Science Fiction

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.

Ray Bradbury

12 thoughts on “Science Fiction”

    • Most definitions try to fence in the field so that *only* what they can imagine fits. Times change and we constantly learn more is possible than fits in tbeir philosophy.
      I prefer to include everything and only fence out what we absolutely know doesn’t plausibly fit in a rational world (the science part). And that is subject to revision as the borders of science grow.

      • We also have to time-bind the definition. Thus, “Doc” Smith’s Skylark of Space is still science fiction, as is Heinlein’s Red Planet.

        To do otherwise would require us to throw out some of Bradbury’s own work.

        • Sure.
          All fiction is tied to its times, which is somehow incomprehensible to presentists. The story doesn’t lose its heritage because its foundation was flawed.

          If anything, the pioneers set down the reader expectations for the field. Which is why, unlike other genres, SF is deeply vested in the eternal backlist. They showed the way.

          But, as to Skylark, Smith had his say in the revised edition of SKYLARK OF SPACE, where his protagonist shrugged Einstein off by saying “relativity is a theory, our speed is a fact”. 🙂

          His shade might still get a sort of last laugh if Modified Newtonian Dynamics pans out:

          And then there is the inertialess travel from LENSMEN which is still as plausible as any theory given that nobody has proven what inertia is except a useful concept. “It is an effect of mass” is the common answer which says nothing about what it is and how it manifests.

          Much as SF itself, it is easier to say what it isn’t than what it is.
          Which is fine, right?
          Life would be dreadfully boring if the old encyclopedists’ dream manifests.

  1. Bradbury was right.

    – Science Fiction is relentless constant change.

    – Fantasy is restoring the balance.

    – Horror is revealing what is beneath the surface of the Real.


    – LOTR is Science Fiction, because the Magic goes away.

    – Star Trek is Fantasy, because at the end of each episode, the balance is restored and it’s all ahead warp factor one.

    – The Matrix is Horror, because it actually shows the reality under the surface illusion of The Matrix.

    Phasers and photon torpedoes do not make Science Fiction. Elves and Dragons do not make Fantasy. Zombies and werwolves do not make Horror.

    BTW, All those stories that show living worlds are not “wrong” they are merely based in a different copy Solar System than our own. We live on a copy Earth. We are one of millions of copy Earths in a copy Milky Way.

    Plus, Einstein was a pretty boy rock star, not an actual scientist. He abandoned experimental reality because his fantasy did not match. His first wife wrote the paper that won him the Nobel Prize. After WWI, the Pacifist movement was trying to pull Europe back together. The evils done in that war by “civilized” nations was so extreme that Eddington helped elevate Einstein to prominence.

    That’s why Hitler rejected “Jewish” science, because it was all about the Pacifist movement of the times. He wanted his people to be “wolves”, not pacifists.

    All the fantasy stuff that Einstein came up with, Special and General Relativity, had to be fixed up by his friends because he was not good at Math.

    Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I

    • Speaking of magic going away, Larry Niven (who being a physicist, considered all time aravel stories fantasy, as witnessed in his SVETZ stories, FLIGHT OF THE HORSE series) did in fact create a story titled precisely THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. And sequels.

      TL:DR He posited a somewhat plausible, rationalistic explanation of magic.
      (No midichlorians, though.)

      Both very good stuff.

      • Niven was right about magic, it needs an external source of power, but was wrong about time travel.

        He based his complaint about “time travel” on “conservation of energy” not realizing that with Quantum Physics you could have whole galaxies come in and out of existence without changing the fact that the sum total of all energy in the Universe is zero.

        – There is matter, and there is gravity.

        They balance each other out in the equation.

        He looked at an object “disappearing” from the Universe “now”, and an object “appearing” in the past, thus appearing to destroy and create matter. It simply shifts the object in “time” and never disappears from the Universe.

        The other part he got wrong was that an object traveling back in time would be at a different position in space than where the Earth was.

        In reality, you can put a small time machine on a train, send it back in time, and it will appear on the train where ever it was in the past. If the time machine goes back before the train car was built, then it will appear on the ground in the assembly shed.

        – The Universe is nonlocal, and acausal.

        If you look at any story, “magic” is powered by electricity. Electricity is generated in the crust, the atmosphere, and comes pouring in from space. The Universe is Electric, not based on gravity.

        The Wizards in Harry Potter are calling up apps that trigger the magic. The magic does not come from them. Muggles are simply people who can’t run the apps.

        That’s my Story, and I’m sticking to it.

        • I like classic time travel stories (Heinlein, Asimov) but Niven was right, time travel is fantasy. My take is actually more radical: time does not exist other than as (a) an ordering of events that an observor records as taking place at their location and (b) an imagimary co-ordinate used in mathematical models used to account for present observations on the basis of some assumed condition in the past, and to predict future observations on the basis of some assumed current state of the universe. Thus there is no past or future only a “now” where change happens and time travel is impossible.

          Of course, I could be wrong …

          • That’s an interesting concept that is burning my brain.

            That’s like The Langoliers, where the future is assembled. and the past disassembled, with the “Now” in-between. Yet, I suddenly can’t see where the past is stored, or the future until we get there.

            And I can’t see how to include things like “Future memory” or “Past memory” into the concept of only “Now”. Yikes!


          • Maybe, maybe not.

            I really, really like Niven’s vision of time travel, but it’s not fantasy. There is a clean, paradox-free and free will-respecting explanation for what he positted in the Svetz stories and it was succintly explained in the recent, much maligned, FLASH movie.


            It also fits fine with THE FINAL COUNTDOWN’S model that “things only happen once.” Time travel stories are about the traveller’s perceptions. But what they perceive is not necessarily the entirety of what is actually happens. Even David Weber’s GORDIAN PROTOCOL series fits. And that one is *wild*.

            This model aligns perfectly with Modal Realism, many-worlds theory, and infinite brane multiverses. And it doesn’t even require time to be real. Dunno where the movie writers got that metaphor but it is perfect for their needs. As the movie makes clear, moving very fast makes Flash very powerful but not powerful enough to kill a single Kryptonian (Superman’s people) much less an army of them.

            Changing an entire existing universe (butterfly effect–envisioned by Bradbury) shouldn’t be within his scope or any time traveller (Niven’s conservation argument). On the other hand, a traveller moving across an infinite multiverse will be able to find a pre-existing universe (where time runs minutely different) identical to his native world at any point in time. And since that universe’s future hasn’t happened, nothing he does there changes his own past. No massive re-creation of a universe needed, no magic needed.

            And since both Type Two and Type Three multiverses fit in with a variety of the still undetermined “theory of everything” in physics, what is presented as time travel is still plausible without invoking magic. 🙂

            Modal reality is a wonderfully useful concept for spinning stories. All it needs is a specific spin/seed.

            (In the Flash movie the time traveller metaphor presents multiple “variants” of the same person when in reality, as that world’s Bruce Wayne explains, they are distinct, separate, people whose timelines are crossing. Which is why the third act climax makes perfect sense.)

            • I’ve been slowly bouncing around The Flash movie, working my way through it. I didn’t see the spaghetti scene until now.

              That explains the Multiverse. That shows why everything changes the way it does in the comics.


              – Retrocausality

              You change the future and also change the past. Beyond disturbing.

              Watching the DC movies, I see that they make the Marvel movies look sane. The shear darkness in the DC movies is amazing.

              This all reminded me of what I used to know:

              The Proteus Operation

              When the people go back to change the past, they are actually creating a new worldline that does not impact their own. The change occurs at the branch point, without retrocausality.

              That was the main theory I saw that was different from the classic Time Tunnel concept, which is the Butterfly Effect.

              Here is a podcast with Weber:

              The Gordian Division Series

              I’ll read the sample and go from there.

              Thanks again.

              • Without giving much away, GORDIAN KNOT also ties time travel to the multiverse as Flash does.

                The key point Bats made in the movie is that by changing the past you are connected to change *your* future. The rest of your universe goes on with the past you left behind and a future without you.

                As I said, time travel is about the perception of the traveler.
                Quantum mechanics is still struggling with the question of the observer.

                On the movies, well yes, DC movies are darker and more complicated because their universe (inspired by the Nolan Trilogy) aspires to reflect the tone and complexity of our times. (All fiction is rooted in its times, remember.) Their movies have both theme and plot. The marvel movies and shows are divorced from our reality and are (as pointed out by more than one critic) more bathos than pathos. They are all plot and lately loaded with plot holes and idiot plots, stuff that is presented without rationale and is forgotten after it moves the action foreard with no thought to its actual logic.

                The Snyder superman movies were meant to be a trilogy musing on how *our* world would react to the appearance of kyptonian level aliens, where one alone can wreck cities untouched. Fear and suspicion, especially since his presence on earth brought an army of hostile aliens. BvS followed through on the split between those that see him as a divine entity for all his good deeds and those tat focus on the destruction he is capable of. Plus the very real human habit of seeking to destroy the high achievers among us. Luthor wanted to “kill god” and Bats wanted to bring him down to his, human level. The Humans, as a collective, aren’t nice and the DC movies play on that. And by an large too many folks dislike being reminded of that reality. They preferred the marvel view of humans as innocents in need of protection from outside evil. Bad things happen from outside the purview of humanity not from within. It is always aliens, secret cabals, outsiders…

                No attempt at nuance.
                Little wonder that the appeal of their fairy tales has faded as the real world reminds us yet again that the biggrst eviks come from humans versus humans. Hobbes was not totally wrong. He just fied to understand that the state, being run by humans is as nasty and brutish as its absence.

                Something being rubbed in our noses daily.

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