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View Full Version : How to deal with rectifications?



Michael Dracon
01-29-2007, 01:41 AM
How do you deal with something that you've put in a novel and suddenly is proven to be different in real life?

For instance: In the research I did for my sci-fi setting I found out that Pluto is no longer classified as a regular planet. But what do you do if your setting is set in the future and you refer to it as the 9th planet?

Birol
01-29-2007, 01:46 AM
Make up some historic fact that explains Pluto's ever evolving/constantly changing status or make a reference to nostalgia or people who refuse to accept changes, even long after the change has been made.

Frex: There is an interstate near where I live that is still referred to by people as "Old Route 66" despite the fact it has not been Route 66 for longer than I've been alive and another interstate that I had to deliberately train myself not to refer to as "Route 36" after that highway was incorporated into an existing interstate. Humans don't like to change familiar designations. Work with that.

benbradley
01-29-2007, 02:37 AM
This has been such a contentious and controversial decision that I wouldn't worry about it that much. And if you had to RESEARCH it to find this out, you haven't been keeping up with the news!
http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/08/25/pluto.reaction/index.html
It's common knowledge that astronomers no longer officially call Pluto a planet, so if you left it in, your editor would likely call you on it. So you gotta deal with it.

Just out of protest I might borrow from the artist once known as Prince and refer to it as "the heavenly body once known as the ninth planet of our Solar System." Or I might do something even worse, "Pluto was officially demoted from Planethood in 2006, but was finally restored to its position as the Ninth Planet in the Solar System in 2019." I might even, with a touch of arrogance, say "rightful place" instead of "position."

The article talks about this name change being part of "science" but I'm a bit doubtful. Biology has (from what little I remember about it) well-organized classifications of species and such, so that most newly discovered living things can easily be put into a logical place based soley on their characteristics. The decision of whether or not Pluto is a planet seems more arbitrary - discussions the Astronomical Union may have had, such as how big a body has to bebe, what its orbit should be, etc. to be called a planet may have been more political than scientific.

I don't see it now, but there was a 15-20 minute youtube video of Richard Feynman talking on several topics. He spoke of a certain species bird and a man knew the name of the bird in 20 languages. Feynman pointed out that this was NOT knowledge about the bird, only knowledge about what different people called the bird. It didn't contribute to knowledge about the bird in any way.

This is a 49-minute video of Feynman, he goes into the above topic about 6-7 minutes into it:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6586235597476141009&q=richard+feynman&hl=en

dclary
01-29-2007, 10:41 PM
It's science *fiction* -- you're allowed to make stuff up. Remember, eggs used to be good for you, then bad for you, then not-so-bad-but-not-exactly-great for you.

AzBobby
01-29-2007, 11:03 PM
It's science *fiction* -- you're allowed to make stuff up. Remember, eggs used to be good for you, then bad for you, then not-so-bad-but-not-exactly-great for you.

I'm reminded of the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper where the health-food shopkeeper is revived from suspended animation centuries in the future and tended by cigarette-smoking doctors (who say something like, "It's the healthiest thing in the world for you!").

The reclassification of Pluto seemed so arbitrary and divisive, who knows what it will be called in the future. How about scifi reasons for Pluto to gain mass beyond its presently labeled dwarfhood? Man-made artificial world building around it? A collision with its twin/moon Charon? Too many donuts?

MidnightMuse
01-29-2007, 11:09 PM
The thing is - Pluto's renaming was entirely based on opinions. The 'celestial body' known as Pluto hasn't changed one bit. We could all vote to call it Ralph if we wanted, that wouldn't change what Pluto is.

I'm sure in a while, there will be another scientific argument and another vote, and Pluto will once again be labeled a planet.

Or Ralph.

TheIT
01-29-2007, 11:28 PM
It's science *fiction* -- you're allowed to make stuff up. Remember, eggs used to be good for you, then bad for you, then not-so-bad-but-not-exactly-great for you.

Yes, it's fiction, but when an author makes something up which contradicts the current scientific canon, the author runs the risk of the reader tossing the book against the wall because the reader thinks the author is an idiot for not getting the facts straight.

A lot of older SF contains science which was accurate at the time, but is now considered inaccurate because science has advanced beyond those theories. They're still good stories, though, as long as they're taken in historical context.

I'd say that if you're aiming for a hard SF story, make sure your science is as accurate as you can make it. If there's a twist you'd like to explore which contradicts the current science, then make it your "bolognium" quota for the story and run with the idea.

PeeDee
02-15-2007, 06:40 AM
Contradicting science canon would be a lot easier to worry about if science "fact" didn't change every three or four days. If I were writing a book now, and I mentioned Pluto was a planet, I might go something like.

"Shit. This planet sucks, I'll go to a better one," Ryan said. "Like Pluto."

"Pluto's not a planet anymore, I don't think. I read an article on it." Mark replied.

"I'll go there anyway!" Ryan said.

(except I would write it better and not so awkwardly, but you get the idea.)

If sci-fi had to keep up with the minutae of the science community, it would be like reading a science magazine instead of a book. Anyway, it doesn't matter. In sixty years, I won't read a book and go "Ye gads, they have gotten all these planet designations wrong!"

I'll read for the characters and the story, no matter what.

blacbird
02-20-2007, 11:01 AM
If you haven't published it yet, change the reference to something innocuous, like:

"Pluto".

caw

Ordinary_Guy
02-24-2007, 05:16 AM
Lots of good stuff here.

...Obviously, if it's not published, you've got infinite room to change it. Note, though, that it can always change back. The pluto demotion, for instance, was done on a controversial vote (after half the conference had already left). I've heard the status issue could be brought back.

If it's been published...? Dems da breaks, unless you can twist arms to release a revised version. Or... if you do a sequel, you "RetCon" for "Retroactive Continuity" and drop a nice rationalization on why it was the way it was (if you bother to pay attention to it at all). I thought one of the great RetCons was done by the last season of Enterprise, when they talked about why the ST:TOS Klingons had smooth heads...

Roger McMillian
03-05-2007, 05:20 AM
If sci-fi had to keep up with the minutae of the science community, it would be like reading a science magazine instead of a book. Anyway, it doesn't matter. In sixty years, I won't read a book and go "Ye gads, they have gotten all these planet designations wrong!"

I'll read for the characters and the story, no matter what.

My sentiments, exactly, Pete. Consider re-writing Trek and leaving out all references to Khan Noonian Singh, who played a key role in the Eugenics wars of the late 20th century.