General Discussion

Quackcast 161 - Let's talk Science Fiction!
Banes at 10:35AM, March 30, 2014
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For Quackcast 161, we'd like to hear from you about science fiction.

What are your favorite scifi tales/books/movies/shows/etc? What areas or concepts appeal to you? Which ones don't?

What
“type” of sci fi do you like and why? Do you write a sci fi comic or
work on sci fi projects? Tell us about that. What do you try to do in
your sci fi work? What are the challenges? What do you try to avoid in
your sci fi work?
ozoneocean at 9:48PM, March 30, 2014
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I hope we get lots of contributions! :)
Scifi is a biiiig area… A basic split is “Hard” Scifi and the rest. “Hard” involves extrapolating our current technology into the future based on real science.
Includes Gravity, 2001 A Space Odessey…
Most other SciFi s basically a futuristic setting with lots of completely improbable, imaginative stuff like time travel, faster than light travel, humanoid aliens, ALL alien planets have the same gravity, climate, atmosphere, plants, and night and day cyle as earth.
Includes Star Trek, Star Wars, and pretty much everything.
 
Some of the best SciFi are stories that are used to explore bigger ideas about humanity and philosophy.
But action packed space operas are pretty awesome too. :)
 
bravo1102 at 3:41AM, March 31, 2014
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Banes wrote:
For Quackcast 161, we'd like to hear from you about science fiction.

What are your favorite scifi tales/books/movies/shows/etc? What areas or concepts appeal to you? Which ones don't?
Just love “B” grade movies.  No budget, tight schedule but what they manage to do in that time.  Remember Star Wars and Alien were both modestly budgeted features. At the last minute Alien got a budget increase because of the quality of the script.  Mosdt everything appeals to me from monsters to space operas.  I grew up on Flash Gordon serials, Outer Limits and Gerry Anderson shows.

I love the whole “what if?” concept.  What if this was different?  What would happen?  And my own specialty: Doing ridiculous things in the name of science and How would someone react to something that is so incredibly ridiculous?

What doesn't appeal to me?  Shows where they go to ridiculous lengths to keep people's clothes on.  Everything is gone but for that little strip… uh-huh.  Nope as Bob says in Robofemoids strip them for conversion!
What
“type” of sci fi do you like and why? Do you write a sci fi comic or
work on sci fi projects? Tell us about that. What do you try to do in
your sci fi work? What are the challenges? What do you try to avoid in
your sci fi work?

Type depnds on the what if idea behind the story.  I love technobabble.  Michael Okuda of ST:TNG was a master at it.  The Star Trek universe was consistent and always seemed at the verge of the possible.  Even those things which were clearly impossible looked possible.  And it always helped that they reached out to scientists and so many had become fans and they speculated on what could be done and how it could work if some scientfic breakthrough allowed it to.  That's great.  A universe where they take this for granted just because that's the way it is.  But it isn't like what we're used to.

I got stuck in a sci-fi rut with Attack and Battle of the Robofemoids.  So I do sci-fi because most of the ideas I get fit into that genre.  Sure there will be some fantasy elements like sword fighting (got that from Flash Gordon) but it's still “what if?”  Something I'd like to see explored more in sci-fi is ; not explaining stuff.  The characters take it for granted or it is so weird they can't explain it and it never is explained.  Let there be mysteries!  Goes back to those wonderful voice overs from the TV show Outer Limits. Sometimes things just weren't explained becxause there was always the human factor.  The Outer Limits was the Science Fiction and the Twilight Zone was more fantasy though it could get into hard SF at times.  Or at least as how it was understood in the early 1960's.

I don't try to avoid anything.  Yeah I avoid having women keep their clothes on. How about that?  Yeah really reduce my work to the lowest common denominator.  Boobs.  There's a big challenge there , trying to come uyp with more inventive ways for girls to loose their clothes.  Yup, big challenge there.  Okay we want topless gladiators, but how do we get them?  Okay we want female soldiers but how do we get them?  Stuff like that.  

I could go on but I'll save some stuff for a later post.
Genejoke at 8:20AM, March 31, 2014
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I love sci fi, be it hard or fantasy in a new set of clothes.  I love exploration, be it ideas or fantastic locales.  Sci fi seems to be pretty cool right now, which is great for sci fi fans like me.
I don't have a favourite type, so much depends on the film/series/books/comic/whatever.  Part is down to the aesthetics the other is the nature of the stories.
Computer games are another great outlet fr sci fi fans too.  Be it mass effect, Bioshock, Elite or Deus ex.  The are also a good influence on me as well as they often let you explore the sci fi setting in ways books and films cannot.
I love it when sci fi tackles social, ethical and political ideas as it can take ideas and play with them and there are no boundaries beyond the skills of the writer(s)
In regards to making a sci fi comic, it's something I've wanted to do for ages but could never get the story for, hence BASO.  it doesn't really have a story, it just follows people in a space opera setting as I explore various idea and planets, of which I have barely scratched the surface of.  The human element is important to me though, again something i will explore more later.  With it being lots of human colonies/empires/whatever in the satrs it's a way for me to explore social ad political ideas.  the antini empire comes from a filthy rich individual who sought to create his own empire in the stars.  Money and power are god to them.  Slavery is legal with the antini too, as it is with the Brendean society, although they are different in how they treat them.  For example, within the antini empire slaves are subhuman, a lower life form not worthy of notice or respect.  Not even proper names.  Jonathon is a product of this, being born to a slave and a freeman he grew up as a second class citizen (at best) derided for his bloodline and treated poorly.  Some may excel in the face of such adversity, he did but not in a good way.  Where as Harriet was made a slave due to money but eventually realised that life as a Brendean slave is in some ways better than a free life with nothing.  I aim to show all manner of different societies in time, but that all takes time to get to and flesh out fully.
last edited on March 31, 2014 11:02AM
El Cid at 11:41AM, March 31, 2014
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Star Wars and Star Trek ruined the way we think about space travel in science fiction. It's so pervasive and so insidious that it goes on mostly at a subliminal level. Any time I see a science fiction story where the characters have gravity in their ship *somehow* and jump across the galaxy instantaneously *somehow*, I see the imprint of generations of B movies and cheap “space western” TV series. If someone had never read Buck Rogers, had never watched Star Trek, and they were just starting from scratch writing a science fiction story about outer space, they probably wouldn't write it that way. They'd pay more attention to how the space environment actually is, and what the laws of physics tell us is actually possible.
 
Stories where characters from different galaxies and star systems interact like Earth people from different continents, just absolutely distorts the very nature of the cosmos. Things don't scale up that far. Those vast distances to other stars and galaxies aren't just distances in space, but effectively they're vast distances in time as well. The stars will always be islands unto themselves, whether we're ever able to reach them someday or not. Warp drives and antigravity and alien species who look just like us but with pointy ears, are all useful tools to keep science from getting in the way of the narrative, and nothing more. They're cheats. Personally, I think space is interesting enough the way it is, and I think you're cheating the reader out of a unique experience when you cut too many corners on the science aspect of things.
 
I am doing a space comic right now, and to prepare myself for it I did a lot of research on space travel, and the solar system. What surprised me most (and really shouldn't have) is just how complicated space travel actually is. I know, it shouldn't be a shock that rocket science is tedious, but boy is it ever! Take a look at the trajectory that the Messenger probe had to take in order to reach Mercury. Or have a look at an “Orbiter” tutorial. Ick. So I think one challenge for someone trying to write a realistic SF story is going to be finding a way to stick to established science while still keeping the story intelligible to the average reader. You don't want to bog things down with too much technobabble. SF can be educational, but you want to be eye-opening without being preachy. You want to create a world that is exotic and alien, yet still familiar enough to be relatable. All of the rules which apply to other types of literature still apply when you're writing science fiction. It's easy sometimes to get so lost in worldbuilding and technology that you forget that the main focus is still on the characters, not on how clever you are at coming up with novel speculative scenarios.
Gunwallace at 12:55PM, March 31, 2014
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When I was a kid/teenage I read as much SF as I could get my hands on. There were two camps for me that sort of dovetail with the hard/soft split, which was the great ideas versus the great characters/stories.  Asimov’s Foundation series, A.C. Clarke’s writing, etc were the great ideas camp of writing. Not always ‘hard’ SF, but the characters stunk for the most part, and the stories often lost structure and rambled or didn’t end well.  

Then there were the great stories that were often just other genre stories set in space, like Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat, or Larry Niven’s detective with the third ‘imaginary’ arm … Gil Hamilton. 

But it was these soft writers who seemed to do a better job sometimes of combining the great characters and story with the great idea.  Niven’s Ringworld is an idea so cool that Halo ripped it off.  Harry Harrison’s Deathworld novels grabbed hold of me as a kid and would not let go.  

Later on I read some Murray Leinster in a collection and rushed out to buy as many second hand copies of his work as I could.  It’s a bit up and down, like many of the ‘soft’ writers, but when he gets it right it is spectacular.  

Gene Wolfe was another ‘soft’ SF writer (so soft it’s often (gasp) Fantasy!) I really enjoy reading.  His short stories are often wonderful, and really got me thinking when I was younger.

And that raises another point. I really like, maybe even prefer, SF short stories to novels. I often find the full length novels to be disappointing and not worth the effort, whereas the short stories have ideas that are not over-developed, and raise interesting questions.

These days I tend to read non-fiction more than fiction.

I tend to write character based material, so when I stray into SF territory it would be considered ‘soft’. Very soft. Jelly.  Poorly set jelly. The After stories would be an example of that … set after The Rapture, when all that’s left in the world are the non-religious types, and socialist politics and rational thought make a comeback. It mainly focuses on the people for whom this new utopia isn’t working out so well, which are always the most interesting people in utopias.  Thanks to an idea from Genejoke I’m writing some more of those right now.

I have written a nasty SF story that will probably never be made into a comic, since it involves violent death and sexual imagery combined together (chainsaws and doggy-style) … some ideas work better as word than pictures (take the Bible for example, a great piece of SF, but put some of those stories into sequential pictures and you get into big trouble.)

At the other end of the spectrum I have a sweet story about a young girl I’m working on where much of the action takes place on the moon, but there’s elements of world war one, a rabid bureaucracy, and a religious schism to resolve … oh, and rabbits. So that would be soft, soft, soft and softer. 

As for what I try to avoid in SF. The same things I try to avoid in any writing. If only I could remember what those are?
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
kawaiidaigakusei at 1:34AM, April 1, 2014
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I enjoy science fiction stories from the 1950s including some early Twilight Zone episodes. Space exploration was just getting off the ground so the depictions of martians were really creative, cheesy, and less scientific than today. I love all things cyberpunk, dystopian, nihilistic, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic–all repetitive themes in the genre. I also enjoyed The Fifth Element, but does David Bowie's Space Oddity count as SciFi? If so, add that to the list.

I read over the list of SciFi discussed in Quackcast #160, scanned it over, twice, and was surprised Ray Bradbury's collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles, did not come up.

The story begins in the midwestern state of Ohio in the United States with the first rocket launch in 1999 and shows the progression of Earth's involvement with the colonization of Mars leading up to a nuclear war on Earth that leaves the planet a barren wasteland by the year 2026. One of the stories in particular “There Will Come Soft Rains”, a cautionary tale about how the earth will keep turning long after we die, is one of the most haunting stories that has resonated with me over the years. The main character is an empty house in California, the owners are no longer present but it continues its routine automated scheduled program as if a family is living there. The morning alarm goes off; the house prepares food; it lays out clothes; robotic mice clean the house; it reads a foreshadowing poem by Sara Teasdale at bedtime.

It was not until the end of the story that it mentions dark silhouettes of human figures emblazoned on the exterior of the house, presumably by ash remains following an atom bomb, that the reader is aware of the circumstance. This grim reality of the empty house is set as a reminder that there will be a time long after we are all gone that nature will reclaim the land.
Genejoke at 1:41AM, April 1, 2014
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Other sci fi I love.
Films.
Alien and Aliens but you covered these well on the latest QC
I love the way Aliens takes the concept and adds to it rather than trying to recreate it.
Blade runner
Excellent film. you guys covered it pretty well.
Dark City
By the director of the crow, it's a noirish sci fi thriller.  visually atunning. watch it.
Terminator.
I'm gonna say this now, I prefer the frst terminator to the second.  The development of sarah connor is great, sure she starts as a damsel in distress but she learns to fight and finds starts to become what she needs to be to raise the saviour of mankind.  The second is a good sequel but a bit flabby script wise.
Robocop.
As much as it's a revenge thriller and social/political commentry.  It's an amazing film as it works on so many levels.  I even like the remake as it takes the core concept and goes in a slightly different direction.
Starship troopers
Again a great OTT film, again it's a social/political commentry.  I think it's great how they show a fascist society, make digs at it but also show it working.  
Farscape, 
again covered well.  it looks great (even some of the dated CG)  A brilliantly written series, leagues ahead of star trek in terms of character development, I'm series, star trek has cool ideas and some iconic characters but many aren't that interesting.  And yes I do like star trek.  John Crichton is an excellent protagontist and his struggles to adapt and his descent into madness is compelling.  
Pitch Black/chronicles of Riddick/Riddick
I really like these films, sure the first is the best but the sequels have charm.  The second was overly abitious and didn't quite work but the second sequel marries both together pretty well.
Games
Buck rogers coundown to doomsday
and old RPG game on the sega megadrive/genesis it's simple looking but a great sci fi rpg.
TV shows
Babylon 5
sure the effects are dated and some of the acting is a bit ropey, however the overall story, a fantasy epic with a lot of different angles/agendas.  
Battlestar galactica
The remake.  it's a great series, yes the end wasn't great but at least it came to a conclusion.
Red Dwarf
I love red dwarf, it's cheap and silly but when it's good its really damn good, mixing comedy and sci fi really well.  
Firefly/Serenity
Yeah among many, I love the show.  What I like is that it doesn't focus on the military/government but on the everyman.  I'm pretty happy that they have finally started doing a decent comic that follows on from Serenity and pushes the story forward.  shame it's only six issues.
Books
Anything by Peter f Hamilton. the guy writes epic sci fi with oodles of ideas.
As Gunwallace mentioned Larry Niven has done some nifty stuff. particularly like Legacy of heorot's a little like aliens but without the space marines.  
last edited on April 1, 2014 4:51AM
Abt_Nihil at 5:44AM, April 1, 2014
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I wish I'd read as much as Gunwallace! I think many of the classic sci-fi novels explored questions of the human condition, society and progress. From this approach, I'd distinguish sci-fi which is more about world building, closer to fantasy and escapism. Of course, escapism also tells you a lot about the world the author wanted to escape from, but many of the great sci-fi works I love are more about scrutinizing humanity. Sci-fi seems suited to this endeavor because you can selectively modify the external conditions, and bring out certain aspects of the human condition or society more clearly.
 
My two favorites, 2001 and its counterpart Solaris (Tarkovski's movie version), were both about very realistic depictions of humanity, and not so much about fiction, but rather about an interpretation of what's actual (while using some fictitious elements). 2001 preceded the first man on the moon, and astronauts later pointed out how realistic Kubrick's vision of space travel turned out to be. Solaris, on the other hand, spends a lot of time on the earth before following the protagonist into space, so as to set up space exploration as a harsh contrast.
 
This distinction can even be traced back to one of the greatest dichotomies in recent sci-fi: Star Trek is about humanist (or whatever used to pass as humanist in Roddenberry's mind) ideas (the world-building being more of an afterthought; check out this clip for a funny comment on the a major inconsistency), whereas Star Wars clearly lives off its rich characters and mythology, but has a very simple narrative and follows Campbell's “Hero's Journey” archetype. For this reason, I've always preferred Star Trek (but really only TNG and some of the movies, a lot of the other stuff was just too bad).
 
Also, I think Blade Runner is one of the best films ever made (based on Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, one of the few sci-fi books I've actually read :p). I love the original Bubble Gum Crisis Tokyo 2032 OVA which is heavily influenced by Blade Runner. Another great realistic sci-fi anime series (about clean-up of space trash) is Planetes. The Gunbuster series is a lot of fun - Diebuster (Gunbuster 2) is one of my fav series of the past ten years (influenced by Heinlein's Starship Troopers). Speaking of anime, Leiji Matsumoto's space operas revolving around Captain Harlock, Cowboy Bebop, and the classics Akira and the Ghost in the Shell series deserve mentioning too. Oh, and I also enjoyed Desert Punk, a more cynical, but very funny, dystopian sci-fi anime series. And of course there's a lot of mecha anime which would qualify as sci-fi (Patlabor, Gundam, Evangelion, to name but a few).
 
My comics always have some sci-fi elements at least, but there's only one all-out sci-fi comic I've been working on, which is Holon. I chose the sci-fi setting for some of the reasons I mentioned earlier: To convey some ideas about the human condition and manipulate the environment in order to bring my ideas out more clearly. What El Cid said also applies to some degree: I believe that in space (and in the far future, where Holon takes place), time and distance would play a huge role in shaping the protagonists' lives, and I try to show some of these effects on a space-travelling human culture. There's also another aspect to Holon: There's a comic-within-the-comic, which pays homage to a lot of the more light-hearted aspects of sci-fi I love, mainly the space pirates and sci-fi western genres, which go back to Leiji Matsumoto's work and 80s cartoons such as the Galaxy Rangers. Consequently, Holon Vol. 1 opens with this ironic quote by Philip K. Dick: “So we're limited in our writing to books which have no sex, no violence and no deep ideas, just something of an adventure kind of nature, what we call ”space opera“ - which is just westerns set in the future.”
bravo1102 at 6:27AM, April 1, 2014
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The major inconsistency with Klingons is explained in the Enterprise series and is hinted at by Dr. Bashir.  Genetic engineering and a great mistake in Klingon history.  So they don't talk about it.  An excellent example of a mystery.  Something that just isn't explained.  Somehow people expect the average space traveler of the far future to know everything aobut his ship and it's functions. Right how much do you know about the internal combustion engine?  All you need is a decent graphing calculater and you can do all the calculations necessary for space travel.  The calculator does it for you and you just travel.  An irony of SF was the anachronism of space travelers using computers but not for complex math.  Instead stories would depict space travelers taking out sliderules.
 
(bits removed to avoid any pedantic debate with Oz which is mostly semantics and differing schools of historical and philosophical interpretation.)

Looking at the history of the genre (as well as the history of technology).  This stuff did not spout fully formed from the head of Roddenberry like Athena from Zeus. Look at Space Patrol, Tom Corbet Space Cadet, Rocky Jones Space Ranger as predecessars to Star Trek.  Rocky Jones is probably the best of the lot. Even has those super short miniskirts that crop up in Star Trek:TOS.

The ancient British puppet show Space Patrol had some surprisingly accurate touches with correct flight times necesitating suspended animation and the ships being a gyrosphere to explain gravity.  Not just pointy rocket ships like the American series. Once aupon a time there was detailed hard SF aobut the basics of space travel.  But it's seriously dated to us. Like computers and sliderules but no hand calculators?  There's something as superflous as Edison's Conquest of Mars that is incredible accurate for depciting space travel as envisioned at the turn of the 20th Century.  It has air locks and space suits and accurate trajectories but a typical space opera story which was itself unique for a story written in 1898 though.
last edited on April 1, 2014 10:13AM
bravo1102 at 6:33AM, April 1, 2014
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As an addendum I did papers on this when I was in High School so and did lots of research back in the day.  I also wrote a paper surveying American Science ficiton from before the term was coined by Hugo Gernsback.  I loved the history of the genre and how things we take for granted were once upon a time brand spanking new like that forgotten story Edison's Conquest of Mars or the best selling American novel until Gone with the Wind, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward 1887-2000.

However my college professors hated my interest in SF so my career in English studies died a messy death.
PIT_FACE at 7:10AM, April 1, 2014
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When it comes to sci-fi, like anything else, it depends on what I'm in the mood for really, but I do love science stuff anyways, especially things regarding space. Even if there ARE no aliens out there I don't think I really care (don't get me wrong, I wouldnt pass up the chance to find out.) -because the cosmos themselves just have this inheret amazingness to them. That's what I've been interested in. I think it started back when I was a kid, I used to camp out on the deck behind my house with my dad sometimes and I'd fall asleep looking up at the stars and the sky and that's when I started to think about it alot. 

There was actually this dream I had once when i was in my early teens and basically, is was in Girl Scouts (which I was) and crawled through this long hall, Star Wars type hallway that had these windows along it here and there where you could look out and see the stars. like the hallway itself was in space and no one had ever gotten to the end of it. It was also sort of small, so you had to crawl through it. The wolfman was also lose in it somewhere because I guess my dreams always have to have something in it that wants to kill me,hahha.  but anyways, i actually get to the end of this hall and there's this octagon shaped window and i crawled out on it and could see way out into space. I looked down through the floor and there was this GIANT spiral galaxy below slowly turning. It was just fucking magnificent. Amazing beyond words. 

Well my dad's an electric engineer and he's actually got a great imagination, though I didn't know it at the time because back then especially he'd always seemed like a “feet on the ground” sort of guy. Work hard, eye on the prize. But I told him about the dream I had and I'd said something like, “I wish something like that really existed” and he just said so matter of factly “well, you never know.” And something aboutt hat just struck me, even to this day.  I think I'm starting to ramble a little bit but basically, I think that's what started to give me a taste for sci-fi. 

Though it's hard to figure out what sci-fi I like. I think I'm drawn to the sort of things that have this “bigger understanding” about em. Though sometimes that can come off as convaluted. Though I do love cheap thrills sometimes too. Movie and TV wise I can't really offer up anything different than anyone has here. i like Blade Runner and all that stuff. Abt_Nihil offered up some great anime. Anime wise Black Magic M-66 is another fun one. I friggin love that robot in it. Like the sound effects it makes and what not. There's the other end of the space and robot spectrum too in sci-fi, like the Mad Max series. The apocalyptic wasteland compnant.  There was some movie that came out along those lines that I really liked. It was an older one and not so sci-fi as alot of these. More from the atomic scare era, but it was called “This in Not a Test” though i havent watched it for a long time. Same thing with “The Day After” not “The Day after Tomorrow” but just “The Day After”. It came out in the 80's some time and is along those lines still. nuclear disaster and that has sort of it's own whimsey because it's almost a more real sort of sci-fi. Very close to home. I even sort of have to include H.P. Lovecraft to an extent because though he wrote alot of horror, many of his stories had this sci-fi componant to it. I adore how he handled that.  Beyond the Wallof Sleep, The Outer-Gods, all of that kind of stuff. Man, I just ate it up for a while.


But I think I'd have to say my favorite sci-fi incluence is a band, not necissarily a movie or a book and that band is Voivod. They've been around since the early 80's and have gone through alot of transitions in style from thrash, to avant gaurd/stoner kind of stuff,heavier stuff back to a more modern feel, but through every change, thay've had this very unique sound. This sci-fi spirit that's purely them and it's just excellent. It's not a gimmicky style either, it's just intrinsic in what they do I think.  I'll post a song here for the forum in hopes of perking someone's interest because they're justawesome at what they do. (their newest album, “Target Earth” is just immaculate.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KVXu-OXpR8
(and an oldy, but a goodie) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60mE2vsvTK4


Tredd, the tank driver in my story Putrid Meat is actually based off Voivod a bit and their sort of jive. He has a whole backstory I'd like to get into some time, but anyways, he's my wonky sort of sci-fi componant in all the crazy thrash-mutantness.
last edited on April 1, 2014 7:29AM
ozoneocean at 7:34AM, April 1, 2014
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Bravo - Some points:
( I don't mean to pick an argument, you've got a lot of wise things to say, I just want to pull you back on a few points there)
 
With tech like mobile phones etc I would argue that the desingers took many of their cues FROM the devices in SciFi deliberitely. So it wasn't ever really a matter of clever prediction so much as a well thought out fictional but logical idea that became a design inspiration.
It's worth remembering that Mororola was key in devoplin the mobile phone, which was simply an extension of their portable battlefield radios which they kept shrinking  as the years went on. Something that started devolpment in the 1940s or before!
 
Even in the 1940s the battleship was still the apex of technology even though they were becoming tactically overshadowed by aircraft and submarines, not aircraft carriers. Indeed a great deal of US SciFi writers were working at the naval shipyards as scientists because of the reputation for technical inovation driven by the battleship.
 
The laws of physics never become obselete. Good technological inovation is driven by logical extensions of what we currently have as well as development the on things we don't in order to fill needs, but not by improbable dreams.
Powered flight was always just within reach all through the late 1800s, they only lacked a powersource light enough. If the Wright Brithers didn't get there it's a certainty someone else would've achieved it very shortly anyway- all the other technological inovation was well in place. They achived a “first”, not a breakthrough.
 
Fast travel and communication gave us huge leaps in what we could do and they changed society and culture massively, but technologically they were not inconceivable achievments to someone in the 1200s (for example). They could certainly imagine high speed travel and communication and work towards achiveing it…
I think that's an important thing to remember! We know of course that the average caveman was just as able as anyone today and could fucntion perfectly well if transported into the future. Simmilarly our technology would not be as inconcievable and magical to people in the past as we'd like to think it is- the true advance is how it changes US and the way we think and do things.
 
That's the strength of clever futurisit SciFi: predicting how humanity can change.
 
———————–
 
I still love improbableSciFi though. It's that futuristic aesthetic that's also so apealing. ^_^
 
KimLuster at 8:38AM, April 1, 2014
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Well, I do love me some Sci-Fi.  Most of my reading (which is a lot) these days is non-Fiction (lots of Science, but not Sci-Fi) so my Sci-Fi kicks come in movie form for the most part. I guess my favorite stuff is current or near-future where it feels totally plausible. I lean toward hard Sci-Fi, but I like for it to be tinged with a hint of philosophical and metaphysical. A lot of Phillip K. Dick's stuff is like that. Take ‘Blade Runner’ (a modified retelling of PKD's ‘Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?’). It really touches on what it means to be human. Other stories (and movies based of them) by him are ‘Minority Report’ (which delves into freewill vs. determinism), and ‘Total Recall’ (What is real vs what is a dream?). All of them have heavy Sci-Fi Backdrops, but they tackle the ‘big issues’. That's the kind of Sci-Fi I love…

Related are those set in current society, but have a Sci-Fi ‘intrusion’ (often Alien) that shakes things up. The movie ‘Contact’ (Carl Sagan's swansong) fits this. So does ‘Starman’. Related are movies where a character undergoes a transformation in a ‘Sci-Fi’ way. ‘Lawnmowerman’ is a good one, as is ‘The Fly’. All these seem to be more about the Human than the Tech. It's as if, when the ‘inhuman’ science grows bigger, the Human stands out more. And I like that; can relate to it better, even immerse it in a bit. I guess the best way to say it is I like Sci-Fi that's ‘close to home’.

My current comic, the Godstrain, follows this theme - a woman exposed to cutting edge technology, experiences a transformation that hints at ‘deeper’ mysteries about reality and the human condition.

I like grander, more operatic, Sci-Fi too, like Star Wars and Star Trek, but mostly for the visuals. Sometimes they get so big I feel lost in a sea of insignificance. So many Alien Races (with totally human-shaped bodies… huh?) and Galactic Spanning Societies. And in Star Trek, all those omnipotent beings (Q, anyone…) that just let us fly around in our spaceships while we try to pretend politics and borders mean anything, knowing they're out there and can ‘blink’ it all away if they're bored one Sunday.

I do like the Eye Candy, but ultimately as I said earlier, I prefer it all a little closer to home.  Finally, while there's room for all kinds of Sci-Fi, I feel there's a tendency in modern Sci-Fi to be a bit of a downer.  Take movies like ‘Terminator’ or the upcoming Johnny Depp movie ‘Transcedence’; these reflect a fear of Technology overwhelming us or making us obselete.  There's a place for stories like that, but an over-abundance of them do little to make young geniuses want to grow up to be scientists.  A little optimism here and there, even in Sci-Fi, never hurt anyone ;)
last edited on April 1, 2014 8:41AM
El Cid at 9:35AM, April 1, 2014
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You know what's funny? Ever noticed how in the 1970s and around that time, whenever they did a movie set in “The Future” year 2000, there were always flying cars and colonies on Mars and all that? What the heck happened?!
El Cid at 9:50AM, April 1, 2014
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ozoneocean wrote:
Fast travel and communication gave us huge leaps in what we could do and they changed society and culture massively, but technologically they were not inconceivable achievments to someone in the 1200s (for example). They could certainly imagine high speed travel and communication and work towards achiveing it…
 
That reminds me of one of my least favorite Arthur C. Clarke quotes: That sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I don't think that's necessarily true. An educated person from a thousand years ago would be astonished if you showed him your iPhone or your snazzy laptop, but he'd recognize it immediately as an advanced technological tool. I think SF writers use that sentiment sometimes to explain away completely unlikely technologies, like warp speed and that kind of thing, so they can at least argue they're still doing highly speculative science fiction as opposed to pure fantasy with a high tech flavor.
 
It's hard (and mostly unnecessary) to differentiate when something stops being sci-fi and starts being fantasy. I remember listening to SETI director Seth Shostak's radio show once and he was explaining to a caller why it's impossible for aliens in other galaxies to even know we exist: Because it will take our radio signals millions of years to reach them. The caller responded that maybe the aliens are just smarter than us or they operate under completely different laws of physics than we do. I thought that was interesting, because it illustrates where you cross the divide. It's true, it's entirely possible that aliens are out there and have technology we could never comprehend… but there's no way for us to test for it scientifically. So there's something speculative that isn't scientific.
bravo1102 at 10:27AM, April 1, 2014
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El Cid wrote:

That reminds me of one of my least favorite Arthur C. Clarke quotes: That sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I don't think that's necessarily true. An educated person from a thousand years ago would be astonished if you showed him your iPhone or your snazzy laptop, but he'd recognize it immediately as an advanced technological tool. I think SF writers use that sentiment sometimes to explain away completely unlikely technologies, like warp speed and that kind of thing, so they can at least argue they're still doing highly speculative science fiction as opposed to pure fantasy with a high tech flavor.
But that's not entirely what the quote means.  It means that what one generation considers only magical would be the technonolgy of a succeeding generation.  Of course upon handing the iPhone  to the Medieval Monk, he'd eventually understand how entire libraries of infomation are inside such a small device but would he get the seeming magic of bits, bytes and silicon chips? Try explaining a soda bottle to a bushman like in the Gods Must be Crazy .

Imagine many magic tricks and then imagine a technolgoical way to achieve it.  See through a solid object?  See inside the human body using only light?  Copy a printed page with another light and reduce it's contents to 1s and 0s?  Magic to a premodern mind.  Just like many moderns have to resort to magic to explain the engineering magic  of strings, chalk and brute strength in the ancient world.

An excellent story to show the impossiblity of back engineering and the magic of suffienctly advanced technology was done by an aerospace engineer.  He had a World War II air field retrieve a modern cruise missile.  Much of the metelurgy and all of the electronic guts would be so much hocus pocus to them.  Try explaining modern ceramic composites to anyone but a chemist from 1940.  He'd admit it's theortically possible but anything else would be beyond him until he did hours and hours of research.
El Cid at 10:44AM, April 1, 2014
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In all fairness, there are a lot of people walking around today who don't understand bytes, gigabytes, etc., and likewise relatively few of us know much about how a cruise missile works and only a handful of individuals possess the know-how to build one from scratch. That's specialized knowledge, not magic. The technology of the future will definitely be awe-inspiring to people from previous generations, but technology still advances by understandable pinciples. Isaac Newton couldn't build the space shuttle, but he'd understand the principles behind how it works.
KimLuster at 10:47AM, April 1, 2014
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El Cid wrote:
You know what's funny? Ever noticed how in the 1970s and around that time, whenever they did a movie set in “The Future” year 2000, there were always flying cars and colonies on Mars and all that? What the heck happened?!
True enough, our lack of real-life progress in the flying car and space colony department has tempered expectations.  Who knows - in 50 more years our kids might find it homorous to see what we thought they'd be doing :)
http://grist.org/list/heres-what-people-100-years-ago-thought-transportatio-would-look-like-today/
Wanted to add something to the Sci-Fi list:  the Graphic Novel ‘Echo’ by Terry Moore.  It's black and white, but Moore is a fantastic Artist (he draws realistic proportions, but his protagonists still tend to be gorgeous), but it's the Sci-Fi elementS of this story (involving a suit made from an alloy that was created using base-Phi mathematics - instead of base-10).  At times, it seems fantastical, but he does keep it very rooted in at least theoretical science - great read for us webcomic and sci-fi afficiendos :)  Google it!
bravo1102 at 11:30AM, April 1, 2014
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El Cid wrote:
 That's specialized knowledge, not magic. 
But to the premodern mind (and many modern ones) that specialized knowledge would be akin to magic.  It's a whole sense of wonder thing.  That is what Clarke's axiom means.  Akin to magic, magical, unexplainable and incomprehensible at first glance.  But hours of study later, yes we know it's a cookbook…


Since you know the answers try to imagine the wonder of someone who doesn't looking at something for the first time.  It's magic!  I see this all the time in the land of those postualting Ancient Aliens and denying that ancient peoples could do anything.  The pyramids look like magic tothem, but I know it's simple ancient engineering and brute strength.
El Cid at 12:00PM, April 1, 2014
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Okay, I get what you're saying about the sense of wonder thing. (and btw that Ancient Aliens show is godawful. Seriously, I think that show literally drops my IQ a few points every time I watch it. I want my old History 2 Channel back!)
ozoneocean at 3:42AM, April 2, 2014
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I also take issue with Clarke's magic quote. It's facile when you think about it and doesn't hold up in the real world: It only works from an author's point of view.
Yes, there's wonder when you see something novel for the first time, but you don't tend to linger on that aspect.
 
It comes down to either accepting that something is high tech and you could understand it if you were motivated to find out, or marveling and putting the explanation down to “mystery” (god, magic, aliens, faries, time travelers…).
 
The trouble is that people in the latter group do not reserve that behaviour for the high tech, the example of their problems with the pyramids shows that very nicely. They will tend to apply a similar sense of bafflement to everything in life; seeing ghosts in blurry photos, angels in sunrays, aliens being behind computers and stealth “tech”.
Whereas creatures who trully DO lack modern humun facilities to understand tech, like cats, dogs, crows, dolphins, rats or whatever, do not tend to regard the technology they interact with as marvelous and magic. Rather, after coming to terms with it they either use tech or ignore it as a mater of course.
 
Hahaha, going well off topic I know but it's a really interesting discussion! ^_^
 
Abt_Nihil at 4:41AM, April 2, 2014
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bravo1102 wrote:
The major inconsistency with Klingons is explained in the Enterprise series and is hinted at by Dr. Bashir.  Genetic engineering and a great mistake in Klingon history.  So they don't talk about it.  An excellent example of a mystery.  Something that just isn't explained.
What I meant was: The real reason was obviously that Star Trek: TOS had no means for Klingon prosthetics (or simply didn't deem it necessary in terms of design), and what Enterprise did was supply an ad hoc explanation… decades later. What that tells to me is: It doesn't really matter to the series. It's a nice way of saying: If you're arguing about inconsistencies in Star Trek's world building, you're missing the point.
bravo1102 at 5:38AM, April 2, 2014
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Abt_Nihil wrote:
 
bravo1102 wrote:
The major inconsistency with Klingons is explained in the Enterprise series and is hinted at by Dr. Bashir.  Genetic engineering and a great mistake in Klingon history.  So they don't talk about it.  An excellent example of a mystery.  Something that just isn't explained.
 What I meant was: The real reason was obviously that Star Trek: TOS had no means for Klingon prosthetics (or simply didn't deem it necessary in terms of design), and what Enterprise did was supply an ad hoc explanation… decades later. What that tells to me is: It doesn't really matter to the series. It's a nice way of saying: If you're arguing about inconsistencies in Star Trek's world building, you're missing the point. 
The original explaination in the fan universe back in the day was that Klingons always looked like that just ST:TOS couldn't do/ afford the prosthetics.  But with new generations of geeks explanations were required because newer generations of geeks just didn't have the sense of wonder the old ones did.  Look at it like the Star Wars prequels putting in that lame scientific explantion for how the Force works.  The story line in Enterprise was kind of cool for an ad hoc explantion and added another dimension to the  Klingon/Federation/Human relationship.  There was also the explanation for why the major species were all similar because they all shared a common ancestor species who seeded the galaxy.  I kind of liked it and also that the design of the creature was very similar to a classic UFO Grey. 
 

That's what I hate in Sci-fi the nearly compulsive need to explain everything ad nauseum. I built this world and am going to tell you every little thing there is to tell you about it if I have to make you sit there for the next 1000 pages!  The same thing galls me about fantasy and I prefer authors who explain stuff only when you need to know and don't give you history lessons on page one.  I did that in my what-if history in Mask of the Aryans.  It's only mentioned in passing in how awful and ridiculous it was. Hopefully the irony came through. So many real threads of history can be seen as ridiculous in hindsight. It was based on a possible interpretaion of the background limited atomic war from Orwell's 1984. The world just may be the 1962 predecessor to Winston Smith's world of 1984.

 
Insterstellar Blood Beasts features very little background.  It's a deepspace survey vessel with an internatinal crew.  The crew wear the flags and insignia of their countries of origin so some things are inferred but nothing is explained.  Is it like the ISS with interstellar drive or what?  Not explained because it's not relevant to the story just that they're farther out than anyone has ever gone and isolated on the ship.  (You could work out the distance using the speed of light and how long it'd take for their signal to reach anyone.)  The actual look of the ship and crew is roughly based on Italian space operas of the 1960's so has very little to do with scientific accuracy.
last edited on April 9, 2014 2:30PM
ozoneocean at 6:15AM, April 2, 2014
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@Bravo
I think what you're saying is that you don't have to justify things that require a suspension of disbeleif, as long as you make them beleivable enough for the purposes of the story.
I think we can all agree on that pretty much, I know I do.
 
Re: Star trek:
It's great that there's a fluid relationship with the fans and the creators.
From a creators perspective though I think the original Klingons were made that way because they were suposed to be “space mongols”, (as well as a symbol for the USSR of course).
-Mongols being the traditional symbol of war and an evil warlike race since medieval times (as well as representatives of all  that's wrong with humanity like mental disorders etc), and in that way Star trek shares a direct connection to Flash Gordon because they have the same main enemy in that regard (Ming the merciless from planet Mongol).
 
I always felt that the change with with the forehead makeup in the movies and the Next Generation was made because they wanted continuity without the racisim.
 
last edited on April 2, 2014 6:24AM
KimLuster at 8:20AM, April 2, 2014
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ozoneocean wrote:
@Bravo
I think what you're saying is that you don't have to justify things that require a suspension of disbeleif, as long as you make them beleivable enough for the purposes of the story.
I think we can all agree on that pretty much, I know I do.

 Exactly this!  
 
Abt_Nihil at 9:53AM, April 2, 2014
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bravo1102 wrote:
That's what I hate in Sci-fi the nearly compusive need to explain everything ad nauseum.  Yes I built this world and I'm going to tell you every little thing there is to tell you about it if I have to make you sit there for the next 1000 pages!  The same thing galls me about fantasy and I prefer authors who explain stuff only when you need to know and don't give you hisotry lessons on page one.
I couldn't agree more!
 
And regarding Oz's and Kim's replies - I don't think even plausibility requires explicit explanation. For example, we were talking about magic. Magic may be plausible in one universe, without really being penetrable on a rational basis. I think these are just different options in the same genre: Some works go more for a sense of mystery and wonder, others are more about scientific progress, where everything has to at least in principle be explainable.
ozoneocean at 7:23PM, April 2, 2014
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Abt_Nihil wrote:
 
And regarding Oz's and Kim's replies - I don't think even plausibility requires explicit explanation.
 
Sorry Abt, that's exactly what I was saying or at least my intent. :)
I felt Bravo was a bit long winded in defence of his position so I was going for brevity.
 
bravo1102 at 7:46PM, April 2, 2014
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ozoneocean wrote:
Abt_Nihil wrote:
 
And regarding Oz's and Kim's replies - I don't think even plausibility requires explicit explanation.
  
Sorry Abt, that's exactly what I was saying or at least my intent. :)
I felt Bravo was a bit long winded in defence of his position so I was going for brevity. 
Long-winded, run-on sentences and atrocious grammar.   I used to be able to write cohernetly but that was several traumatic brain infuries ago.   Now you know why I go through so many re-writes in my scripts.
bravo1102 at 7:51PM, April 2, 2014
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ozoneocean wrote:
 
It comes down to either accepting that something is high tech and you could understand it if you were motivated to find out, or marveling and putting the explanation down to “mystery” (god, magic, aliens, faries, time travelers…).
 
The trouble is that people in the latter group do not reserve that behaviour for the high tech, the example of their problems with the pyramids shows that very nicely. They will tend to apply a similar sense of bafflement to everything in life; seeing ghosts in blurry photos, angels in sunrays, aliens being behind computers and stealth “tech”.

It's called Magical thinking, two good articles:  :http://skepdic.com/magicalthinking.html   http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200802/magical-thinking
The Psychology today article makes some points with Clarke's Axiom.

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