Science Fiction is Not About Science

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Thread: Science Fiction is Not About Science

  1. #1

    Science Fiction is Not About Science

    All genres of fiction are an exploration of the human species. Science Fiction has a special place, especially the speculative versions, in pointing out the folly making poor decisions. Mad Max is a warning of what will happen when we finally crash the world economy.

    Science Fiction is the perfect place to explore gender issues, slavery, corporate greed and misinformation. Don't knock sci fi, it will save the world.

    As an example of exploring tricky subjects I recommend a book that is so dated in attitudes and still thought provoking, and emotionally provoking.
    R A Heinlien's Farnam's Freehold. It is an historical document and as such will offend anyone looking to be offended.

    Anyone writing fiction to make a point?

  2. #2
    My thoughts on stories with morals (that make a point): It's not something to avoid, but at the same time you don't want to write it from the position of knowing all the answers. There's a lot of stories I've read that seem to be written from a position of "What if a society was based on X?" or "What if X worldview was taken to it's logical extreme?" I like those stories. They are organic and ring true. And you're right, sci-fi is a great place to write these types of stories.

    What I don't like is stories and that seem to have been written from a position of, "How do I get my audience to believe X?" or, even worse, "What 'message' can I talk on to this story?" Those kinds of stories ring false.

    C. S. Lewis said something about how a moral should "arise from the whole cast of the author's mind" as opposed to being "skimmed from the surface of his consciousness." So, in short, don't avoid depth, but don't be condescending about it.

  3. #3
    Don't knock sci fi, it will save the world.
    I was going to say 'I doubt this', but I don't, I don't believe it. It is like any other form of fiction, it is read by those who like the underlying message, and that message can be of any type, just framed in an sf form. There is almost no similarity between a Heinielin, a Bradbury and an Asimov; between a space opera and a story like 'Day of the triffids'. I don't think that fiction of any sort converts many, it may well reinforce their ideas, but if it is opposite to them it is unlikely to be read, and the precepts can be very different.

    C,S. Lewis's cast of mind was as a committed Christian, he probably saw it as a basic truth rather than a cast of mind, but 'The last battle' is just the sort of story with a message that as you say, 'rings false', and I agree with you, the 'message' nearly always detracts from the story, in fact I can't think of a case where it doesn't.
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  4. #4
    Hmm interesting that you think The Last Battle's message was a detractor. I always thought that book was a good example of incorporating a moral well. Other good examples I'd think of: Farenheit 451, Descent Into Hell, The Man Who Was Thursday (excepting the final chapter), and The Little Prince. The bad examples that come to mind are That Hideous Strength (also by C. S. Lewis), Pilgrim's Progress, and anything by Frank Peretti.

    I think Lewis' point was that morals that arise naturally out of the story are more likely to be true than morals tacked onto it for the sake of "making a point." So, in Mad Max, like the OP mentioned, the "moral" is implicit in the story events as opposed to being hamfisted into them. That makes a good story, and (possibly) a good moral.

  5. #5
    Without a message there is no purpose for a story. Storytelling, myths are all forms of teaching, the Bible uses parables to tell a story. It makes me wonder why you would read anything if you only viewed it as entertainment not learning or expanding your horizons.

    A good writer/storyteller puts you in situations and environments you would never experience on your own. Just being a dumb country boy, I can't think of a better way to add depth to your character, or put you in a place where you have to your examine your values.
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  6. #6
    Some sci-fi is about science. Artemis by Andy Weir is a good example - explores the practicalities of a moon base with current technology. The author said that the science ideas came first then he built a story to showcase them. And it turned out to be an OK story.

    I got my morals from Babylon 5 and Star Trek TNG so i'm biased towards sci-fi. But we've been exploring and developing morality through story at least since the Classical Greek dramas, probably much longer, so it's no surprise the tradition continues in newer genres.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazz cargo View Post
    Anyone writing fiction to make a point?
    I like to explore relationships in my writing, particularly toxic ones, with a vague view to illustrating how and why such relationships arise and what we can do about them. I also like moral grey areas (who doesn't?) in which traditional good and evil are rather abstract concepts, and where the characters discover that morality itself is, for better or worse, little more than a bioevolutionary side-product.

    The fact that I let all this play out in fantasy dragon land is mostly an aesthetic decision. But I do also try and emphasise the escape-friendly nature of my literature. I want it to be entertaining as well as enriching. We'll see how that goes.

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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post

    The fact that I let all this play out in fantasy dragon land is a largely aesthetic decision.
    All the worlds are a stage...

  9. #9
    No, I am not writing any fiction currently, but the story that I'm not writing asks a lot of questions about the human state. Is it inherent within us or is it simply our way of dealing with the normal circumstances that we encounter? Science fiction enables us to change those circumstances and contemplate how human behaviour might change as a consequence. As such the fictional science is just a means to an end, just one device that I use in my story, which is why I am not inclined to place my work squarely in the science fiction genre even though my readers tend to.

    Writers are just as likely to indulge in geographical fiction to isolate their characters from everyday life, but I am unaware of geographical fiction being regarded as a genre despite it being used so often. Why does it matter whether characters are cast away on a fictional desert island while sailing the seas in a ship or cast away on a fictional time while sailing through time in a timeship? Why is one just a plot situation and the other a genre if they tackle the same human issues? The science fiction cult classic film Forbidden Planet was (vaguely in my opinion) based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, but then one man's science is another man's magic, so they say ... or were they both just about human psychology?

    While writing my story, certainly the later parts of it that I have never completed, I didn't give much thought to how much it mirrored existing science fiction stories but was more concerned where it lay in relationship to works like The Admirable Crichton and The Blue Lagoon, but the fictional science enabled me to extend the issues much further than stories like those could and that's all it did.

    Stories about people with handicaps struggling to maintain their position within human society are in vogue it seems, but with science fiction one can move to the other end of the spectrum and explore the problems that people with abilities beyond those of normal humans might face. I described my novel Never Upon A Time as a fairy tale because the full trilogy eventually went beyond normal fairy tales and asked whether it actually was possible to "live happily ever after" if the characters became virtually immortal. Even that was just a facet of the story though, which again is why I tire of discussing science fiction as though it were only ever a genre rather than sometimes just a plot device to be used sparingly.
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  10. #10
    All fiction, regardless of genre, makes a point. It can't help but do so, because you have to give your characters some sort of morality -- as weak, up-side-down, or golden, as it may be -- or they won't be very interesting characters. How the conflicting moral points of view sort themselves out through your story will be the 'point' that is made. Some writers start out with that point in mind while others let it develop organically. I don't usually have a message in mind to start, just a central conflict.
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    Hear my words that I might teach you
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    But my words like silent raindrops fell
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