I am writing a science-fiction short story where there are a lot of pseudoscientific ideas being dealt constantly. I was wondering how to reduce the absurdity of some of those ideas using literary techniques.

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In the podcast How Weird is too Weird the writers at Writing Excuses say that you get one buy:

"you get to ask the audience to believe 1 big thing and everything has to follow from that 1 thing."

The episode discusses gonzo stories like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that appear to be unending absurdities, by accepting that it's actually only 1 buy: one long joke at Arthur Dent's expense. Hitchhiker's Guide gets away with it because Dent is always an outsider, and always confused, which is where the reader is too, except Dent is the stooge the reader gets to laugh at.

As a contradiction, towards the end of the episode, one of them says that worldbuilding is where you get the most leeway – the world can be more fantastical – as long as the characters stay relatable. Probably why we see so many stock melodrama characters in space opera, and why action heroes are more or less interchangeable.


I wrote some steampunk. In the plot, there were some elements that the reader should take as novelty, and they were presented with great emphasis. Other elements were supposed to be common in the world, and they were just given just as you would mention a spoon when eating a soup. If I needed to describe something, I used metaphors and comparisons to things of our world.

I described unusual mechanical coaches as treading rhinos, or as an angry mob stomping with their feet. I gave just a few elements of their design that were needed to the story, so that the reader would know that there was a front window and one line of cushioned seats inside. Similarly, a submarine was a barrel, emptied from the good whiskey and filled with hissing and whirring contraptions; or as a squid, probing the Ocean's underworld, searching for prey. A self-speaking box, on the other end, was the novelty of this worlds, and I described it with as many details as I could: its shape, its colour, the ruggedness of its surface, and the chills it gave when talking. After it became familiar, it became just 'the strange box', or 'the voice in the box'.

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