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View Full Version : What defines implausible science fiction?



R Lee E
11-27-2004, 10:29 AM
Anything that can't currently be explained by science? I figure most science fiction involves that.

What do you guys think?

A Pathetic Writer
11-27-2004, 11:48 AM
I would actually define implausible science fiction as science fiction that is patently impossible.

There is a difference, however, because some science fantasy (a genre I detest, usually) hovers in this area a lot.

But, for instance, a steam-powered vehicle, capable of travelling FTL...

Pretty F'ing implausible.

maestrowork
11-27-2004, 12:27 PM
You mean you can't build a time machine using cogs and wheels?

Darn H. G. Wells!

R Lee E
11-27-2004, 03:11 PM
rofl...

Ok, so now I know the difference between implausible, and improbable. This is comforting.

Pthom
11-27-2004, 03:47 PM
Science Fiction probably can't be done without at least one improbability...Larry Niven called it bolognium. (http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm47.showMessageRange?topicID=6.top ic&start=1&stop=20)(also see) (http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm47.showMessage?topicID=14.topic)

Add too many of improbabilities, however, and the level of implausibility rises to the point where the story becomes unenjoyable...and perhaps unreadable. :lol

Writing Again
11-28-2004, 09:49 PM
A lot of science fiction is merely projections of trends that currently exist. They become implausible not because the technology does not or will not exist, but because the trend has changed.

For instance some science fiction was based on the very possible technology that streets in inner cities would consist of conveyor belts. You would go faster by moving to higher speed inside belts and slower by moving to outer belts.

The problem is the higher cost of construction and higher cost of energy and depletion of oil.

Now a good science fiction story might be what would happen if we ran out of all natural sources of energy.

Another theory was that people would keep multiplying until there was either no room for humans or we ran out of land to raise food.

Interesting thing is that according to some sources the world population has slowed its yearly increase. All over the world women are having fewer children than they had a few decades ago. No one seems to know just why.

An interesting story now might be what would happen if babies became a rare event? Or never happened at all?

ChunkyC
11-28-2004, 09:54 PM
For me, implausible science fiction would be a story where it seems that the author never asked that "what if" question.

HConn
11-28-2004, 10:31 PM
What defines implausible science fiction?

The reader. They each have their own definitions.

DaveKuzminski
11-28-2004, 10:58 PM
I don't see why you consider steam as less plausible. Perhaps you're thinking of it as the exhaust rather than furnishing power for an engine that provides thrust in a different manner?

As to lowering human birth rates in many countries, perhaps the cause is similar to a recent discovery that numerous waterways now contain various hormones? There might now be residues within the waterways that came from the creation and disposal of chemicals used to manufacture birth control pills. If so, think of how it might even affect the overall world by affecting other species inadvertently.

KLH
11-29-2004, 01:40 AM
Interesting thing is that according to some sources the world population has slowed its yearly increase. All over the world women are having fewer children than they had a few decades ago. No one seems to know just why.

Maybe not the -exact- reason but there's a number of pretty solid theories. Most have been determined in the course of China's zero-growth policy, set in 1979, and that's been plenty of time to study the success and failure of changes in the policy. The majority of economists and sociologists seem to have roughly agreed that the predominant impact on birthrate is that of a shift in women's priorities and options.

Women in industrialized, first world nations have fewer children; China's experience has shown that as women have opportunities for better jobs, higher-paying jobs, education, travel, material goods, etc, children become seen as a another potential drain on familial resources. The two-income parents, then, say: 'if we have a child, we lose what we've gained in two incomes' - contrasted to families where the woman is expected to stay at home, so why not have children/raise them as long as that's where you're stuck?

Then again, I'm also pondering a story in which artificially created, externally controlled circumstances keep an area of the population from reproducing above a certain rate. That means this topic is at the forefront of my gray matter, along with wormholes...and how vacuum cleaners work. Don't ask.

Getting back on topic, I'd say that what makes the science implausible often makes the story itself implausible. Nothing does that trick faster than a lack of research, and it does show in one's writing. But then, I've cultivated friendships with folks in some pretty wacky disciplines, and have trained them to not blink when I say, "okay, so it's not feasible in your experience, but what would it take to make it work? What do I have to jury-rig?"

A good jury-rigging will make even the most implausible science believable to those of us who don't know, and at least mildly palatable to those who do. ;)

Writing Again
11-29-2004, 02:12 PM
A lot of stories have highly plausible science but very implausible human interactions.

Is it better to have the humans implausible or the technology?

Pthom
11-29-2004, 04:09 PM
Is it better to have the humans implausible or the technology?Good question. I guess it goes back to what ChunkyC said: “For me, implausible science fiction would be a story where it seems that the author never asked that ‘what if’ question.”

I can imagine asking “What if, given ordinary and ‘real’ science and technology, humans behaved (reacted, appeared, etc) implausibly?” But I don't think I would enjoy writing such a story, much. Then again, I haven't given it any thought before.

As far as I'm concerned, in a SF story, science/technology has to “work.” By that, I mean if the science/technology is beyond what's known, the author must provide some explanation as to how it works--and make me believe it, even though intellectually, I know otherwise.

There is one case where I might accept what appears to be totally implausible science/technology: Where the characters in the story don't understand it any more than I do. They may not know WHY the space ship can go from galaxy to galaxy in seconds, but as long as it does, and that fact isn't just a convenience to use more than one galaxy in the story, then I'm fine. (This may work for weapons, tools, communications, too.) A case in point is Carl Sagan's Contact (http://home.golden.net/~csp/cd/reviews/contact.htm). The device built according to the alien transmission works, but no one knows how, and only a few of the characters believe it does. Yet that technology is crucial to the story.

KLH
11-30-2004, 12:27 AM
There is one case where I might accept what appears to be totally implausible science/technology: Where the characters in the story don't understand it any more than I do.

Good point. Also a useful tack when trying to introduce massive amounts of information to the reader in an unfamiliar setting: use someone who's as new as the reader. Not always possible, and it doesn't always work that well even when it is possible, but done right, it's a good way around the infodump. And in this case, it's a good way around explaining the WHY. Most folks don't understand how cars work; they just know they put the key in the ignition, put their foot on the gas, and make sure to fill it up with fuel when the little light comes on. Ask them about fuel to air ratios or what the distributor cap does and they'll stare at you blankly.

Some sf writers forget that, and think we readers have to know how everything works. I don't think we do, if the rest of the story hangs together.

ChunkyC
11-30-2004, 05:47 AM
Some sf writers forget that, and think we readers have to know how everything works. I don't think we do, if the rest of the story hangs together.
Amen! Personally, I don't care if the light-saber or transporter are impossible, they work within the context of their respective stories. They're pieces of bolognium that have their own set of internal logic and as long as the rest of the tales that surround them are compelling, their precise workings are irrelevant.

maestrowork
11-30-2004, 06:29 AM
Just be consistent. A lightsabre works a certain way. Don't all of a sudden make it do something else like shoot laser beams or alter minds or something.

Mangler
12-10-2004, 08:10 PM
To avoid implausibility, have only one impossible thing per story!

;)

DaveKuzminski
12-10-2004, 09:35 PM
Impossible to who or what? Keep in mind that not everyone holds the same knowledge or education, so what one individual knows is plausible might seem otherwise to someone else.

Also, if one impossible or implausible event or scenario is accepted by the reader, that might in itself make another such event or scenario possible or plausible. So, I don't believe we can fashion a hard and fast rule concerning this. I think it's going to depend more upon how well the story is told as to whether something seems plausible or not.

Mangler
12-11-2004, 01:12 AM
Umm, it was a joke.

Mangler
12-11-2004, 01:13 AM
Umm, well, okay, it was intended as a joke, but in the absence of anyone laughing, obviously it failed...

:)