Editorial – Sept 2013: Should we argue with God?

August 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

Should we argue with God?

Hello everyone

Apart from the line above stirring up the religiously inclined, perhaps I should explain what I mean. Even more so because as Science Fiction readers we do this a lot already. The gods in Science Fiction are the writers or creators of the story realities. What is created is their worlds with god-like imagination, especially when set in the far future or on a distant world. It would be very hard not to see the similarity. What they see goes. As observers, we in turn, when it comes to examining such realities and care about them, will often debate aspects of them, especially when we think they’ve got it wrong. As reviewers on this website, we are also rather effective in turning our arguments into words although you don’t have to be a reviewer to do this. Effectively, we are all arguing with God or various reality gods as to the decisions they make. The question then is should we?

GodAndTheAtomb

The most obvious question to ask first of all is should we argue at all? It won’t change anything, will it? As seen with Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dragonrider’ novels and certainly with Larry Niven’s ‘Known Space’ stories, scientists had a telling effect on the levels of science and technology incorporated in both series and made the detail more logical and was incorporated into future stories of their realities. It certainly made other SF writers a lot more careful in their universe-building even if there was a significant move towards space opera than a reflection on our society or technological advances. Although it would be difficult to get direct information from the most informed scientists, it did become a consideration by some publishers employing SF writers who were also scientists. That way they were having the best of both worlds, people who could write SF with some element of authority or expertise to mean fewer would risk questioning their science which they would certainly get right. Things are beginning to balance themselves out a bit better now with SF writers now out there who aren’t also scientists but have avoided mistakes by researching their subjects properly. Mind you, there is a limit to how many scientists want to write Science Fiction.

One of the primary objectives with Science Fiction and which is widely done by its fans is to discuss various subjects rising from it, either amongst ourselves or with the writers themselves, aided through the Internet these days. Other than the odd interview, I have to confess to never having looked in on such things. Mind you, no one has ever addressed any problems with my stories which might also be a reflection of elsewhere as well. Then again, I could be just too careful not to leave myself open for such criticism or actually getting my knowledge right by doing the necessary research. It’s how I write articles, so I shouldn’t be that surprised. The general feeling is that I think I intimidate or scare you but that’s just me. Would that be true if I really made a cock-up in a story or article? You’ll have to let me know. I’ve dropped a little editing clangers in a couple reviews recently and it got an immediate response from one person in each so I know someone is reading out there. Where I’m concerned, I’m not sure if I would want to do a deliberately screwed-up story just to see how much attention it would get me.

I mean, take my story, ‘Space Emergency’, last month. Assuming that you did read it either before or because of my editorial last month, did you considering how The Barley Firefly starship could coast on a deceleration for the last half of its flight? Newton’s First Law says that the starship will continue on at the achieved maximum acceleration it reached, so how would it be slow enough to shed speed around the star Tau Ceti when it arrives? At the very least you should have wondered had I made a mistake.

I was reading the book ‘Spaceship Century’ this month and found them using a similar example to myself which is when it struck me that I might not have explained how my starship decelerated sufficiently. As I’ve been known to inadvertently include the answers in my own stories had I left my own solution? Yep. It does pay to talk to yourself. The starship was still picking up interstellar matter and all it needed to slow down was to reverse thrust on the last half of the trip. Of course, it would make sense to go further at near light speed before slowing down and hence the need to lose speed aerobraking around Tau Ceti. I might not have given all the details, like the ground on the starship would then be facing the opposite direction, but the end result was in there. As I was playing God with the story, then I answered my own question. As it was an emergency, they needed to pick up an acceleration to achieve maximum velocity for sufficient distance before losing it again, staying within acceptable science. Even so, would you have spotted such things or just accepted what you read because the writer is god of his material and who argues with God?

Arguing or discussing something you don’t understand is actually very good for you, even among yourselves, and something that tends to happen only with our genre. You do need to know something about the aspect you’re debating and get the facts right and confirmed but you should never be afraid to speak up if you discover a genuine mistake. Science Fiction is the one genre that will stretch your mind and make you think, so it stands to reason we would verbalise or write about what we don’t understand or think wrong far more than what we know is right. It might also contribute to the reason why some people don’t get Science Fiction as they probably think they can be spoon-fed the material as in other genres and not expect to think about the material afterwards. No wonder they don’t get it. With our genre, we expect to debate.

If anything, we treat arguing as a matter of course. We feel it’s good for us. If there was a deity, then there’s a fair bet that we would argue over any and everything we see that is wrong. It’s in our nature to debate. I think I read that in a geek manual. The important aspect of this editorial is ‘should we’? I mean, what gives us the right to do so? Are we all instant experts? Does it mean we see ourselves as equals? I suppose that depends on how powerful the deity is. If the deity doesn’t like the questioning then with a smite and we’re gone. Writers can’t do that to their readers…at least, as far as I know.

However, as we exist on the physical plane, we can’t really smite and probably grateful that most of us don’t go in for character assassination. However, everything is open to valid querying and the way a lot of SF and genre writers have websites that allow people to contact them, strongly suggests they like the contact…assuming you’re not intimidated from doing so.

It has to be hoped that all gods reflect on their mistakes and how to do things better. Mostly because they are often too close to the work in question to maintain a critical eye. A reader, generally, goes in with a critical eye and even if he/she doesn’t, if something jars or doesn’t feel right, then it can break a story’s ability to keep you engrossed. Being able to assess and point that out, hopefully, will ensure such things don’t happen again. It can also even apply one of my own principles and that the writer gods find a better solution than the ones that are offered. Whichever, it can only be a change for the better and confirms the argument that it is better to argue with a god than think no one spotted the mistakes. Would a real deity allow such rights? Which goes to show that SF writers are only mortal and alien at a pinch.

 

Thank you, take care, good night and don’t be afraid.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk

December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply, providing they live in the UK. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com  I won’t bite, especially as I’m hunting for fantasy reviewers right now.

Don’t forget to check out the SFC Forum for where companies have their stands at this year’s conventions and for book signings.

Observation: The predator hunters will not attack two sorts of people: the unarmed and film crews.

Observation:           I was watching the DVD of the 1966 film ‘Our Man Flint’ and two scenes struck me that I was seeing parts of the Seaview. I know the establishment shots show a more conventional submarine but if you watch the back of the half-submerged sub going towards Galaxy Island and its dry dock landing within, they look like they used the same model and set from ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’. Considering LB Abbott was head of the effects team for both, that shouldn’t be surprising and considering that they were only essentially establishment shots could be done on the cheap so to speak.

After realising that, I did have a closer look at the submarine interiors but as they only showed a small bit towards the front, I think that was their standard submarine set rather than that of the Seaview. Maybe the Batman villains had that set at the time.

Observation: I often wonder why there are no books about the mediocre films but there are probably too many of them. Films that is, not books.

Observation: I was in town recently and realised that there was segregation all around. It seems aliens from Pedestria, colloquially Pedestrians, have separate pavements to the rest of the population. As if there wasn’t enough problems with the aliens from Cycle…

A Zen thought: A fly in the ointment is going to get sticky feet.

 

Category: Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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