J.M. Williams

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Engineering in SF and Fantasy

Jul
06

Tor.com recently had an article featuring a round-table of leading speculative fiction authors discussing engineering in Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is a very interesting discussion.

Engineering, and science in general, can be a great component to a science fiction story. But I find there are some key flaws or weaknesses that make it hard to incorporate. First, and most obvious (and seemed to be missed in this discussion) is that the author needs to know her science and engineering if she is going to write about it. The risk of getting it wrong and putting off critics and readers is a genuine threat.

Second, readers need to be interested in the science as well. Part of this is up to the author to write it well, but the other part is the whims of the public, which the author has no control over. Hollywood seems to think that people these days do not want to know how things work, they prefer action over intelligence. I haven’t become that cynical yet, but there does seem to be a desire for thrill over substance.

I also probably don’t have to mention that I disagree with Susan Lake’s suggestion that Star Wars is a great representation of engineering in SF. What engineering? Star Wars is Fantasy and Fantasy usually doesn’t have engineering. Once you start explaining how things work, you’ve moved into proper Science Fiction.

Anyways, here’s the link to the article. Check it out: Making All Those Gears Spin

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