Plausibility in Sci-Fi

A good Mind Meld over at SF Signal, where the question is asked: “How important is the plausibility of the science in science fiction?”

I think the responses from each of the panelists are spot-on, and all revolve around the same basic answer:  The plausibility is critically important…but only in context.

One does not need to use the scientific conceits in the real world. One only needs to trust that they will make sense within the story. The same principle underlies all fantasy. I do not need to believe in the existence of magic any more than I need to believe that a faster-than-light drive could ever be built; it just needs to feel real to me when the wizard waves a wand, loses a body part, or gives away his Breath in the service of his conjuring.

Some choice quotes —

Todd Glasscock:
“…for early 19th century readers of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, galvanized resurrection was believable science, and what, I think, makes such early SF acceptable for readers today, at least in part, is the scientific tradition Shelley’s Frankenstein comes from—the tradition of rational investigation of the universe.”

Peter Watts:
“So if someone writes a story in which the hero’s house is built of upsydaisium, you’re not going to score any critiquing points with me by pointing out that upsydasium doesn’t exist.  Science fiction isn’t here to say This is true or This will happen:  it’s here to say Suppose it did: then what?

Karl Schroeder:
“Here’s my rule:  am I having fun?  Yes?  Then I’ll keep reading.”

Your thoughts?

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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