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Monday 14 October 2002

Sci-Fi fan opinions wanted [lurks]

I was going to stuck this in the other blog but I thought it might be better in a new one. Since I'm out of work at the moment, I've been sketching out some characters and a plot for a book. My current thinking is setting 100-150 or so years in the future, far enough that there's plenty of sci-fi trappings but not so far as to detract from my 'hard sci-fi' preference as a genre as opposed of stuff like Iain M Banks writes.

My conflict diagram has plenty of space for all the sorts of things we like to see, the question is what is it that you like to read about most in sci-fi books? You like spaceships scrapping out, weapons of mass destruction? Or you like sneaky covert stuff, dudes sneaking about with lasers? How about AI concepts, cyberpunk and biotechnology? Then there's ETs. I normally don't go for ETs, at least not yet. What's your feelings about that?

Any opinions here would be joyously received.


  1. Well-written prose with solid, realistic characters and well-thought out sci-fi concepts. And a decent plot of course. Beyond that - it doesn't matter whether it's spaceships, sneak suits, ETs or cyberpunk, as far as I'm concerned. Think up something original and expand people's horizons! Ultimately though, the concept is only 10%... The execution of that concept is the remaining 90% of the reason why I'd bother reading a book.

  2. Well that's it, I can't ask for opinions about that stuff - I know what it is I want ot do and that's all about characterization and story telling. That said, I see no reason why not to include the sorts of action stuff that people love from movies and so on. Icing on the cake, it's in this area that I'd like opinions.

  3. Hmm, I'd have to go for the spaceships scrapping it out bit. :) I don't think I've read much about near-future spaceship fights.. like using rockets and rail guns and particle beams - with no fancy hyperspace/warp/shields ultra futuristic tech. You don't get a feeling that space flight is inherently dangerous in a lot of novels, as the technology is so advanced and people know exactly where they are and can communicate across light years.

    Space flight and fighting at the same stage in its technological evolution as, for example the initial exploration of the worlds oceans and the piracy in the atlantic hundreds of years ago would be cool. hmm, not explaining this very well am I?

    The idea would be space flight and combat at a time where there's no fancy technology, life in space is hard and miserable, death is only a hull fracture away etc. Real Apollo 13-style hard-science near future fight for survival. Anyone read 'The Heart of the Comet' by Gregory Benford I think - like that. :)

  4. It's all over very quickly though is the only thought. I'm with you though, it would be nice to have a realistic hard sci-fi telling of space battle. Perhaps even... the first real space battle. That would be interesting wouldn't it?

    I'd like to do that. It would potentially get more interesting when you throw my other favorite topic of AI into it. In reality you'd rarely send humans against eachother in space warfare. However machines smashing machines is much less interesting than the fight-for-survival concept you're talking about. I think real space-craft would have a similar to Das Boot albiet being strapped in and undergoing high-G acceleration. Hidden threats, the psycology of knowing that death can come so easily and you'll never have the chance to avoid it. To make that worth something, characters and making people feel attached to them is the tricky and important bit.

  5. Oh yeah, weapons of mass destruction! Always nice to have! Though very cheesey to actually *use* them, but great to build a story around. Evil towelheads with space-born nukes/asteroid flinger things threaten Earth oh my! :)

  6. I've always thought it cheesy not to use them. If I see another fucking movie about defusing a nuclear bomb, I shall explode with the force of one myself! :)

    There's lessons to be learned here though. Certainly sci-fi in the main does a good job of depicting violence on huge scales but cheapening the whole thing so you care less about it than someone defusing a stick of C4 in a traditional drama.

    That's why I prefer to stick to a fairly close future and involve real characters. I think that's part of the secret of the success of Cyberpunk, it was actually about the characters and gave you a hint as to the authors vision of a future world. That's much more interesting and involving than reading some space opera where planets get wasted but you don't know the name of a single person that died.

  7. Yeah I'm with you there Lurks, Das Boot in space! 100 tons of the most expensive and sophisticated machinery known to man and it's still a rat hole that smells of wee and sweat hehe.

    The AI would come into it during the fights I guess, if you've vessels moving at high speed in 3 dimensions using long range zero-time-to-target weapons or high speed guided munitions you're just going to have to activate the Fire-Control-AI-O-Matic and hope for the best. :)

    You're right though, it's the writing and the characters that matter most.. I've no ideas along those lines though.

  8. That's the interesting stuff for me but no one else really has to know how it works until they read it. I'm a believer in saying 'What do you like?' then working out how to make that happen in some sort believable way.

    Getting back to Das Boot in space. I guess you'd have regular characters, passengers, integral to the plot and you'd have specialist ships crew and here comes some nice military and cyberpunk type stuff. The idea of the pioneering era of space flight is very interesting when you realise that this wont be the only technology that will be changing the course of human evolution. In this time frame, it'll be as much of a challenge to make any kind of meaningful AI as it will be to make a space ship as it will be to enhance the human race for the important challenges of things like living in space.

    I think it's far more interesting writing about attaining technology in a sci-fi genre than leaping into having all this technology at your finger tips and taking it for granted.

  9. Right, finally gotten net access (of a sort).

    As Shinji said, as long as it's well implemented, any kind of conflict is good - be it covert ops, intelligence, ships twatting eachother. I have a preference for shady, morally questionable spec ops type stuff, but that's just personal preference.

    As to the tech level, yes, writing about the path to obtaining and integrating new technology would definitely be more interesting, mainly because it's not been done that often, and it leads on to questions like how new developments would affect society at large. (A good example of this is how biotech lead to Edenism in Peter F. Hamilton's 'Night's Dawn' trilogy).

    As to space combat, if you want to stick with near future, then you might be limited by the lack of a plausible means for FTL travel...other than that, I can't see any logistical problems, regardless of what you decide to do. Good luck with it anyway mate.

  10. One day I'd like to write a kinda deeper future space opera type thing but it doesn't really sit too well with me now. So there's definately no FTL monkey business.

    I think a lot of us have a bit of a soft spot for covert action and I think I've got plenty of ideas for what would be nifty on that front so it's definately getting worked in.

    Biggest difficulty I have at the moment is actually getting a writing set up sorted. I like to write out the back since it's quiet but I don't have a lappy anymore. Suxors!