The Dead Robots' Society

Writers on Writing


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This week the guys sit down with listener and special guest host Wesley Swingley to talk about the topic of research. How much is enough, how easy is it to let it become too much, and where should you go to do it? We hope you enjoy!


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  1. Fun episode. I think you should always undersatand the science of a sci fi story 1 level above that which appears in the story. If you try to work at your level, you’ll always end up finding problems later on. In other words, use science to construct your story, but don’t ever info dump it. Let the reader put it together from dialogue and small hints. If they get it great! If they don’t ever put together how your warp drive works, they’ll at least feel like the characters are familiar with it and find in hindsight that the tech had no jarring inconsistencies.

  2. Exactly, Bryan. The best way to get a reader confident in your science/tech/what-have-you is for your characters to be confident with it. Whenever I’ve consuming a story and the characters deal with their universe assuredly and without fumbling for explanations I feel like I can just flow with it. It’s when they try to oversell it that I have to back away. It’s one of the problems with a lot of television Star Trek – the techno-jargon gets too thick. It’s as though the story ceases to be about the characters and instead becomes about the science. That’s no fun.

  3. Yep. Falls squarely under show-don’t-tell. I think a very good example of a science fiction story that felt really consistent and never threw up any alarm bells for me (a scientist) despite a LOT of creative science is Perdido Street Station (and The Scar, set in the same world) by China Mieville.

  4. Don’t tell Neal Stephenson!

    But I still love ya Neal, even with your infodumps. In all honesty, I think “infodumping” has gotten a bad rap. I read plenty of material that contains secondary data that doesn’t get in the way of the story, and I’d argue Star Trek is one of those (at least imho). Do we, as authors, unnecessarily avoid exposition because we’ve been taught to fear the infodump? I, personally, felt Perdido Street Station suffered from far too much infodump, so that brings up another point: is one man’s infodump another man’s treasured writing? Does Neal Stephenson remain successfull because he gives his readers just the infodump they are looking for?


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