Weaving in Science
This week I came across the 20-minute science fiction film called Loom. It’s set in a type of dystopian future and tackles the subject of genetically grown food, and from that sprouts the power of creation. Now this is not a review of the film. As much as I liked the film itself and have no doubt that Luke Scott has the talent to become great director, like his father Ridley, this post is more about the fascination we have with science in books, film, art and gaming.
There have been different reactions to the film and after viewing lots of comments over several different sites people seem divided. Some say it’s engaging right from the beginning. Others had no idea what the film was about. Several comments say it’s “dull and meaningless” And some just couldn’t let go of the fact that the pipette didn’t have a tip. And there’s always the one comment that addresses the nudity “Boobs” complete with straight after. I often read the comments and don’t dismiss any one view. Everyone’s opinion has a place in the world. Either way it’s an interesting melting pot of people’s likes and dislikes. We are all different after all.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post. When should science be included and if so how detailed should it be? Do we run a risk of alienating viewers or readers if too much science is included? In my post The Purity of Hard Science Fiction I asked a few questions. What is the definition for “Hard Science Fiction”? Can we say that Hard SF is more purely classified by scientific engineers who cite those books that are based on true scientific work and plausible technology? Is the term “Hard SF” a marketing term used to entice readers? Or should it really be left up to the reader to decide? I did conclude with “there’s definitely relevance in the idea that the use of real science theories gives this type of science fiction depth, and usually delivers a more believable story. But perhaps the term itself is used more by the purist of the genre.”
I’m sure Hard Science Fiction fans will say “it’s important to get the details right so it’s necessary to include real science.” Soft Science Fiction fans will say “I don’t need to know everything. Too much science is boring.” There are countless examples of works of fiction where too much science is used, leaving readers asking questions. What does germinal mutation mean? What is mammary gland extract used for? And then there’s the opposite, not enough science leaving the reader questioning everything. What were the scientists doing? What was that black gloop? What’s a subatomic machine do exactly? Then you get some writers that get the mix of science just right. That’s true a talent indeed.
Here’s a list of books. Some have a lot of science included and others have only a little. I’m not going to single out any books as having too much or not enough. That’s up to you!
- The Martian Chronicles – Ray Badbury
- The Black Cloud – Fred Hoyle
- Dune – Frank Herbert
- Neverness – David Zindell
- Neuromancer – William Gibson
- Dhalgren – Samuel R Delany
- Foundation – Isaac Asimov
- A Fall of Moondust a novel – Arthur C. Clarke
- Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
Of course science will always have a place in fiction to some degree. We can think about that even harder outside the genre of science fiction because these days crime novels have a need to include good science in solving many kinds of horrific acts of criminal activity. Science and technology are an active ingredient and often a critical part of solving crimes today. And just to place added emphasis on the subject of science it has indeed cleared people of crimes they didn’t commit in the past but were wrongfully convicted many years ago. Ah, the use of DNA. Those genetic instructions that make us who we are, and have the power to single us out from a crowd of suspects.
Here’s where we jump to genes and genomes. In the film I mention above, Loom, the central character says, “the human genome is not proprietary.” Meaning the complete set of chromosomes, those inheritable traits, don’t belong or aren’t owned by any establishment or organisation. Which I think gives rise to the concept of creation being explored in books, films, games and art today. While this is by far not a new concept it is one of the more intriguing of subjects in science, and this is why we as writers, film makers, game designers and artists will always pose the question. Will we one day in the not so distance future be the creators of a new genetically engineered species? Or will we just continue to weave science into our fictional world and leave it at that? While trying to the best of our ability to include just the right mix of science, so we keep our readers and viewers on the ride with us.
What about art and science? What links are being explored today? Is there such thing as too much science in art? Ma Arts and Science – meet the course director. Personally, I think collective collaboration is an exciting approach to learning and developing wonderful works of art. Note when you watch the link (Ma Arts and Science – meet the course director) the art reflecting “The Human Genome” exploring the same human sciences just like the short film, Loom. And be sure to check out the Welcome Collection.
What about games? When is there a need to weave in science and why should they do it? Ever heard of the game Mass Effect? Well, here’s a bit of quick science behind the game. The Science of Mass Effect: Red Shift/ Blue Shift
Have you ever heard ofAngry Birds? Oh come on… everyone knows Angry Birds use a slingshot and not wings to fly. Well now they travel to 60 interstellar levels on planets and in zero gravity. Hmmm, is that space science being used? Check out Angry Birds Space
Now here’s the science behind my favourite game, Halo. The science behind the Halo series.
Note how all of the games have some form of science in their game design and gameplay. Perhaps the attention to science does provide the games with real a sense of condition, futuristic perceptions that only these physical laws can help explain, and therefore, constructing believable virtual atmospheres.
Perhaps the real future is being written, painted or designed as we speak, and maybe it’s science that has to catch up with the creator’s imaginations. So until next time. Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.