Writing and world building, sci-fi versus fantasy

Discussion in 'BOARDANIA' started by Garner, Mar 5, 2006.

  1. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    If you're trying to populate a story with characters, there's a number of issues to keep track of. How do the characters interrelate, what are their motives, their fears, etc. This can be a difficult task for a large or involved story even if it's set in the 'real world'.

    Throw reality out the window, however, and we open up a nightmare of possibilities. Robots, aliens, and species with magic powers. Okay, so the elves hate the orcs, the Killbots hate the Magma spiders, the Martian Empire hates the Human Coalition... but where do all these guys come from?

    How do we get super robots when there's cube square laws in the way? How do we get orcs and elves on the same planet when the only theoretical model and baseline experiment has shown that only one 'intelligent' species has evolved past the stone age?

    What ecological conditions can account for a half dozen or more species of 'people' on a planet, and does this even matter to a story?

    What scientific principles do we need to horribly rape to allow for a diverse galaxy of aliens, and how vital to the story is it that we make it believable?

    At what point do you say 'well, that's just the way it is' or 'a wizard did it.' or 'go away you fanboy. stop pestering me with these questions'?

    If the world isn't real to you, how can you make it real to the audience when they read it? hmm?
  2. spiky Bar Wench

    Garner have you been watching Battlefield Earth again? You know Elron Hubbard and John Travolta make you depressed.

    You also need to consider the trade-off between story and detail... too much detail impinges on a good story (ie LOTR), not enough and you get Scientology... scary.
  3. Roman_K New Member

    [quote:add104f7ba="Garner"]What ecological conditions can account for a half dozen or more species of 'people' on a planet, and does this even matter to a story? [/quote:add104f7ba]

    Well, the first rule that you rape is that there's no magic. If that's what you do, then that's that, really. ;)

    As for something a bit more concrete, we haven't the foggiest notion that multiple intelligent species, be it on the same planet or the same galaxy, are possible. The only real answer we have for that is 'maybe', because we don't have any examples on which to rely on besider our own, and one sample of observational data is not enough to set a theory.

    For this reason, I don't believe it matters to the story. It's more relevant to sci-fi than to fantasy, though, although in both one can say 'radiation' and call it a day. Having at least half a go at it is required, though, as too little detail can be just as bad as too much.
  4. Maljonic Administrator

    I don't really see the need to base another world's scientific principles on our own. In fact I think the chances of things evolving on other planets exactly as they have here are pretty remote. What if, for instance, there was a planet where food grows plentiful and the weather is always agreeable, a place where life develops without any struggle at all, where there is no need for the survival of the fittest scenario. Perhaps in this place different species could eveolve in a totally different way. We might assume that the need for intelligence would not evolve on such a place, but then we'd be applying our own limited experience to some other place we know nothing about. It may even be that they turn to matters of intellect quicker out of bordem.

    Or there could be a world that is so hostile, with violent ocean storms and volcanos, that pockets of intelligent species evolve without ever meeting each other until they discover a way to weather the storms and get to the other land-masses.

    I don't think we have to rape any scientific principles really, just imagine how characters might develop based on their local geography. I think most of today's lifestyles are like science fiction compared to medieval times. A lot of scientific principles have been thrown out of the window, but some of them remain true - so I guess it's better for a story to stick to some obviuous principles that we all know or think to be solid.

    Even if it turns out that there is a world that doesn't need sunlight, or a place where e=mc2 doesn't apply, fiction is written for the reader of the time it is written in, so you sometimes have to be sympathetic to them and write about what you and they know, but add in something a little extra to stir the imagination.

    Or make up your own science and circumstances if you are able to explain them in a way that is feasable to your characters.
  5. Katcal I Aten't French !

    [quote:8b6199368e="Roman_K"][quote:8b6199368e="Garner"]What ecological conditions can account for a half dozen or more species of 'people' on a planet, and does this even matter to a story? [/quote:8b6199368e]

    Well, the first rule that you rape is that there's no magic. If that's what you do, then that's that, really. ;)[/quote:8b6199368e]
    Oh come on Roman, be serious !! No magic, arf, next you'll be saying Santa doesn't exist... :roll: :lol:

    On the point of how far our physical and scientific laws should reach into fantasy worlds (fantasy meaning imaginary or dream, not the specific litterary genre...) there's a great exibition in Paris on the universe of StarWars, it's quite amazing to see all the bits and pieces they have managed to collect in one place, everything from everyone's favourite droids to Leia's golden bikini, miniatures and models... anyway, fascinating stuff, but the one thing that kind of let it down for me, was the scientific bits that say "oh, well, of course, lightsabers and hyperdrive can't possibly work, because..."
    Yes, I know it's all imaginary, and I was quite happy to look at all the "making of" movie bits, all the explanations on the special effects, the models, etc. But I don't really want to have someone come on all scientific and ruin the dream part of it, the small space at the back of my mind where imaginary things DO exist. I [b:8b6199368e]know[/b:8b6199368e] dragons couldn't breathe flame without burning their lips off (thanks Sam Vimes :D ), or that broomsticks can't really fly, and no teenage kid has to save the world once a week with a small group of unlikely friends with weird superpowers...
    But that's the whole prinicple of fantasy, be it science fiction, med-fan, or even nursery rhymes or fairy tales...

    How much science to put in, well, that all depends on how hard you need people to be convinced... If you're aiming your story at 9 year olds, too much detail can be off-putting. If your public is more 40 year-old engineers, you might want to make it slightly more realistic. All this is of course generalization, I know a few 40 year-old engineers who can be dead silly.
    But it's also a question of who you are as a writer... If you're interested in science, then you will want to put what you're interested in into your story, if you just like soppy fairys, then there's no need to go into equations on wing size and lift ratios to explain why they flutter about so annoy... cutely.

    Pterry is interested in science, and astronomy, you can tell by the way he [b:8b6199368e]does[/b:8b6199368e] explain things even though those explanations wouldn't necessarily work on our planet. If you look at C.S. Lewis's Narnia, there is no explanation further than "he was a magician and made some magic rings", and that was enough for him because that wasn't what the books were really about, that wasn't the important bit, it didn't [b:8b6199368e]have[/b:8b6199368e] to seem real because it was a fairy tale.[/url]

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