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Getting the Right Wrong

As a kidlette I read a lot.  Since I was reading at an adult comprehension level when I was seven, there was very little Dick and Jane in my life, and a lot more Hell at 50 Fathoms, which I read at least a dozen times before getting out of the 6th Grade.

The one genre I was into, however, was science fiction.  I got my hands on most of the Golden Age authors and bought their books, read them cover to cover again and again, and went looking for more.  There was something awe inspiring to live in that time and know your book store would soon carry the new Clarke, the new Asimov, the new Heinlein, the new Ellison . . .

There was something that the writers back then spoke of when talking about science fiction and fantasy.  It was known that some of the things they wrote about were, perhaps, going to never come about.  There were items and subjects and characters that might not ever be anything but words on the page.  And they knew this, because–hey, writers, we make stuff up, right?

The trick, they said, was to follow your internal logic, and to keep your rules consistent.  If your technology could only do A, B, and C, you damn well better not have it do E at some point.  As David Gerrold once point out, if you write your story so that people can only use their right hands, then you damn well better now have the hero save the day at the end of the story by using their left hand.  Anything that plays hard and loose with your internal logic, that violates your rules and laws, it cheating that would make Lance Armstrong say, “Dude!” while giving you the stink eye.

When you’re writing anything–not just science fiction, but anything that requires some “facts” to come into play–it’s always best to do your research and make certain when you’re setting up your premise, you are working with something that not only makes sense,  but is also something that can’t be taken as complete bullshit.  Given what we know about space flight these days, it’s difficult–if not impossible–to write a story about some kids cobbling a rocket together in an abandoned field and flying it into orbit.  Oh, sure, you can adjust the rules of your universe and all that, but you best make certain that is spelled out so people don’t scratch their heads and go, “Huh?”

I’m in a few groups on Facebook where I hear and see about new novels and stories from people like me, writers who hope this will be our job one day.  I saw something like that the other day:  a new book, by someone I know.  I’m checking out the blurb, and right off the bat, I see something stated as a major plot point–

That is totally, scientifically wrong.

Now, I do things with time travel and faster than light space drives.  I can hand wave with the best of them, and I always try to keep my facts straight when I do this.  If my ships go this fast, I find out the distances between two stars and calculate travel times.  That’s how you do things.  When you’re stating as fact something that can be fact checked on any number of databases as all sorts of wrong, you’ve pretty much ruined the story for me–and probably for a number of readers as well.

Your stories live and die by facts and rules.  Create your rules based upon the first, and never violate the later.

Otherwise, you could find yourself becoming the Next Big Internet Meme.

 

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