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What makes for a great science fiction universe?

 
 
Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2018 02:05 pm
What makes for a great science fiction universe? Escapism from space operas? Hard science?


 
coluber2001
 
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Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2018 02:33 pm
@tsarstepan,
http://pictures.abebooks.com/isbn/9780912383095-uk-300.jpg
We have to, somehow, relate innerspace to outer space. Make a trip to outer space a trip to innerspace. I think Star Wars did that a lot.
farmerman
 
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Reply Fri 20 Apr, 2018 08:47 am
@coluber2001,
I especially like where , what begins as reality and real world happenings to our world, are stretched to extremes .
It has to be responsibly done and be based on an issue that we havent messed with much.

Like having space travel serve a basic need to evacuate our warming planet and several expeditions are sent out to explore and settle . While Star Trek did this, sorta, they never really explored the changing biodiversity of our own species except as "space clowns" (Like the E Pleb Nista episode.
We dont need monsters but just things slightly bit different than what we are used to.

Like Silica or molybdenum based life .
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coluber2001
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 11:32 am
Investigating the psyche, that is innerspace, and then relating it to the universe with the convenience of Science Fiction. I don't think the importance of Science Fiction is imagining the future, but instead imagining and creating a new myth that relates the innerspace of our psyches with the outer space of the universe.

Kurt Vonnegut did something like that in his Sirens of Titan in which he used the convenience of Science Fiction to investigate the human psyche. It was a simplistic-appearing trick he used in his Sirens of Titan to overcome human defense mechanisms and allow us to see ourselves the way we are.
coluber2001
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 11:50 am
@coluber2001,
Aldous Huxley did that sort of thing in his novel,The Island about a culture that existed isolated from the major powers of the world and based more or less on a Buddhist philosophy or religion. It is a utopian novel that eventually gets corrupted but it has some great ideas.
coluber2001
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 12:00 pm
@coluber2001,
The ancient Greeks created the Medusa which is a sort of Science Fiction trick used to expose ourselves to ourselves, in other words trick us into seeing ourselves indirectly. We have elaborate defense mechanisms that we have to get around and one way to do this is through literature or drama and Clinical Psychology. Perseus used Athena's Shield as a mirror to look at the Medusa. The whole purpose of the drama of Greek tragedy was to allow people to see themselves through the characters and act as a catharsis.
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jespah
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 02:45 pm
Great writing tells us something about ourselves. We immerse ourselves because we relate to characters, scenarios, etc. In science fiction, we relate alien concepts to human experience in all sorts of ways. Star Wars gives us the concept of pitting good versus evil. Star Trek gives us exploration with some squishy moral choices along the way. The first incarnation of The Planet of the Apes gave us a look at societal prejudice. The Matrix films posit an idea of a meaningful reality if we can scrub off a superficial veneer.

A universe, per se, has to be able to sustain itself. This is where The Matrix failed and where The Planet of the Apes eventually did, too. They ran out of stuff to write about. The Matrix lost it when the fight was finished, and The Planet of the Apes did when the timeline met itself.

Star Wars was/is in some danger of that because once Vader, etc were finally defeated, all that was left was backstory. Once backstory was told (poorly at best; they really squandered a lot of viewer good will), the only thing anyone seemed to be able to come up with was to create yet another ingenue with a hidden talent. One thing Star Wars has done well recently, and I hope they don't shy away from this and undercut it, is to make Rey nobody special. Anakin as a child wasn't supposed to be, either. I think it works a lot better and veers out of Mary Sue territory when the character doesn't have some plotted destiny, etc.

Star Trek does pretty well with a formula of discovery amidst conflict. Sometimes it's a hot war (in Discovery and Deep Space Nine and Enterprise's third season), and sometimes it's a cold one (TOS, first two seasons of Enterprise), and at other times it's little strafe-y skirmishes without organization (The Next Generation and Voyager).

The great science fiction universes also have exciting futuristic gadgetry and transportation, and interesting-looking aliens (Star Wars and Star Trek Discovery do this best of the ones I've mentioned).

Personally, I also prefer plausibility. So I'll enjoy The Matrix or Star Wars while I'm watching them, and then go my merry way and they don't feel possible to me. They both feel too magical. Star Trek and The Planet of the Apes feel more plausible to me, that we could eventually reach the stars but with problems, or that our society would be overrun via evolution.
Roberta
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 04:17 pm
@jespah,
jes, I was waiting for you and hoping you'd show up here.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 06:40 pm
There are very few novels which are actually science fiction as opposed to science fantasy, which is what most of the genre is. Cornered by reporters, Einstein said that there might be bridges in space-time. People have taken that and run with it, so they can get around that annoying speed of light limit. In 1974, Joe Haldeman wrote The Forever War, for which he won the Nebula in 1975, and the Hugo and Locus awards in 1976. The novel tells the story of soldiers in an interstellar war who spend 35 years, mostly in flight at near light speed. That's 35 years for them, 1200 years on earth. I'm not qualified to do the math, but Haldeman made a damn fine job of writing science fiction rather than science fact.

In the 1990s, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote his Mars triology: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars. There are a few minor errors in it (he referred to the Year Without a Summer as 1810, but it was 1816 and he blamed Giovcanni Schiaparelli for the Martian canals craze; in fact, he was saying that he had seen channels on Mars, and the Italian word for channels is canali, so it was idiot English-speaking journalists who were responsible). Not only is the science as it was then known correct, but his speculations about surface conditions on Mars have been proven correct by the rovers there. His biggest plot device was that people would learn to prolong their lives to 200 or 250 years, enabling his characters to live through the terraforming of Mars. I consider the Mars trilogy to be science fiction rather than science fantasy.

David Brin, an astrophysicist who taught astrophysics and creative writing in a university in Oregon (he may still do), created his uplift universe which depended on "transfer" points, such as the so-called worm holes other writers use to get around the light speed limit. When Einstein made his comment about bridges in space time (remember, he said there might be) he also said that he thought they would be unstable. Brin ends his six novel series with the collapse of the transfer points. As an astrophysicist, I guess he felt compelled to come back to something resembling reality.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 06:41 pm
Oh, and Jessalonika is correct, great SF novels actually tell us about ourselves. The novels I've mentioned do exactly that.
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maxdancona
 
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Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2018 08:16 pm
My favorite science fiction writers act as sociologists. They create different social rules, and then have human characters navigate these different societies.

Ursula LeGuinn was brilliant at this. The Left Hand of Darkness posits a world without gender... well, people are normally asexual and then temporarily choose a gender while they are in heat. The Dispossessed is about a physicist from a world with a social "utopia" coming to a world that is very much like a Western society on Earth. It is pretty cool, in that it explores both the familiar and the foreign society equally (the utopia is not always utopian as he discovers).

I recent read Bradbury's classic The Moon is a Marsh Mistress, the society on the moon is very well fleshed out. He introduces the idea of "chain marriage" which I found pretty interesting. My daughter and I also recently read "Artemis" by Andrew Weir. The character of Jasmine (a strong-willed smuggler) was the pull of the story, but the culture of life on the moon was just as much a part of the story.

My favorite fiction is about about characters; human beings I like and relate to faced with interesting challenges. Putting them in an interesting cultural setting with new rules makes great fiction even more fun.

I am a science geek in real life, surprisingly the science in science fiction isn't that important to me as long as the rules in the fictional universe are mostly consistent. I am willing to forgive a lot of bad science if you give me strong characters, interesting ideas, and a great story.
farmerman
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 05:23 am
@maxdancona,
Science geek here too and I find that I get too forensic in my reads in scifi. Therefore Im not really a big fan of the written genre. Most all of the recent movies that try to be scifi or are at least on an asymptote, I find kinda simple minded relying on CGI to get you in the theater.
Having said that, what I really like are movies that are adventures with a goal. Same thing with reading, thats why real science stories are wonderful IMHO.
maxdancona
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 08:09 am
@farmerman,
Have you taken a look at The Expanse? It is a pretty solid Universe, the science seems completely correct. The genius of the show is the characters, and the political drama they set up between off-world miners, wealthy residents living on Earth and a military led government on Mars.

The TV series is amazingly well done (I didn't read the series of novels).
farmerman
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 08:58 am
@maxdancona,
Ill try it on your recc. I think its a Netflix series??

I got one of those Alexa babes so I dont have to screw with the remote anymore and havent lost it yet
maxdancona
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 09:18 am
@farmerman,
I think The Expanse is on the SciFy channel. I got the first season free with Amazon Prime (and was presently surprised at how much I loved it). I paid around $30 for the second season.

Edit: I just noticed my typo above on the post above. It is a Heinlein classic, and it is actually called "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" (the penalty of typing quickly with ones thumbs)..
maxdancona
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 10:38 am
@maxdancona,
On the other side, many people myself included think that this is one of the greatest single episodes of any science fiction franchise. The science isn't so important; it is a madman with a Blue Box and the science fiction equivalent of a magic wand... but there is no better platform for telling some incredibly compelling stories.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5uc4ab

Quote:
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect... but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly.... timey-wimey.... stuff.


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Setanta
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 12:27 pm
@farmerman,
I wouldn't go see The Martian because it was so full of poop. In the case of Mars, it's not as though writing about the planet were an exercise in speculation. The author of the novel from which the movie was made was interviewed on the radio one day, and was excited and proud of himself. I saw the trailers for the movie and knew then that the author's knowledge was shallow and spotty at best. I wasn't going to drop a bundle (which is what going to the movies is these days) on what I knew would be a piece of crap which would just annoy me.

Some joker (all journalists are jokers, and they're usually not very funny unless they're parading their ignorance) at a NASA press conference brought up the movie The Martian. The NASA spokesman said flatly: "We don't leave anyone behind." Several questions were shouted at him as he left the podium, so he turned around, walked back to the mic and said: "We don't leave anyone behind." That pretty well covered it for me.
Setanta
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 12:43 pm
For those who have mentioned The Planet of the Apes, that was based on La Plan├Ęte des singes (which actually means the planet of the monkeys), by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote The Bridge over the River Kwai). It is about a couple in space who find a kind of message in a bottle, which tells the tale of three humans who find a planet on which the great apes are dominant, and humans wild savages. The couple find it quaint and amusing, but entirely implausible. They return to earth, and land at Orly airport in Paris where the immigration office drives up in a jeep--and the immigration officer is a gorilla. This doesn't bother the couple, who are chimpanzees. They found the idea of civilized humans who can speak, write and build space ships too preposterous to entertain.
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farmerman
 
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Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2018 04:07 pm
@Setanta,
we streamed it and yep, I agree. The gardening and the extractions were crap . I dont know how it did at the box office. I think that when the announcements an the buzz and then the trailers are out, the audience has been already defined.

I did like a number of the very short ones like Outer Limits. I especially liked the one where the aliens presented earth with a book called "To serve man", which, at the end of the show , when it was interpreted to be a cookbook. Cute , but like Kind Kong (where the natives built this huge door in their giant monkey excluder) and nobody asked whaaa?
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eurocelticyankee
 
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Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2018 06:24 am
@tsarstepan,
I like the matrix/total recall idea. Wouldn't it be great that when you died, for a brief few seconds darkness, then light slowly seeps in, then you're hearing laughter and voices. You recognise these voices, they're all the loved ones you have lost and they're all standing around you laughing and welcoming you back. It all comes back to you then. It was all a simulation and now you're back in the real world where everybody's healthy gorgeous, handsome and of course immortal.
That would be a great sci-fi universe.
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