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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Writing Science Fiction, part 3 Extrapolation

First, I want to be very clear.  I am not a metrosexual.  I am perhaps a modern hedonist (tongue in cheek).  Any time you get to have a great beer before twelve is a positive.  When my wife thinks my hair needs to be cut, she sends me to CAs in Wichita.  At CAs I get a head and neck massage, a hot towel, a hair cut and style, a manicure, my shoes shined, a beer, and all by beautiful young women.  My wife tells me to go see my girlfriends, and to get back into full grooming shape.  I think of it as providing jobs in the economy.  This is not science fiction--it's just life.  But about science fiction...

I was talking about extrapolation and knowledge of science.  The point is, it is impossible to extrapolate from a position of ignorance.  You must have some level of detailed knowledge about science to extrapolate from a basis.  That level doesn't have to be super detailed.  You do need to know the basics of science or you might have your space ships banking in space.  Or you might hear explosions in space.  Or some other stupid impossibility.  Science is not about impossibilities, but about possibilities.  So, even though A.C. Clark told us that science looks like magic to the ignorant--there is still a whole lot of stuff that is impossible.  You have to know what is not in reality before you can write about future realities.

So, knowledge is critical in writing science fiction.  If you don't have some strong science background or education or knowledge, don't do it or go get it.  Once you have the knowledge, the next step is extrapolation.  If you visit my website or,  under the educator section, I have a whole series of lectures on extrapolating technology.  This is a great place to get some ideas about extrapolation.  The trick is, to extrapolate, you must know the linage of science and technology.  Extrapolation assumes you have a line (figuratively) to extrapolate from.  The more points on your line, the better your extrapolation.  If you want to write about genetic theory, you need to delve into the details of early genes and knowledge about genetic theory.  To extrapolate, you don't just need to know current theory, but past ideas as well--otherwise, where is your line of thought.  In my Dragon and Fox Novels, the future society was genetically manipulated to create humans who could conquer the galaxy.  That is the main premise of the technological extrapolation.  I built this premise from extensive study about genetic manipulation from the beginnings of human science.  I folded in the idea that human colonization of space could only be made possible by humans selectively breed and made for certain skills.  This was the basis of technological extrapolation for the books.  Everything that ensued from this technological basis drove the culture and societies of the future world I developed in the novels.  You can see in these novels that this is the driving framework of all of them.  The political system, the cultural system, the social system are all driven by the technological framework that was the basis of the novels.  Everything revolves around these ideas of genetic manipulation, but they are almost not spoken about in the novels themselves.  You see, as in the past and the present, the framework of the future is not expressed by the people in it--it just exists.  It is assumed--the writer must express that framework to his readers.  That makes great science fiction, and that's what I'll discuss next time--how to get across the framework without telling about it.

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