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I have a sci-fi technology concept in the work I'm currently writing, and its potential implications for society and for individual characters are quite far-reaching. I want to systematically explore this invented technology in-depth – not only its functions but also elements like the legal framework surrounding its use, how the company behind it works etc.

Does anybody have resources, methods or ideas regarding how to explore a technology (or indeed a magic system) in detail prior to/alongside writing the story? The aspects I have listed above are a starting point for me; further aspects or different methods would be useful too.

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    You may want to try your ideas on Wordbuilding SE, especially when investigating repercussions on the society. – Bookeater May 6 '17 at 22:20
  • @Bookeater Since he asks for resources, pointing out the existence of Worldbuilding SE would qualify as an answer. – Ville Niemi May 7 '17 at 16:39
  • WBSE closes most questions of this nature. Whilst we might think the effects on society of a new technology is world building, those threads seem to never survive. – DPT Dec 6 '17 at 15:01
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    The absolute writers water cooler website is an active group of writers and they have a forum dedicated to research. (and several to fiction and science fiction.) See if that looks like a resource that might help you. – DPT Dec 6 '17 at 15:04
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    I think you guys are all missing the point of his question.... he isn't looking for research to design his world. He is looking for help on how to present his SCIFI/Magic system in a way that doesn't just information dump into a story but doesn't dump it all into a prologue that most people skip over but feels it is complex enough that it may not fit into his story without derailing it. – ggiaquin16 Dec 6 '17 at 15:30
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The best way to explore the implications of any idea is to write about it. Write an origin story for your technology; then write about its first presentation to the public and the resulting upheaval. Do a character study of someone who hates the new technology, then another about the innovator who takes the basic idea but applied it in new ways which greatly increase its value to the world. Write about a tragic misuse of the technology and the legal consequences of that tragedy. Write a distant future story through the eyes of a historian, looking back at the pivotal age when the arrival of the new technology changed everything...

Then take all of that writing and drop it in a shoe box labelled "backstory". Those hard-won pages are not for public consumption. They will not be part of your final story. The only audience they'll ever have is you and their only purpose was to increase your mastery of the new technology and its implications.

Creative writing is not just a tool for telling stories; it is a method for exploring possibilities. Our carefully crafted sentences, pages and scenes are the soil in which ideas grow. Compost a few thousand words around the roots of your technological concept and you will be amazed at what springs up in time.

  • As someone who uses tree-based metaphors for describing the writing process, I love your compost metaphor. (And the rest of your answer's useful too, of course!) – manyaceist May 8 '17 at 16:08
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    @manyaceist I agree, write about it. You will find so many avenues to explore that you will need to then decide how to make the entire thing coherent, likely by picking several key points and emphasizing those. – DPT Dec 6 '17 at 15:02
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To what the others have said, I will add the following:

Your new technology must have its limitations. There must be times, places, circumstances and/or purposes in which this technology cannot be used.

These limitations will eventually become known to the characters.

Unless the "what if" of your story is the discovery of a way around the Really Big laws of nature, your technology must have the following limits:

  • Conservation of Energy: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The best you can do is to tap into a previously untappable source of energy.
  • Conservation of Momentum: If you push against something, it pushes back.
  • Conservation of Power: If the new technology alters the balance of power in any way, those who stand to lose will do everything within their power to prevent this. This ranges from the most bald-face misrepresentations of the technology to outright murder.
  • Conservation of Greed: If robbing the inventor of the fruits of his labor is worth the trouble, it will happen.
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The British science-fiction Bob Shaw described this process in relation to his concept of slow glass. He devised the idea of a form of glass where light passed it extremely slowly and went on to write several short stories and a novel based on slow glass.

However, it took him nearly two years before he wrote the first short story. He said he considers a science-fictional concept as being like a diamond. By thinking about all the facets of the diamond meant thinking about all the aspects of the concept. Most especially about the consequences of the concept and their impacts on people and society.

Of course, this can be done by simply making a list of all things your science-fictional concept will make possible and their consequences. Also, you can just put your concept in the context of other well-known science-fictional concepts. This basically involves making the two concepts collide with each other and see what sparks fly.

One way of exploring your concept is to find a sympathetic listener, this can be a non-writer, a friend will do, preferably one who knows something about science-fiction, and explain your concept to them. Allowing the listener to ask questions and you both chat about the concept. You will be surprised how many new ideas and fresh angles or aspects will emerge. Don't forget to explain how and when the concept might be used by people or by societies.

At the end of the day, this all involves thinking and as we all know thinking isn't easy. But the rewards are worth it.

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To introduce a new object, that not only follows the theme you've created but also to provide a background and in depth description while ALSO not breaking the story flow is a difficult task. Personally, if I were to be writing a story about this, I'd create a format for a sort of background. If you have a matter manipulator/converter, say, like a portable 3d-printer that prints to a larger scale using material around it, then I'd do it like this soon after/immediately after introducing the new machinery:

                    **MCM //Matter Converter and Manipulator**

The MCM was quite the invention of it's time. Scientists earlier in the era believed that it was impossible to create such a device that took the matter around you and changed it into a set object that a blueprint specified. However, scientist John Doe eventually discovered a way that implemented 3D-Printing and scanners together to take the layout of something. Later, he teamed up with scientist Arnold Darner, who realized that everything could be traced to a single element: Elementonium. The two created a device that broke down the materials around them using lasers into Elementonium, and then recreate an object with the blueprints loaded into it; the object can be anything, from a pencil, to a car, to a skyscraper. After a few prototypes and millions of theories, they eventually made it nearly instantaneous to do so.

Of course, this is just my personal writing style. Not only do you create the object, but you can use elements in it throughout your story as well, such as in this case, the Elementonium.

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I would just show the implications as they come up in the story. I wouldn't explain how the device worked. Heck, if you knew how it worked you'd develop the technology and get rich.

Just remember that if this is a mature technology that the rich will probably have control of it barring anything special about it. If it breaks the laws of thermodynamics, there will be complaints from readers.

Larry Nivens wrote several stories about the effects of technological teleportation on society. He also wrote a group of short stories around a character called "Gil the Arm" who was a member of police force that investigated new technology.

In Clifford Simak's City short stories (the ones that were eventually stitched together to form the book), he never explained just how robots were built or the dogs were made sentient, he just showed the effects of these things on the characters and society. City would be a great book to read for your question.

I would avoid explanations as much as possible. Just show how this technology/magic shows up in the world and bothers/helps the characters and society. Slip what little explanations you absolutely need into short narrations.

I real mainly science fiction and fantasy. I hate unnecessary explanations because they usually don't help the story. If you want some really bad examples of this, you only have to look at some SF from the beginnings of the pulp era where the technology was more important than the characters. I remember one story, but can't remember the name, where the main character was a rich publisher who went about his day using one technological marvel after another.

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I mostly just think about something a lot. Space travel is the obvious technological problem in science fiction. Keeping it fresh as well as logical are equally difficult. You usually end on the crunch of "well, some new technology was discovered that breaks laws of physics."

Applying it to society is a bit harder, but again think about what the world would be like and how people would act. How would people be different if they all had robots to do their laundry?

That not might help much, but this blog post might help. At the bottom is a form to fill out to get a free world builders guide: https://www.autocrit.com/blog/2017/07/10/how-better-world-building-will-keep-you-out-of-trouble/

  • Looking on our sister site WorldBuilding.SE might be an easier way to get information about worldbuilding than filling out a form to get some free guides. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 12 '18 at 8:45
  • Good point. I didn't know that was thing. Thanks for the info! – White Eagle Jan 12 '18 at 13:00

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