Bad Science In Good Fiction - Page 5
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  1. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Oh okay, on the special features of the DVD, they said that the movie was called Silent Running, such as when submarines run silent to not be detected by sonar.

    And even though the science would have been disproven in Frankenstein, it would still cast a lot of disbelief and doubt, and they even made it into a movie and updated the setting to the 1930s, and still kept the same science, of sowing parts together. What does Mary Shelley being 19 have to do with it?
    I think Kevin answered that last sufficiently. They kept the same science because that's what audiences were familiar with, as it's part of the story. Also spectacular sfx.
    And even though the science would have been disproven in Frankenstein, it would still cast a lot of disbelief and doubt
    What does this mean?
    You can get DNA by swabbing dead cells off the surface of a table, but you then have to examine the DNA. You're examining the Lemon Pledge.
    Try googling 'hard science fiction'. You'll find oodles of scientific accuracy, a goodly portion of which is/was written by actual scientists like Gregory Benford, David Brin, Carl Sagan...some of the best hard sf was written by high-school science teacher Hal Clement and self-taught polymath Frederik Pohl. That's a start. You'll find mathematicians like Rudy Rucker and Larry Niven, humanists like Ursula LeGuin and Alice Sheldon, feminists like Joanna Russ...and more.
    DVD jacket copy is not authoritative. The shine may be lemon good, but it covers up the real wood.





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  2. #42
    Frankenstein is not a science-fiction novel. Science-fiction, as a genre, didn't exist until about a century later. Frankenstein is a fable, a morality tale. As such, the conventions of 'science fiction' do not apply. The book has been retroactively lumped into the SF category, but I'd bet Shelly wasn't too worried about being scientifically accurate.
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  3. #43
    Terry makes a very good point. Who dictates the genre of a story? Who even dictates what genres exist at any time? When I wrote my novel I didn't plan to write within the framework of any science fiction genre. It simply happened that the story embodied science that was fictional because the science wasn't what the story was fundamentally about. I read a really hard science fiction story and I found it boring because nothing unusual happened despite fantastic things happening, but they were fantastic in the sense of being outside of everyday experience rather than founded in fantasy, which is how much of science strikes most of us.

    On another thread someone recently asked how to avoid a character in their story simply phoning for help on their mobile phone, which is what would most likely happen in that situation in reality nowadays. My answer was that society strives so hard for perfection, finding stock solutions for every anticipated problem, that it is difficult for a writer to construct any intriguing story without relying on flaws of some kind that diverge from reality. Given that, I don't understand why science buffs insist on seeking out flaws in science fiction when the genre title includes that key word "fiction". Is science such a sacred cow that a writer can, and indeed is advised to, make his characters seriously flawed, grotesques even, in order to create his story but must not deviate from science as accurate as he can make it through painstaking research? Why? A writer creates a story by asking himself the question "What if ... ?" and there are no constraints that I can see on what that question might be.

    The film The Martian apparently contained a great deal of hard science, but it was criticised by hard science buffs because the initial premise was flawed. The situation was brought about by a storm on Mars, but the atmosphere is actually so thin that a storm involving high winds wouldn't do any structural damage and, even if it could, that factor would have been taken into account when planning the expedition as society always strives to be perfect. In reality when a manned expedition to Mars is planned it is likely that the plan will include everyone coming back again and the qualification for being part of the planning team won't simply be that one criticises science fiction stories.

    For some reason basing a story on a flaw in the science rather than a flaw in a character's personality is frowned upon by hard sci-fi buffs. This is strange because when my angel and I watch films or read books we are more critical of flaws in the characters than anything else. During television programmes we shout at the screen that a stereotypically wayward child should have been drowned at birth or that a particular person in a position of authority or responsibility simply couldn't have been put there in reality because they were so inherently flawed, and yet this is apparently how allegedly "good" stories are created. I'm sorry, but that mystifies me. Humans are only as chaotic as the rest of the universe, no more.

    Society creates its own reality by eliminating the flaws and equally it creates its fiction by putting them in. Just accept that.

    In such discussions I always come back to Arthur C. Clarke's book The Fountains of Paradise, in which he applied his usual diligence to scientific accuracy but introduced flawed geography, a shortcoming which he openly admitted. The story involves building a space elevator from a mountain top in Sri Lanka to a satellite in geostationary orbit above it as an energy efficient way of getting into orbit. The flaw is that geostationary orbits are conventionally over the equator but Sri Lanka isn't on the equator and Clarke only based the story there because that was where his home was. His solution was to relocate Sri Lanka to fit in with the science! So, apparently it's to hell with the geography and everything else in a story so long as we don't violate any of the science. That seems a distorted way of looking at fiction to me.
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  4. #44
    Important thing to note. Many people want to suspend all laws of physics when writing a fantasy story. Don't. Another thing they like to do is try to needlessly limit their characters under contrived limits. Don't do that either.

    Limit magic by the physical laws (to a certain extent) which means you research those laws. For instance, a person is falling. They have flight magic, but they were caught off guard and are now picking up speed. They don't just disregard gravity. Talk about terminal velocity. Talk about momentum, talk about stuff like that. Then talk about magic as a sort of counterforce and the character is exerting pressure against the ground. Talk about how the character can fly, but only by creating wind propulsion, and have a limit to height because after a certain height there is nothing to push against. Talk about how trying to fly near a body of water doesn't work quite the same as land (if we're going by propulsion or some sort of antigrav, the complications of solids vs liquids). Talk about the Law of Reality Opposition (made that up, but basically, the more something opposes reality and the laws of physics, the higher the amount of energy it takes). If something works despite what you'd normally think, describe it.

    You also want to elaborate on the "science" of how your universe works. My novel has sort semi-science, semi-magic thing going on. Humans can produce energy (mystic power, or MP) through the use of runes. These are tiny carved symbols floating in the air, that draw towards people in response to speaking and writing. Atmospheric events (like rain) that wash written letters away have an effect on runes, and thus suppress magic.

    =============================

    Oh btw, here's an example of bad science in a fantasy film. The "Allegiant" movie has them cross into the new section. They are rinsed off, and their clothes are burned for decontamination. But at some point, they talk about plasma. Lacking a good grasp of what plasma really is, they have it sort of like lava lamp substance. Yes, there apparently is nonthermal plasma but in real life, typical plasma is far more likely to be stuff like lightning or fire. As a result, I started giggling.

  5. #45
    For me, the key point to what I'll accept is a matter of time and species. My two favorite SF series are Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy and Iain Banks' Culture series, which couldn't be further apart in terms of scientific plausibilty. The thing is, the Mars trilogy (the first book of which was published in 1993) starts in, IIRC, 2024 and Robinson blends what we can do, what we could do if we wanted to, and what we might be able to do soon. As far as I know (and I'm an English teacher, not a scientist), there's nothing in the books that is outright impossible.

    Banks, on the other hand, deals with the technological far future. The Culture is contemporaneous with modern human civilization, but has been a spacefaring civilization for... ten thousand years? Their spaceships are composed almost entirely of force fields, run by hyperintelligent AIs, and capable of travel at thousands of times of the speed of light. Current science says this is impossible, but there was a proposal to close the US Patent Office in 1899. Powered heavier-than-air flight was considered impossible for a while.

    Additionally, I grant a lot of leeway when aliens are involved. I didn't like The Arrival's idea that time is simply a function of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but had the movie posited that the aliens had an additional lobe (or some such) of their brains that allowed them to see outside of time, I'd have been much more receptive. I speak bits and bobs of five languages, but my cat absolutely refuses to study Turkish, says she's not capable.

    What I have a hard time tolerating is present or near-present day stories where someone comes up with something that is way, way ahead of present-day tech, especially if they built it in their garage. The unobtanium chassis from The Core was the least of that movie's sins, but still one put a further dagger into my suspension of disbelief.

  6. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Frankenstein is not a science-fiction novel. Science-fiction, as a genre, didn't exist until about a century later. Frankenstein is a fable, a morality tale. As such, the conventions of 'science fiction' do not apply. The book has been retroactively lumped into the SF category, but I'd bet Shelly wasn't too worried about being scientifically accurate.

    Frankenstein is a horror story. Mary Shelly invented the genre in modern literature. Amazingly, she also invented the post-apocalyptic genre with her book Last Man. She was really way ahead of her time. Way.

    As for Mary's science, keep in mind that the genius of Doctor Frankenstein's [steen] work was the reanimation of dead flesh. Of course it doesn't stand up to modern science...because we have not invented that technology yet. But Doctor Frankenstein did, and that is the universe where the story takes place.
    You would not balk at someone reanimating dead flesh in a sci-fi story.

    Sometimes science fiction employs black-box technology. We all know that the galactic speed limit is fixed, yet we stand in line to see movies that propagate FTL travel without really explaining how it is done. Sure, they use a warp bubble, or they fold space, etc. None of these things have been proven possible. No one has ever found a wormhole, or even escaped from this solar system. Doesn't necessarily make it bad science, just speculative.

  7. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Frankenstein is a horror story. Mary Shelly invented the genre in modern literature.
    No it isn't, and no she didn't.

    I have yet to meet anybody who found Frankenstein in novel form even remotely frightening. Moreover it does not even seem that evoking fear or repulsion was even a major part of Shelley's intent. Frankenstein has influenced the horror genre hugely, much like it was itself influenced by the character of Prometheus but that seems rather irrelevant when discussing what a book actually is.

    No argument that the monster and the ensuing spin-off films etc have undoubtedly become seminal parts of the "horror" genre but lumping itin that genre is questionable at best and crediting Shelley with inventing a modern genre is absurd. Please explain why Frankenstein gets to be the 'invention of modern horror' but something like Grimm's Hansel & Gretel (a genuinely nasty story involving another seminal monster - witches - and published six years before Frankenstein) doesn't? What about Shakespeare's Macbeth? Faustus? The Castle of Otranto?

    Frankenstein is, as was mentioned before, primarily a moral fable. Its attempt to address the nature of humanity and other existential topics is probably the most interesting aspect of the story and why people read it today. There are Gothic and supernatural elements, sure, as there is in much non-horror 19th century literature (Wuthering Heights, for instance) but there is probably about as much basis to call Frankenstein a horror story as there are to call it a science fiction. Not much, in other words.
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  8. #48
    Frankenstein has a monster that kills a little girl.
    In the 1820s that would have been a horror story.
    You are analyzing it in modern light.


    And yes, as you stated in your own reply, the book inspired a series of [horror] spinoffs and movies...which would make it the cornerstone of the modern horror genre.
    Regardless of how it was a moral story, it nonetheless spawned a whole genre of horror flicks and stories.
    Grim's fairy tales did not.
    Ergo, Mary Shelly invented the genre.


    She also invented the post-apocalyptic genre too.
    She is on my list of people I would visit if I ever had a time machine.

  9. #49
    Member luckyscars's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Frankenstein has a monster that kills a little girl.
    In the 1820s that would have been a horror story.
    You are analyzing it in modern light.
    Have you checked out any of the reviews of Frankenstein from the 1820's? A lot were written and I have not seen any such consensus that the book inspired widespread terror. That does not mean some people were not scared of it (just as some people today are scared of Willy Wonka) and it is definitely true many at the time found parts of it shocking or grotesque, particularly those of a more religious persuasion, but in that case Catcher In The Rye is a horror story too. I don't want to dwell on what is or what is not "real horror" (it is not my forte anyway) but the logic does not make a whole lot of sense. I think you are the one analyzing in a modern light by basing your assessment of the book on the Hollywood adaptions.

    And yes, as you stated in your own reply, the book inspired a series of [horror] spinoffs and movies...which would make it the cornerstone of the modern horror genre.
    Regardless of how it was a moral story, it nonetheless spawned a whole genre of horror flicks and stories.
    Grim's fairy tales did not.
    Ergo, Mary Shelly invented the genre.


    She also invented the post-apocalyptic genre too.
    She is on my list of people I would visit if I ever had a time machine.
    Not if we are strictly talking literature...

    There are books and movies inspired to varying degrees by Frankenstein, however I do not know of any that date from close to the time the book was written. I strongly doubt Mary Shelley would recognize something like "Bride Of Frankenstein" as being inspired by her novel. So I don't think we can credit her with inventing the genre.

    Again, we have a problem of a character who was obviously written to be sympathetic and not especially scary (once you get past his physical appearance and the unpleasant nature of his creation) that was dug up and recycled into something frightening by Hollywood. I think you are conflating the two, to the point it almost seems like bias. Grimm's Fairy Tales did not actually invent the idea of witches (which further supports my point that horror has been around in some form long before Frankenstein...) but they possibly invented many of the traits typical of modern witches (old woman who lives in a house in the woods and wants to hurt children) and this idea of witches is every bit as pervasive in the genre as Frankenstein's Monster is and I know which I found scarier.

    Can agree to disagree I suppose!!! I will agree you are right on the money that The Last Man is an outstanding book and probably responsible for the post-apocalyptic fiction genre.
    "All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

    Ernest Hemingway



  10. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Have you checked out any of the reviews of Frankenstein from the 1820's? A lot were written and I have not seen any such consensus that the book inspired widespread terror.
    I haven't seen any sign that King's books, or any other modern horror books, have inspired wide spread terror. By that logic, there is no horror genre.

    Your argument is flawed.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure Frankenstein was the first horror novel.

    The Grimm tales were not novels, whether or not you care to classify them as horror.

    There have always been gruesome tales. At what point did such become a genre? Possibly like evolution, it's impossible to point to one book or story and say, "That's it!" At least not without someone else saying, "Nah."

    How does this relate to bad science in good fiction?

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