Science and Me — May 3, 2013

Science and Me

I like science fiction. Maybe not necessarily to read, but definitely to watch. One of my strongest memories of childhood revolves around Star Trek: The Next Generation. My parents would order pizza and we’d all four of us (I have a brother) gather around the coffee table and watch the newest episode. Pizza and Star Trek go hand-in-hand for me.

I was going to share a story about my brother but it doesn’t really relate. And he’d kill me for it and I’d rather live to see comments on this post.

Star Wars is another big one in our house. I’ve honestly never understood the whole Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate. And I’ve especially never understood people who declare someone else uncool or unworthy of being a sci-fi lover if they actually like Star Trek and Star Wars. Really? I can’t like both for equal but different reasons? Seriously, one is a tale of a past we could have risen from and the other is the tale of a future we could still grab onto and hang on tight as we ride through it.

I still enjoy a good sci-fi tale. Really I should watch Battlestar Gallactica. My mom watched the new series a couple years back. Sci-fi Channel or BBCAmerica ran the entire series, two episodes each Saturday night. I watch Haven, Warehouse 13, and Doctor Who. And currently my mom and I are working our way through Eureka on Netflix. (Which would actually be a subject for another day. I have some bones to pick with the show right now.)

But writing it? That’s another beast all together. I did all right in science classes growing up, but they were never my favorite. Hence why I majored in Humanities and then English (for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively). I don’t care enough about the why and how of science technology to write it convincingly in fiction. And I struggle to read it for the same reason. I think sometimes sci-fi authors get so caught up in their cleverness with scientific theories that the tech overpowers the characters and the story itself. I don’t want to read a thesis disguised as fiction, I want to read a story about people, about events that matter to them in a relatable way.

Genre: Science Fiction — May 6, 2010

Genre: Science Fiction

Science Fiction is today’s genre.  Wikipedia places it under the genre of “speculative,” but I really feel like speculative is a category of genres and a genre in and of itself.  Science fiction has been so popular in various media in the last decades that it deserves its own post.

Science fiction:
n. fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

n. a literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background. (Found here.)

Sub-genres

  • Hard sci-fi
  • Soft sci-fi
  • Space opera
  • Cyberpunk
    • Nanopunk
    • Postcyberpunk
  • Alternative universe
  • Scientific romance
  • Steampunk

Science Fiction

  • Characteristics (not all must be present, this is just a varietal list)
    • Imaginary elements are largely possible within the established or postulated laws of nature relevant to the work
    • Writing rationally about alternative possibilities
    • Settings are often opposite to reality and can include the future, alternative timelines, a historical “what if” following a secondary path, space, other worlds, alien cultures
    • Involve technology and/or science contrary to what is currently known
    • Discovery of new technology or principles, or of new social or political systems
    • Deals primarily with the impact of the new society, new technology, etc. on humanity
    • Always include a human element
    • Should have some basis in reality
    • Not written for the scientific community
    • Present or future
    • Assumptions of technology
    • Monsters as a result of human error or science gone awry
    • Individual conquering technology
    • Life on other planets
    • Fantastical but not magic
  • Examples
    • The works of Philip K. Dick
    • The works of Isaac Asimov

Characteristics taken from here, here, and here.

    Hard science-fiction
    • Emphasizes detail and/or accuracy in the science
    • Should try to be as accurate, logical, credible, and rigorous as possible in the ways the science is applied to the narrative and structure

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Soft science-fiction
    • 3 senses of the term
      • More focused on the social sciences like anthropology and political science than on biology, etc.
      • More concerned with character, society or other ideas that aren’t critically tied to the science
      • Less rigorous in its application of science

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Space opera

    • Emphasizes romantic, melodramatic action
    • Set largely or entirely in space
    • Involves conflict between powerful opponents with technologies and abilities equal to their character
    • Large-scale themes, action, etc.

    Resources found here.

    Cyberpunk
    • Characteristics
      • Advanced science coupled with sociological breakdown
      • Conflict between hackers, artificial intelligence, and megacorporations or conglomerated governments
      • Near-future Earth, very dystopian with a great degree of technology use and a relative degree of social breakdown
      • Troubled futures
      • Action in some cyberpunk is set primarily in cyberspace
      • Sense of rebellion
    • Examples
      • William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy (1984-88)
      • Starfish by Peter Watts (2009)

    Resources here and here.

    Nanopunk
    • Characteristics
      • Nanotechnology is the dominant technology of all those that are used in the book’s world
      • The promises that nanotechnology held in the past have become the present’s reality
    • Examples
      • Linda Nagata’s Tech Heaven
      • Michael Crichton’s Prey

    Resources here and here.

    Alternative universe
    • Takes place in any setting from a world within our own to something occurring in a different, parallel spatial axis that we can’t perceive from our own world

    Found here.

    Science fiction romance
    • Three categories
      • Romantic science-fiction
        • Romance is a strong sub-plot but the scientific stuff still drives the plot
        • HEA is not a guarantee
      • Science-fiction romance
        • 50/50 split between the romance and the scientific, both drive the plot forward
        • HEA of some kind is a given, but it won’t always be what the reader thinks
      • Futuristic romance
        • The romance drives the plot
        • HEA a given

    Found here.

    Steampunk
    • Set in a world or era where steam power is still in use (i.e. 19th century, esp. Victorian Era England)
    • There is a prominence of science-fiction and/or fantasy elements like technologies that are existing but are incongruous with the time period it’s set in
    • Often contain alternate history what-if tales involving technologies like dirigibles

    Resources are here.

    Further reading:
    Whew.  We made it!  Now it’s time to let you loose into the comments section.  What’s your favorite science-fiction work?  Anything I missed?  Want to flay me open for overlooking something that you absolutely love?  Any recommendations?
    Hope you enjoyed this post.
    Oh, and because I couldn’t resist, here’s a parting photo.