“If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts. Then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax.'” – The MST3K mantra
The single most important things you need to understand about creating fiction.
The science does not matter.
If this seems like an odd position to take for someone who is making a blog about getting science right, it’s because that isn’t what I’m trying to do.
I’m trying to make a blog about getting your stories right.
Sometimes getting your facts straight will be a necessary component of that, but it shouldn’t be the goal.
The willing suspension of disbelief
This is it in a nutshell. If the people who are reading or watching your stuff enjoy themselves, then mission accomplished, that’s all you need to do.
It doesn’t matter why they are enjoying themselves, just that they are. Conversely if your audience finds that they aren’t enjoying themselves as much as they could be, because you have failed to convince them that your story is plausible, then this is something that you should care about.
This is a blog about science. About what it looks, smells, and sounds like, about how heavy it is. And it’s going to talk about real science. But it’s also going to talk about what’s cool, and what’s cinematic, what people expect to see, and how they will react if they don’t.
I’m going to tell you the rules, but I’m also going to tell you how to break them as carefully as possible, with the minimum of noise, and so that the cracks don’t spread too far. Science is at least as much about ideas as it is about facts, and it’s those ideas are where the fiction lives.
Ultimately, we need people to be enthusiastic about science, because if they aren’t then we will run out of scientists. Anyone who has ever been through grad school will understand that it doesn’t really matter if our new scientists are enthusiastically wrong, at least, not at first.
There is a lot of snobbery about both science and success
A lot of people, probably the vast majority of people who consume the media that you want to produce, have a pretty cursory scientific education. This is not, in itself, a bad thing, and it doesn’t make them stupid.
In most cases, they went to school, they did the bare minimum of science, and then they immediately forgot as much of it as possible because it failed to become relevant to their everyday lives. If you can make more money by selling stories that appeal to them, then more power to you.
There are a lot of different metrics of success, and your work is certainly going to be judged on its artistic and factual merits. But if you are an actual person, who has to eat actual food, and pay for actual expensive things, then metrics like “units sold” and “net profit” have a certain attraction.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not telling you that you should always prioritize cynical commercialism over art. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you were interested in making money at all costs, then most of you probably wouldn’t be writers.
But what if you could make the same story without alienating the people who did continue study to science, after society stopped trying to make them?
That’s what you want, and that’s I aim to help you with.
So please, if at any point, if any of the things that I write about regarding how things really work, or what you shouldn’t do. If any of these things stand in the way of the story, then just remember that it’s the story that comes first and that, ultimately, what that means, is entirely up to you.
So, welcome to TechTropes.com, I will have a couple more articles up for you this weekend. The first discusses some of the common issues that come up in mixing science into fiction. The second will be the first real resource article, “Deathrays 101 – The Laser”.
And if you like what you see, come back soon, and tell your friends.