Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain
I recently read someone’s rant about how Science Fiction doesn’t need all the Gee Wiz science that pervade the modern era of writing. The author bemoaned the fact that readers prefer the Wiz Bang to real science. They state that those who write Science Fiction with real science are writing to an elite audience of readers.
It was a comment meant to make me think. It did just that. I look into what is being proposed.
Yes we can take all of the stuff of science today and fill the stories with only that. That would truly be Science - Fiction or Fact - depending on whether we depict fictional characters or real people. Science - recognizable today - turned to Fiction with the what if- that is common to Science Fiction - adding fictional but believable characters into the what if of speculation.
This made me think of the old discussion about Sci-Fi not being Science Fiction. Perhaps the above would be one of the delineating elements. In the article I read this was one distinction the writer was making, because of a bad connotation put upon Skiffy as they call it.
That aside I actually hate that word Skiffy so I’ll use Sci-Fi for the remainder of this article.
The issue I take is that for a reader it’s difficult to find and for the writer to write an as if without extrapolating the Science to some itchy limit, which runs the author head on into a bucket load of Sci-Fi.
I look at what I like to read. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I look at what works and what doesn’t. I look at what is strict science and what looks like Gee Wiz or Wiz Bang; and I rediscover something.
When we object to all the special effects and strange (over- extrapolated) notions we usually do so with the notion that these stories are driven by those props. For us; people buy these genre because they have all the fancy gadgets and flashy lights. That’s why the book cover is so important!
What I like in my fiction is stories driven by characters.(I look at the cover-read the blurb in back-if possible I read the first chapter or ten pages- then I decide if I’ll like it.)
Any author who has mastered the ability to place a believable, likeable character into whatever situation will get my full attention every time.
Plots do not drive the fiction. Many plots are rehashes of old reliable plots. Occasionally there is something that looks to be new.
Themes don’t drive the fiction. Themes often are planned but sometimes they just happen.
Wiz Bang and Gee Wiz and over the top science don’t drive the fiction. Those are the props.
Characters drive the fiction. Believable people the readers relate to and become sympathetic with.
When we obsess with avoiding the Wiz Bang, go for the straight science with a pure heart. We fall short, because we forget to develop the character while we painstakingly bring the science to life.
A problem for science purists is a lack of understanding as to how the reader ignores their writing in favor of the Wiz Bang fiction writers. Many times we attribute it to a deficiency in the reader.
We don’t comprehend the Wiz Bang authors skill at creating some really believable people. People who are driven by normal desires and hopes and dreams. People who just happen to be surrounded by gardens of wiz bang.
That Wiz Bang can be altered or removed and the story remains interesting the plot remains true. The reader is reading because they are invested in the characters. They relate to the characters.
So, yes, there might be a distinction between fiction that takes science and extrapolates a what if that stays mostly within the confines of today’s science; and fiction that warps today’s science with what if’s that look like magic.
What the reader likes is not so much effected by either of those. If the reader doesn’t like the story it’s not the science or lack of science; it’s more likely the author’s characters didn’t connect with the reader.
Any fiction writer who peoples his story with weak cardboard characters with no redeeming qualities must rely on the Wiz Bang or the Pure Science and will likely not get the reader’s attention.
Writers of either type will get any number of readers as long as their voice and characters come alive on the page. Everything else is gift-wrapping, around a gift that is the way the author tells the story.
J.L.Dobias author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric