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F&SF Forum » The Process of Writing

Vamping The " S " Part

(7 posts)
  • Started 3 weeks ago by BevanEvansMcdougie
  • Latest reply from JohnWThiel

  1. BevanEvansMcdougie
    Member

    Is there a term for, when writing an SF story, not really spending a lot of time justifying a scientifically extraordinary thing that happens in the storyy? Just, more or less, saying " It happened " and proceeding from there for the story's events to happen.
    This could especilly be a case when a fairly standard science-fictional plot concept/readymade is used - As is frequently pointed out, personed across-the-univese spaceship voyages and time travel are not real plausible - but the are frequently used as story building blocks all the same. Perhaps this could be said to violate " true " science fiction ideals, but...

    Posted 3 weeks ago #
  2. Marian
    Member

    I believe the technical term is "handwavium."

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  3. BevanEvansMcdougie
    Member

    ...:-)! Oh, boy! Thank you, Marian. Now, if I can just get started on those two stories, one involving an apocalyptic moment that just leaves one group of people alive and kills everybody else, but leaves the " stage sets " untouched and the one involving traveling out of this time and dimension to see a (real world) legendary unrecorded musician...

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  4. JohnWThiel
    Member

    "Quasi-" scientific writing, too.

    Posted 2 weeks ago #
  5. Greg
    Member

    When all else fails, there's always technobabble.

    Posted 1 week ago #
  6. CarlGlover
    Member

    In "The Martian Way" (which I happen to have recently re-read), Asimov does it thusly:

    Two members of the crew of a scavenging space ship view a video explaining in detail why they are there, thus providing the necessary background for the events of the story, in spite of the fact that they've seen it all before and certainly know why they are where they are. They patiently watch the film and discuss it, all for the benefit of the reader and not themselves.

    So, it comes across to the reader as patently artificial, irrational and awkward, and is not something these characters would do. It is badly managed by Asimov and sets a tone of questionable believability for the characters' subsequent actions. Intelligent people really wouldn't behave this way.

    Or so it seemed as I read the story. But I've also seen many worse methods in other stories. I'm not sure there is any truly convincing way to do it, except, perhaps, by someone like Heinlein, who did it effortlessly but whose technique is still a mystery to me.

    On the other hand, perhaps it is telling that the story is in the SF Hall of Fame, in spite of what to me is only one of several serious flaws. It's the idea that matters, I guess, and not how it's executed. Indeed, the central idea is extravagant and intriguing, but ultimately preposterous. I've heard that Campbell rejected it for ASF, which wouldn't have been surprising.

    Posted 5 days ago #
  7. JohnWThiel
    Member

    "Sorry, Mr. Heinlein, we can't use your manuscript."

    Posted 3 days ago #

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