else? If you're not yet happy with what you've got, you should listen to that, whatever your wife says. If you're consistently getting stuck on this point, though, you may be falling into a procrastination trap.

realityfix
05-20-2016, 06:40 AM
Actually. it may be procrastination and a little too much perfectionism on my part. The few people that I have shared the draft with, I am about 150 to 160 single spaced typed pages into it, have said that it reads well and sounds original (check my earlier thread on original thought). I suppose since the time bubble is an integral part of the story, I feel it necessary to offer the reader a believable explanation as to how it exists. Hey, I like to write sword and sorcery as well but things do not have to be explained in that genre because its magic. Although, even in my sword and sorcery stuff I have tried to create a fairly original system of magic.

lizmonster
05-20-2016, 06:55 AM
I'd say unless you're worried that your research is going to destroy the credibility of your premise, you should let it be for now and finish the draft. Level of technical detail is something that can be adapted in either direction when you're editing (and trust me - no matter how clean your draft, you will be editing!).

When you're talking about fictional technology, it's not really all that different from making up a magic system. You need the internal consistency, but odds are you're not going to run into tons of readers who are going to ding you if you don't have pages of physics lessons explaining what you've posited. None of this stuff exists, so at some point you're going to be injecting something unreal, or even impossible. Your readers know they're reading fiction; they're not going to expect it all to actually work.

blacbird
05-20-2016, 07:13 AM
Don't try too hard. SF readers are highly accepting of physical impossibilities (according to our current understanding of the universe), in exchange for a good story. Faster-than-Light travel, Time-travel, Artificial Gravity, Teleportation, etc., are all fundamental tropes of SF, and nobody really blinks about any of them. Star Trek got endless mileage out of dilithium crystals and replicators, among other things.

Lesson: Spend more mental energy on your story, the characters and what they do and how they interact and what they confront, and don't sweat the details of impossible science.

caw

SillyLittleTwit
05-20-2016, 07:14 AM
Show us the tip of the iceberg - the actual results of the science. Don't show us the entire iceberg/scientific underpinnings, even if you have worked it all out, because we're reading a story, not a research paper.

jjdebenedictis
05-20-2016, 07:31 AM
Just so you know, you're not giving away anything if you describe your physics here; no one is going to steal your ideas for handwavey science. :)

I've got a master's degree in physics (not that I don't make mistakes -- Sir Blacbird above caught me out on something basic just recently!), so if you want to run the logic past me, I can maybe help you troubleshoot the believability. I like to think I'm reasonably decent at knowing the difference between "this sounds like bullshit" and "this sounds like bullshit that readers will totally be happy to read about." :D

Bolero
05-20-2016, 06:40 PM
For time bubbles in published SF - look at Vernor Vinge and his Peace War.

Dennis E. Taylor
05-20-2016, 06:51 PM
Show us the tip of the iceberg - the actual results of the science. Don't show us the entire iceberg/scientific underpinnings, even if you have worked it all out, because we're reading a story, not a research paper.

Yes, talk about the consequences of the technology. Or side effects. I have "stasis pods" in my current WIP. I never explain how they work, but I mention an hour of post-stasis confusion, and I mention power requirements for the pods when it's relevant. Other than that, people are expected to understand that you go into one, you don't age until you come out. Full stop.

Aggy B.
05-20-2016, 07:05 PM
I've got a thing in my current novel that involves time travel (not time bubbles). I don't bother to explain exactly how they create a temporal threshold, but I did make a lot of parameters around how it can be used that are based on practical and science-driven thought. So the idea might be far-fetched to our current understanding but the application is still scientific.

jimmymc
05-20-2016, 07:44 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive

dragonfliet
05-20-2016, 09:32 PM
A thing I should point out: I am MUCH more annoyed by fake explanations than I am in hand-wavy sciencemagic. When I come across science in sci-fi, I expect it to behave like actual science. When I come across hand-wavy sciencemagic, I understand: oh, this is just "the world" and I let it go.

An easy example: I'm perfectly happy in Star Wars when Hyperspace is just...a thing, and apparently a hyperlight motivator is really important. Sure, it's dumb, but I can deal with that. But when you start introducing REAL science into it and then ignore how that actually works, you end up (on the far end), with something like a CSI zoom and enhance (my favorite is someone took a photo, with a 2003 era digital camera, of someone, and they zoomed and enhanced the reflection from a person's eye in the photo, which just so happened to catch the killer mid-act).

Dennis E. Taylor
05-20-2016, 10:30 PM
with something like a CSI zoom and enhance (my favorite is someone took a photo, with a 2003 era digital camera, of someone, and they zoomed and enhanced the reflection from a person's eye in the photo, which just so happened to catch the killer mid-act).

OMFG, just about anything to do with digital data or computers, the writers treat them like they're magic wands. I have literally slid off my chair, laughing, at the occasional really preposterous 'solution'.

R.Barrows
05-21-2016, 12:01 AM
OMFG, just about anything to do with digital data or computers, the writers treat them like they're magic wands. I have literally slid off my chair, laughing, at the occasional really preposterous 'solution'.

It's all AI enhancement. 'Tell me what this pixel represents.' Boom! You can see their DNA. Now that's some high res stuff!

jjdebenedictis
05-21-2016, 12:08 AM
A thing I should point out: I am MUCH more annoyed by fake explanations than I am in hand-wavy sciencemagic. When I come across science in sci-fi, I expect it to behave like actual science. When I come across hand-wavy sciencemagic, I understand: oh, this is just "the world" and I let it go.

Yes, this! I never watched Star Trek Voyager because both of the two episodes I did see featured GLARING errors in the science we know right now.

E.g. "Captain, we can't scan the dark matter nebula because it's emitting strong electromagnetic radiation."

Er, except the "dark" part of "dark matter' means it doesn't do that...

GeoWriter
05-21-2016, 01:00 AM
My dilemma is making the time bubble "real" to the reader. To me, without the proper application of scientific principles, the whole time bubble concept would be more like magic and less like science.

I applaud your desire to make science more realistic in SF! That's the kind of SF that I like best. But, remember that science fiction doesn't mean science fact--it's fair, and even more interesting, to stretch reality a bit. For me the main aspects that make fictional science believable is that it doesn't contradict known science (well, too much anyway) and the concept is plausible and compelling within the wider understanding of the particular science discipline. For that, you might have someone who knows physics look over your thoughts and give qualitative reactions to what seems compelling and what doesn't. I think that jj volunteered--you might take her up on that.

Roxxsmom
05-21-2016, 01:12 AM
Sometimes going too far in the direction of explaining something that's not possible (as far as we know at this time) in SF can have the opposite effect in terms of believably. Giving just enough to make something seem plausible and science (not magic) based is the approach that works best for me as a reader of SF.

Also consider that the vast majority of people who employ a technology don't understand how it works in any depth. Airplanes are a part of our world and infrastructure, but that doesn't mean that a story where the protagonist needs to take a flight somewhere, or even one where the protagonist is a pilot, needs to explain to the reader how airplanes stay up in the air or how jet engines work. A story where the main character is designing a better airplane might need to provide more information, of course.

So with SF, how much information you need to provide about the mechanisms of interstellar space flight might depends on the role it plays in the story. Are starships something your pov characters take for granted the way most of us take airplanes for granted, or will an understanding of the mechanics of interstellar flight impact the story in some way?

Arcs
05-21-2016, 01:55 AM
The one thing that tears me out of my disbelief is when perfected technology has obvious uses but it's not used for its full effect.

As an example of tech done right: teleporters in Star Trek. They can move all sorts of matter around, and they can be used to devastating effect when the enemy's shields are down.

As an example of tech done stupid: any differentiation between 'biological material' and 'inorganic material' in weaponry. Like, if you have a gun that only destroys inorganic material, it's still gonna kill a person because not all the molecules that make up a person have carbon in them.

dragonfliet
05-21-2016, 11:06 AM
Also consider that the vast majority of people who employ a technology don't understand how it works in any depth. Airplanes are a part of our world and infrastructure, but that doesn't mean that a story where the protagonist needs to take a flight somewhere, or even one where the protagonist is a pilot, needs to explain to the reader how airplanes stay up in the air or how jet engines work.

This is a good one, always

MonsterTamer
05-21-2016, 04:52 PM
To me, without the proper application of scientific principles, the whole time bubble concept would be more like magic and less like science.

I see very little difference between your big lie being "because, magic!" and "because, science!" I talk with dedicated SF readers on occasion and they feel there is a distinction between the two. I don't. When I read fantasy, I know I'm dealing with magic. When I read SF, I know I'm dealing with magic. Er...science. Science doing magical things. Because, obviously, humans lying under a magical scanning machine that fixes all of their illnesses is hard core science.

MonsterTamer
05-21-2016, 04:55 PM
Yes, talk about the consequences of the technology. Or side effects. I have "stasis pods" in my current WIP. I never explain how they work, but I mention an hour of post-stasis confusion, and I mention power requirements for the pods when it's relevant. Other than that, people are expected to understand that you go into one, you don't age until you come out. Full stop.

That, in my opinion, is perfect execution.

Dennis E. Taylor
05-21-2016, 06:14 PM
Someone, farther up the thread (might have been jj) stated that you don't "break" existing science. I think this is the crux of getting away with handwavium. If you extend existing science knowledge, you're good. For instance, Einstein was right, but if you use subspace... Or, perpetual motion machines are still impossible, but if you extract energy from the false vacuum, it's free for all practical purposes...

On the other hand, if you write a story that depends on Venus being a swampy jungle planet, or where heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects, you'd better be writing fantasy, or it's gonna be a big ball of fail.

realityfix
05-22-2016, 07:07 AM
MonsterTamer:

I see what you are saying. Let me give you an example of what I am trying to avoid. I am a fan of Ursula Le Guin. However, in her SF novel "The Left Hand of Darkness", there is a communication device the Terran researcher uses that instantaneously crosses light years of distance, even though his society lacks faster-than-light travel technology, and she offers no explanation as to how it works. Even Gene Roddenberry offers some tidbits as to how subspace communications work in Star Trek. Another example is Jack McDevitt's novel "Eternity Road" where a relic 22nd century American computer with AI manages to verbally communicate with post-apocalyptic humans that don't even speak English. While I like both of these novels, I am trying to be a bit more precise in my science. JJ's offer intrigues me and I will take her up on it.

blacbird
05-22-2016, 07:23 AM
I'm currently fooling around with an SF (I guess) novel concerning a time-traveler who gets stranded in 21st century U.S.A., and needs desperately to get back home, in both time and location. But his Time device is damaged and he can't fix it, at least not easily. And because of his experiences, he won't reveal his secrets of how to travel in time.

So: 1. I don't need to explain them, scientifically.

and: 2: The whole damn story is probably so implausible that nobody will read it.

which: 3: Puts it in the same box as all my other work.

caw

Arcs
05-22-2016, 10:47 AM
I don't know about the specifics of the Eternity Road example, but if you're just talking about communication, then AI should always be learning. Therefore languages seem easy, so I don't see how an AI learning to speak to anyone is very far fetched.

But faster than light communication has been a staple in Sci-Fi for a long time just because of the obvious communication extrapolations of quantum entanglement.

QE was discovered in 1935, with Einstein calling it 'spooky action at a distance', while LHOD was published in 1969, so it is very possible that Le Quin recognized that QE could break light speed travel restrictions.

Star Trek is science fantasy though, so I tend to only glance at the science in that show.

realityfix
05-22-2016, 06:50 PM
In regards to Eternity Road, The computer with AI is in the ruins of Chicago, I believe, and about a thousand years had passed since a viral plague decimated the population. I personally like the novel and McDevitt's writing but I questioned how could an isolated computer (people in the present time avoid the ruins for superstitious reasons) be able to initiate first verbal contact with a party of explorers who no longer speak the English of the pre-plague times. Also my only other science issue with this novel was the people of the protagonist's time lacked the technology ability to generate electricity yet they had the metallurgical know how to manufacture rim-fire (uses bullets with casings) guns. One would have expected black powder weapons here.

L. OBrien
05-22-2016, 09:20 PM
Unless the scientific underpinnings of the device come into play in the main plot, I don't think that you need to worry about them. So if there's a quirk of quantum mechanics that becomes key to manipulating the use of the time-bubble, mention it. Otherwise, handwave.

The more that you try to explain fantastic elements with actual science, the more openings that you create for readers to doubt them. For example, whenever I see it mentioned that something is encrypted, I go, "Oh, cool. It's encrypted." When the author tries to explain exactly how it's encrypted and how the characters broke the cipher, I start analyzing the situations and trying to determine if everything checks out. More details means more places for people with a scientific background to poke holes in your plausibility. It also means that there's a good chance these people are pulling back from the story to comb through your explanations.

And explanations risk adding more unnecessary clutter to your story. It would be like opening a fantasy novel and getting a discourse on dragon ecology dropped into the middle of a fantasy novel--potentially interesting, but not serving the development of the plot or characters, which are the truly important parts of the story.

I agree with the sentiment that readers are willing to accept fantastic things without explanations. If you want to make it look scientific, adding a few passing references or scientific buzzwords usually suffices. My favorite thing to do is have characters who only possess a partial understanding discuss the science, correct each other, or quibble over details to make it clear that there is hard science at work but that it's complicated and poorly understood by laypeople.

Dave Williams
05-22-2016, 09:53 PM
For time bubbles in published SF - look at Vernor Vinge and his Peace War.

Note that Vinge doesn't even tell us what a "bobble" *is* until the story is fairly well along, and other than that they're impermeable and of finite duration, almost nothing else about them.

The bobbles are a part of the backstory, like cars or microwave ovens. He tells us just enough about what a bobble *does* and skips entirely past the "how"... because the story isn't about the bobbles, it's about how they affected their society.

King Neptune
05-22-2016, 10:07 PM
Yes, we use the Casimir Effect generator and communicate with quantum entangled particles, but I can't remember how we insulate against time. Is it something like a thermos bottle?

harmonyisarine
05-22-2016, 11:53 PM
I'm on the side of "don't explain it too much." I fell out of a lot of SF and into more fantasy because, for me and before I found Goodreads and AW, I was finding that too much SF really wanted to explain science... and then explained it wrong. Other times it might be right but the over explaining took over the story. The best SF, in my very humble opinion, does the same thing as the very best fantasy. You, as the author, know how it all really works (or at least know enough for consistency), but the reader only hears about what is applicable.

The cell phone/airplane analogy described above is still my favorite. If you wouldn't have a character or narrator explain the details and technobabble about how a cell phone works each time they send a text, don't do it with the fancy science in SF.


L. OBrien... it's funny that you say dragon ecology, because one of my favorite series is about a dragon naturalist who does, in fact, throw discourses about dragon ecology into the middle of things. XD But the way it's thrown in does serve the plot and characters (as the science in SF should) and so it works well.

tko
05-25-2016, 06:36 AM
1.) Don't try to explain too much. Anything in the real world of high end science is probably only understood by a few hundred people in the world. Why try and explain imaginary high-end science to a reader? Nothing fails bigger than explaining something in detail and making a mistake. Use general terms.

2.) Just because it's the future and new and exciting doesn't mean you have to tell us how it works. Most people don't know how current technology works, why explain future technology?

3.) Very little great science fiction explain how things work. Perhaps the opposite. You really want to know the guts of a light-saber? Sure, good SciFi tells us the rules of their "magic," but not the underlying theory.

In short, don't explain, just give us the rules your magic operates by.

blacbird
05-25-2016, 08:42 AM
QE was discovered in 1935, with Einstein calling it 'spooky action at a distance', while LHOD was published in 1969, so it is very possible that Le Quin recognized that QE could break light speed travel restrictions.


BUT, in the real science world, there is still a major restriction: You have to entangle the particles, then move them apart. The "moving them apart" part still is limited by the speed of light. Once you get them separated, then they behave simultaneously. But you can't separate them faster than light speed.

caw

Arcs
05-25-2016, 09:37 AM
I'm pretty sure that Left Hand of Darkness did not break light speed restrictions. But I haven't read it in a while. So the basic premise is still sound.

Regarding FTL as a whole: I'm pretty sure someone is going to figure out how to warp space and create portals.

Maybe through dimensional math-a-magic to operate tech through a higher dimension and make everything in our dimension look like a point in 'real' space, so that moving from one side of the universe to the other is as easy as it is for us to flip from the front of a book to the back. But that's probably more science fantasy than real science ATM.

realityfix
05-25-2016, 09:21 PM
So, the consensus, as I interpret it, is that having plot elements of technology that doesn't exist yet, or an application of current technology that has not been done before, is acceptable as long as one doesn't get bogged down in the details of how and why it works and as long as it sounds plausible. I get it. I just wanted to avoid the Wile E. Coyote Acme connection in which I have a character that, say, is on the run and he pulls out a little wooden crate marked Acme and he opens it and pulls out a Star Gate and just portals away. Ha! Does anyone remember that Warner Bros. cartoon that did have the portable holes?

I also look at it this way. Probably, at some point out there, super high tech blends into magic. Didn't Moorcock do a book about the end of time where the last humans have high tech fueled by energy from the stars that can do things that border on the realms of magic?