Taking the Science out of Science Fiction

Hannes Bok

Hannes Bok

For a science-fiction writer, I am remarkably uninterested in science.

I mean, I love science. I LOVE SCIENCE. I love science so much I call it psyents, because we’re so close we have nicknames for each other (mine is endrue) (science has an accent). I love science so much I almost majored in physics instead of dramatic literature (though calculus is not my friend).

But what I loved about physics was the theoretical part. Imagining the heat death of the universe. Wondering what could go faster than light and how. Figuring out realistic ways for fantastic ideas to work.

Which means I was delving into science fiction, of course.

But for some writers and readers, science fiction means detailing exactly how a new, unheard-of procedure works, dissecting the possibility of a trans-universal engine based on present day theories, making everything as realistic as possible. Those novels which detail Martian colonies or asteroid mining fit here.

But if you’ve read Bradbury, you know there’s another kind of Martian colony out there. It’s one where martians exist. Where people can wander the planet without oxygen tanks. And on other planets, the important thing is not how we reached that far world, or how we terraformed it to our liking, but how in one mean-spirited decision a classroom of children can take from one child the glory of a rainstorm that only happens once every ten years.

It is exactly that which I’m interested in. Not the what happens, but how what happens affects those people living with the what-is-happening. In my Topoi stories, humanity is so outclassed by the technology of the rest of galactic society that what those alien races achieve might as well be magic. But I’m not writing fantasy (though I imagine some would argue the point), I’m writing about characters who are stuck in a situation they don’t understand, where the machines that surround them work mysteriously, on principles they don’t quite understand. Perhaps like cell phones. Or airplanes. Or magnets. (That one’s for you, Insane Clown Posse.)

How does all of humanity get transported to another planet all the way across the galaxy in what seems to be the blink of an eye?

Frankly, I don’t care. That interests me not at all.

But once it’s happened, oh, there you’ll find me, digging into every possible human reaction.


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