Science fiction versus science factSo, if you’re like me and participate in Facebook groups, etc. revolving around Greater Nerddom, you might already be familiar with the subject of this article. Still, I wanted to take a moment to give my thoughts on the subject. Forbes ran an article recently, written by a biologist, throwing cold water on the success of Star Trek Discovery. The thesis of that article was that the premise underlying the show is based on shoddy science, and it has led to an interesting discussion about the importance of “hard” science as the basis for science fiction.

Before I go any further, I should admit that I consider this to be nonsense. If I’m stating my own opinion (which I obviously am), I think folks need to learn to suspend their disbelief. It is possible to simply enjoy good fiction without nitpicking every detail. I know this is possible, because I do it myself. There’s really no need to delve into every detail and rip it apart. In fact, I admit to being immediately suspicious of the motives of those who do. Some, I think, simply decide they don’t like something and look for things like this to back up their argument.

Of course, I’m not saying everyone who feels this way is being shady or is even necessarily wrong. Everyone has their own opinions, and science fiction fans are a notoriously passionate bunch. This article is simply me sharing my opinion on the subject, which you are free to agree or disagree with in good faith.

On the subject of suspending disbelief, the main argument is that there has to be method to the madness. There has to be some level of reality/scientific basis for science fiction to work. Otherwise, it risks seeming silly. I wholeheartedly agree with that; but things don’t have to be picked apart meticulously. They aren’t hiring molecular biologists and their like to write scripts, and if they did they would probably be unwatchable. My point is simply to say that fiction is fiction and should be treated that way.

This author of the Forbes article is essentially splitting hairs over the scientific accuracy of a science fiction series famous for making up pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo on the fly. I wonder if they were a physicist, instead of a biologist, would they be complaining about warp drive being implausible? Frankly, that technology is just as outlandish, if not more so.

We’re talking about a franchise that utilizes fake crystals that don’t exist to facilitate a fictional chain reaction to explain away a faster-than-light propulsion system that “hard” science says defies all accepted laws of physics. And that’s before you mention transporter beams and matter generation producing food, clothing, etc. on demand out of thin air. Or gravity plating in the floors, giving them perfect gravity in space. Or phased energy beam weapons. Since when has Star Trek depended on “hard” science exactly? Someone needs to remind me, because I’m not seeing it. If the stories were bad, that would be one thing, but I guess I just don’t understand their motivations. Moaning about science fiction being too fictionalized leaves me wondering why they watch it in the first place?

Again, all of this is really just my opinion, so you can take it or leave it. As always and in all things, your mileage may vary. I think it’s also important to point out, however, that the spore-drive at the root of this discussion *IS* actually based on real science. Granted, at least for now, that science has apparently been disproved through peer review. Who’s to say that someone won’t come along later and disprove the disprovers, though? Lest we forget that’s kind of how science works; it’s an ever-evolving field. Either way—as a fledgling writer—I’m uncomfortable with being constrained, forced to remain within the realms of accepted theory. It is the job of fiction to entertain, and I don’t think it’s wise to place limits on that.

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3 Comments

The Expanse Season 3 Episode 9 - Viewing Notes - The Internet Home of Author J.S. Crews · July 30, 2018 at 11:56 PM

[…] accurately portray science without it hurting the story. Previously, I’ve been an advocate that story should trump accuracy with respect to science in science fiction. I still stand by that. What’s truly beautiful, though, is when writers are able to satisfy both. […]

Vikings Season 5 Episode 12 – Viewing Notes - The Internet Home of Author J.S. Crews · December 6, 2018 at 1:04 AM

[…] mean, I have always said that story should take precedence over accuracy in most respects, and I still believe that. I guess I’m a bit torn about it, but the truly […]

The Expanse Season 3 Episode 2 - Viewing Notes - The Internet Home of Author J.S. Crews · April 9, 2019 at 4:04 PM

[…] is something The Expanse is known for, and I think that’s awesome. While I will always argue story should take priority over strict scientific accuracy in fiction, it doesn’t mean it’s not […]

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