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October 28th, 2012, 09:39
Originally Posted by jhwisner View Post
It depends on whether you're talking about golden-age pulp scifi or the golden-age classics whose works and names are still widely known to this day. In the first case the authors did indeed use science as more of a handwavey excuse for things to happen and often resorted to the worst of scifi tropes and excessive use of all-powerful macguffins. In the latter case though those authors did greatly concern themselves with the science and engineering involved in their stories and went to great lengths to try to get right those things they reasonably could.

Isaac Asimov for example explained he had to do significant research before resuming the foundation series because of advances in theoretical physics as well as technological advancements that had relevance to his far future musings.
Robert A. Heinlein had an engineering background (aeronautical engineering) and had also briefly pursued a graduate degree in physics. He had described using this knowledge and experience a great deal during his writing. Though he did admit that he did far less of this for his books written for juvenile/young-adult readers and he has said he did not think very much of those works beyond providing paychecks. Arthur C. Clarke, in an attempt to make sure something he was describing in one of his stories made physical sense, ended up providing the first mathematical proof of the possibility of using geosynchronous orbits (also known as Clarke Orbits.)

Of course the research performed by Asimov, the engineering experience of Heinlein, and the orbital mechanics work of Clarke did not overtly intrude into their stories in the form of strangely out of place explanations. They used these things instead as a way to inform certain aspects of their world and plot in order to maintain a logical consistency that other authors might have failed to achieve. They were able to do this because they actually each possessed a useful amount of technical and scientific knowledge that allowed them to serve as their own science-technology advisers.

There's a difference between inserting overwrought explanations of the scientific basis of scifi elements and doing as best as is practicable to have the science and scientific basis be sound. So if InXile is hiring a science advisor for the reasons that the best of the golden age science-fiction authors turned to their own science and engineering knowledge then that's great. That's far better than using science as a shortcuts in lieu of intelligent plotting.
I thought of Clarke, Asimoov, Heinlein and some others.

They had more in the chest of technological knowledge than they showed. But they kept the line that is confirmed today: technology has not to be understood to be used. A lot of people do not even know the basics behind a TV set and still use it. As such, these authors managed to keep the credibility of their universe out of direct concern from the reader (even though indirect concern can be brought in) Their universe had technology, scientifically valid or not and they used it.

Today, it is very different as sci fi reading has turned into speculating around possible valid scientific thesis and the writer is being drawn constantly into assessing if the surmises are correct. After reading a scifi book from today, the main question is: has the author got the science right?
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