I'd like to talk about science and science fiction as the two, I feel, are inextricably linked. As a science adherent I have the kind of science knowledge I believe most should have but unfortunately don't; it wasn't always that way.
As a teenager, though a devotee of science fiction for several years, I considered myself reasonably open-minded about other genres, and talked enthusiastically about my love of reading, of science fiction and the educational value contained within much of it. Despite some disparaging views hinting that it was somehow unworthy, science fiction and fantasy have become extremely popular in written form as well as in film and TV which has made such attitudes harder to justify. Though science fiction remains my favourite genre I have branched out towards thrillers, horror, comedy, fantasy and occasional other genres and, since I started writing, I have actively pursued such interests on the basis that alternate genres can only serve to improve my writing.
To me, the most astounding characteristic of science fiction is its ability to educate and to expand the mind, something I assume is true of other genres. When I started reading science fiction aged thirteen the golden age of science fiction was winding down and new authors were coming onto the scene. I was reading books by the acknowledge masters of science fiction; authors that (even today) are held in high regard by readers and writers alike, authors like Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg, Bradbury and so on. They educated me, taught me about gravity, evolution, physics and generally whet my appetite for science. Indeed, I'd go as far as to suggest that if it hadn’t been for science fiction I might not be as enthused about science as I am and I might not love computers as much as I do. That has given me some very particular views with respect to science fiction.
As a science fiction writer, it seems to me that one has to have a good grasp of what is or is not possible, not necessarily now but in the future; more than that, it has to be reasonable. To give an example of this, it might be that in the future we will develop the power of alchemy that will allow us to convert base metals into gold. I'll grant that such might be possible somewhere in our future but we can't do it now and it seems more than a little "far-fetched" to advance that we will be able to. For a writer, they take the risk that their novel will end up as fantasy rather than science fiction. Still, with sufficient thought and a good explanation, it can be done. In the future we may be able to travel to other star systems, something we also can't do now in any realistic sense, but a reasonable extrapolation of what we currently know implies there is a good chance we might someday reach such distant places. A more common claim, implied within film and TV, is that there will be war in space, that pilots will be able to climb into fighter craft and fly them, wheeling and spiralling, like conventional planes through space, something that appears extremely unlikely. Such manoeuvres require the application of aerodynamic principles against an atmosphere and, in space, there's no appreciable atmosphere. In such environments we would likely be required to slow down and accelerate in the opposite direction though, since such movement is relative, it will also be possible to appear to accelerate towards another craft whilst actually moving rapidly backwards. On the plus side, such fighters might be able to pull some very cool manoeuvres like turning backwards, whilst moving forwards at potentially very high speeds, to fire on the craft harrying from the rear.
But what, exactly, is science and the scientific method? Science is a way of thinking about the universe and a database of knowledge. It is a methodology dictating that any interpretations based within the scientific knowledge base should be necessarily derived from properly derived data. A scientific theory, not to be confused with the common usage of the word where it equates to a "good idea", "a wizard wheeze" or "a guess", is an extensive explanation developed from well-documented and reproducible sets of data derived from experiments which repeatedly observe natural processes. A scientific law, despite grandiose naming something "less" than a theory, is a generalised description of an ideal or isolated system and effectively dictates the perfect behaviour of something.
All scientific explanations are based on broad generalisations of the way nature has been repeatedly observed to operate. All are falsifiable which essentially means it must be possible to conceive of an observation which would invalidate it. All are verifiable, meaning it must be possible for others to verify the results (typically by peer-review) using either the same experimental techniques or different ones. And, finally, all scientific explanations must be tentative meaning that no scientific explanation can be considered absolute regardless of how much it may seem to be at times. In this sense, science is best viewed as a self-correcting attempt to understand the observable universe and can be viewed as our best current explanation of the universe we observe around us.
So how does that affect the science fiction writer? A story is a complicated beast and it is important that a plot makes sense, that the characters are believable and that in a general sense the whole hangs together i.e. it is believable. For science fiction, a story's believability hinges on science, on the science being accurate or a reasonable extrapolation of known science. Of course, "reasonableness" in science fiction is something for the reader to decide and depends on a number of factors such as how far in the future it is set, whether it is set in an alternative history/dimension or indeed whether it is set in an Earthly scenario at all. Such constraints affect contemporary writing as well; if a savage with no real idea what an aircraft was or how it flies was, later in the story, to take control of an airliner when its pilot was somehow incapacitated, suspending one's disbelief might be challenging.
Science fiction requires you to suspend your disbelief and, whilst nothing says you can't explore your weirder ideas, all I ask (as a reader) is that you (the author) explain that scenario, tell me what its rules are and from that point on, stick to them.
Thanks for reading.
J. C. Rocks (Author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)
"Tales of the High Avenging Angel: #1-3" a dark science fiction tale by Dietmar Arthur Wehr.
Former star pilot, Hoch Racheengel, the "High Avenging Angel" is a brave attempt by the author to be original but it is only partially successful. Set in a world the author calls "space noir", an idea based on the old cinematic idea of "film noir" the book has a fair degree of action and violence with stories ranging across Earth and several other systems. The tales all followed the same basic outline overused convenient high-tech devices leading to a lack of believability and suspense. Although I found the book readable I felt it a shame it couldn't have been more adventurous and interesting. A good try that failed to meet its potential.
My all-time favourite film, a heady mix of science-fiction and fantasy, James Cameron's "Avatar" combines aspects of "Dances With Wolves", "Titanic", "The Last Samurai" in a heady mix of science, fantasy and romance. As he often does, Cameron takes a swipe at the industrial excesses of corporate commercialism, with human/corporate greed clashing with the natives of a distant world. Credited as the one which kickstarted modern 3D film technology, "Avatar" set the 3D bar and, in many ways, has a lot to answer for.
I was a huge fan of Marvel's "Iron Man" film featuring Robert Downey jnr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and, thought it was not as good, I still liked its immediate sequel. "Avengers Assemble", with Downey's third outing as Iron Man, represented perhaps the very best a super hero film could offer. The "Iron Man" brand was so well established that I simply knew that a third film, "Iron Man 3" (Iron Man's fourth outing), had to be good because no one on Earth could possibly screw it up ... enter Shane Black!
After far too long, my first book has been published and is available in various eBook formats. eBooks can be bought from Amazon globally, Apple etc. and the paperback version from my publisher, Fiction4All. Signed copies can be obtained directly from me which, for the UK at least, won't cost you anything more except some additional postage.
Ten years ago, Tuesday 30th October 2007, my oldest brother Paul was interred after taking GHB a well-known recreational and date rape drug. Unfortunately, he had also been drinking heavily and once he took the drug I guess his body just stopped.Paul Posing
The funeral was humanist and was extremely well handled by the celebrant, showing respect to those of faiths other than my own (which happens to be none) and I was one of those who spoke.
So, I have finally resubmitted my first book having made a number of changes. There's a new "prologue" chapter designed to create a high-action opening sequence, simplified sub-headings for all chapters to provide a clear location and date, more conversation and other changes. I now believe that the book flows better and addresses some of the concerns my publisher raised. The book is now some forty-two chapters i.e. some 87,000 words of actual story so now all I have to do is wait and wonder what on Earth am I going to call my website when I finally publish?
With stunning graphics and a stellar cast "Passengers" (2016) is a film that should have blown us away but instead it received heavy criticism but was that criticism as deserved as some would have us believe? I received a copy on Blu-ray for my birthday so I set about finding out if I agreed with the film's critics. Everyone knows it's rare for Hollywood to get it right in terms of the science and this film is no exception but, since just about every other film is the same, I feel it's unfair to unduly criticise it for it. And besides, "Passengers" is not really a science fiction film any more than "Titanic" is a film about a ship hitting an iceberg, it's a romance.
Chris Prat, Jennifer Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne and, my favourite, Martin Sheen deliver excellent performances and the film certainly doesn't lack for action. The music was good throughout and only spoiled when it accompanied the closing credits, a jarring track I assume was intended to boost the film through the music charts.
In the end, I felt most of the criticisms levelled at the film were explained within it and despite all the criticisms I could level at the film's science, I still enjoyed it perhaps because of the chemistry between the actors.
A book with moments of extreme violence, but not pointless, violence and one that I think is very much worth a read. It opens with a brutal murder, the victim gruesomely, yet artistically, displayed which leads both the lead detective and a reporter to the conclusion that the murder was likely to be one of a series, the murderer a serial killer. In writing this book, the author has woven a story around complex characters with believable personal motivations using good dialogue as well as nail biting, harrowing and gripping scenes. Definitely a book worth a read.
It seems to me that the science fiction bookverse (for lack of a better term) is awash with books that seem to tell the same basic story, that Earth is under attack (again) and that evil dastardly aliens are afoot. Whilst I understand that an author wants their readers to care about their characters and their story (if only to make them buy the sequels) I find this kind of scenario unadventurous and frustrating. I've read a lot of science fiction in my time and it is possible to get your readers to care even if the Earth is not in immediate danger of destruction.