For (un)Science

Cheerbaby Goes to State is off on the first stage of its editorial journey, and that means it’s time to get back to Secret Secret Shush Shush.

Relatedly, I would like to point out this great io9.com article by the most excellent Ms Charlie Jane Anders on the 10 Myths About Space Travel That Make Science Fiction Better, with actual physicists talking about their favorite space tropes.

A lot of the comments have maybe missed the point though. I summarise, exaggeratedly: SFF writers just keep on getting it WRONG. SO WRONG. YOU CAN’T TRAVEL FASTER THAN LIGHT. WHY WON’T THEY GET SMARTER AND WRITE IT RIGHT?

I promise, we’re getting it wrong on purpose.

The thing is, if SFF writers had to stick to completely realistic space travel stories, we’d run out of material pretty fast.

Like, “We went to the moon and then we planted an American flag for SOME REASON even though the moon is kind of everyone’s and walked around a bit and then came home, it was awesome!”

Or, “The shuttle blew up 73 seconds into its flight after an O-ring failure and tragically everyone on board died.”

Or, “There’s a robot on Mars and it is sending home pictures and descriptions of Mars and its makeup and our scientists are analyzing them, that’s pretty neat.”

These are all good stories (not all about good things, sadly). I find them fascinating. But we can have even more stories where we go, okay, inertia dampeners, FTL travel, no radiation sickness, and let’s make up a random substance that provides lots of energy!

Authors draw different lines about what will and won’t work in their universes, which laws of physics do and don’t apply. My only concern about these rules when I’m reading (and writing) is that they be clear and consistent. Other than that, I don’t care. Bring on the alien species with whom we can communicate! Bring on the dogfights in space!

I am in favor of more stories. I am in favour of ignoring physics in the service of fantasy. I am a big fan of science fact – but I adore science fiction.