57

Without reading the other answers, my answer is that your premise is fine as long as you set the contract with the reader. The reader is fine with your premise if you do not promise a science-based story. Imagine this. Imagine you start your novel with the story of the navel-lotus of Vishnu. Or the bush that burned but was not consumed, of YHWH. Or the ...


40

Spiderman was bitten by a spider and developed spider-like abilities. Superman is from a different planet and afraid of a glowing rock, even if this human-like creature can shoot lasers from his eyes. The Incredible Hulk is... Hulk... If you are looking for a non-comic example take a look at the Metro series. Post-apocalpyse after the nuclear war. ...


34

A little before Einstein's time, people were saying there's no sense in going into physics, since almost all the questions have already been answered, we understand everything that can be understood, there's only one or two unanswered issues, and those are going to be solved soon. Then came Einstein and his Relativity Theory, and we discovered there's a lot ...


31

To directly answer your question: The role of the supernatural in hard science fiction is that it doesn't exist. Period. There are no shades of grey to the laws of physics. You can't say "this one location is the Space Bermuda Triangle" or "this one alien race defeats time with their brain" and still claim that you are writing hard sci-fi. This is the old ...


26

No, people won't say that, not even full time working scientists (like me). I know a great deal about genetics; I've published academic articles about it. That did not prevent me from enjoying the TV series "Heroes" for several seasons. Supposedly, their super-powers were due to "genetic mutations" (including immortality, time-travel, psychokinesis, ...


26

I think you may be thinking a little too hard about things as the writer. Instead look at things from your characters' perspectives. Unless you're writing an engineer or someone actually building X, they probably won't actually know how it works. Heck, even an engineer building X would only know about the tiny portion they actually work on. The rest is ...


21

It depends on how "hard" you want your sci-fi to be. I think Larry Niven is a boundary case of sci-fi hardness. Niven writes about things that do not exist and most likely cannot and will never exist, but he approaches the topics with just enough science to keep things "hard". Some examples of Niven's suppositions: Safe Bussard ramjets - Bussard ramjets ...


21

There is no need to justify your explanation scientifically. But. You must not, under any circumstances try to scientifically justify anything else. In effect, by making a scientifically implausible claim to establish your world, you've shifted from SF to fantasy. However, fantasy does not have to include unicorns or vampires, or anything else. Just ...


17

"Scientific plausibility" can be tempered by exoticism, time, and distance. It can also be flatly ignored because it's just a plot convenience, or substituted as a metaphor for the real story you are telling. "This technology is so exotic that we barely understand it ourselves!" The technology's narrative role is that it pushes credibility, or is difficult ...


15

is there any room left for not being able to explain odd happenings? Yes, the flip side of high tech detection is high tech concealment. Criminals can know all the tricks used for detection, and have their own high tech to conceal what they've done, or mislead the high tech equipment, or fake the high tech evidence. Or use exactly the same high tech as the ...


14

What you're writing appears to me to be "science fiction". There are at least two kinds. Hard science fiction: Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. Soft science fiction: Soft science fiction, or soft SF, is a category of science fiction with two different definitions. It ...


13

You can’t. What makes hard science fiction hard is the fact that it works within the bounds of what is known (or reasonably theorized) to be possible. Movies such as Star Wars are not hard sci fi; they’re science fantasy — fantasy stories with the trappings of sci fi. The Force is, for all intents and purposes, magic. Space ships do not, in and of ...


11

Is Star Wars fantasy or science fiction? I say fantasy, but they sell it as SF. So there are stories which meander along the borders. But to categorize your story you should not only ask what it is about. For example it's also important how the story ends. We are tagging genres to make it easier for the readers to pick what they want. If you sell a romance ...


11

As a general rule, if there is any portion of your premise that you do not want your audience to concern itself with, you need only avoid bringing it up. This is especially true for fantasy and soft-sci-fi. We never got explanations for light sabers, the TARDIS, dilithium (handwavium) crystals, or infinity stones either; and that very restraint has ...


10

It is not that you can't add supernatural stuff, it is how you approach it. Take Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, for example; Solaris is a (small spoilers of the beginning of the novel ahead) living water planet that can communicate via electrical impulses, and even generate humans from the memories of members of the science vessel crew. This is, for all intents ...


9

It depends on how you handle it in universe. Let me give you two reasonings why it can work, if done well. First, let's look at Clarke's third law: any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic. I've seen examples used from our world where this makes perfect sense. Take cell phones. If you go back to the 1950s and talk about cell ...


9

No. You can have unrealistic elements as parts of your premise but you need to introduce them to the reader as parts of your premise. Otherwise the reader will not understand your premise and things will go downhill from there. People do not generally care about lack of realism. What bothers them is not being able to understand what is going on. Realism or ...


9

The easiest way to show your technology fits science fiction is to have it break, and then get it fixed by an engineer with a spare part or something. More generally speaking, in the reader's mind it will be "technology" if it is treated like "technology". In particular, show it can break and needs to get fixed by some guy with a screwdriver. In that scene ...


8

My first instinct was to say "you can't" - the very essence of the science fiction genre is that things are not supernatural - they make sense within the in-universe rules, if not right from the start, then in the end, when we get to the bottom of the mystery. But then I thought of some examples to the contrary. Look at Star Wars - what is the Force, if not ...


8

I think the key to this question is to break down this phrase: ... writing fantasy instead of sci-fi Genres are not universally agreed things with solid boundaries, and fantasy and science fiction have a long history of cross-overs, sub-genres, and conflicting definitions. The terms "SFF" and "speculative fiction" are sometimes used specifically to avoid ...


7

+1 Galastel. Along the same lines, you can keep a "supernatural" element in the realm of science fiction by having characters refuse to acknowledge it as supernatural, and insisting (as scientists would) that just because we don't know how something works, and just because it seems miraculous, does not make it supernatural. My crowd (professional scientists ...


7

First of all, defining a work into a genre is tricky. Most books belong to most than one genre, others don't belong to any and end up "inventing" a whole new genre. I personally have a small grudge against dark fantasy because I feel that it is not well-defined enough and being used to draw readers. "Look at this, it's not regular boring fantasy. It's (...


7

You're missing the explanation 'Occult Powered Technology' is not a unique concept. Many books, films and games have explored this concept. The Shadowrun series of both video and roleplaying games is one example, though it is also a little 'sci-fi'. Why it feels sci-fi and how to fix it Fuel free cars, hover-trains, energy weapons and free power are all sci-...


6

My pet theory on this is that horror is about irrational associations between things, while thrillers are about logical connections between things. In a thriller, a character is usually in danger because of some (at least vaguely) logical and knowable set of circumstances. They play on halfway rational fears (though often exaggerated to the point where they ...


6

Arthur C. Clarke wrote: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. Any sufficiently advanced ...


6

My favorite example of "one buy too many" is the movie Looper. Time travel is essential to the plot. Psychic powers are a distracting, disbelief-endangering extra, with little payoff. With that said, I'm not sure that's actually your problem here. If I understand your set-up, this is an old-fashioned world with some futuristic elements, like steampunk, ...


6

Science is all about establishing rules that helps us understand how the world works. If your work is set in a different world and things in-universe work in a different way, that's fine. But here's the important point: if the science is different, the readers need to understand how the in-universe science works. When authors violate this principle, and ...


6

How technology works is sometimes in a novel or movie or other work (some authors give you every last detail, like Andy Weir) and sometimes it's just there as a given. While avoiding explanations in visual media is more common than in printed ones, the fact that it happens at all is telling. Take something like the TV series (and movies) of Star Trek. ...


5

Technology today is obviously far more advanced than the technology of 500 years ago. And yet there are still plenty of mysteries today. We still have plenty of mysteries about individual people and events, like "what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?", or all the thousands of unsolved crimes. Indeed, just recently I read an article that said, I forget the ...


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