But why? This is Science ‘Fiction’ after all, isn’t part of the magic of it all that it doesn’t have to be real? Partially true statement. Science Fiction typically involves futuristic technology and settings, while not likely or possible today, could someday. So to say that it doesn’t have to be real would be half of the story.
That’s not to say that you can’t tell a story about a man who keeps a pocket-sized wormhole generator in his jacket, no matter how far-fetched that may seem. After all, who are we to assume that a few hundred years from now something like that, or even a portion of it, might not be possible? But tell that same story in a setting that happens here, on Earth, in only five years – and then you see my point of ‘how real does science have to be in SciFi?’
But stray too far into the unbelievable and suddenly you find yourself writing Fantasy instead of true SciFi. Where does the line between SciFi and Fantasy lie though?
Not that long ago (here we go aging myself again) we read books that postulated the turn of the century and how ‘different’ things would be. As anyone that grew up in the 1950’s through the 1980’s would staunchly defend – not quite the way we were all promised, but still significant nonetheless. But one could make a valid argument that, looking back, some of those novels that depicted a wondrous, futuristic city with flying cars and robot butlers less than 40 years in the future were actually dabbling in Fantasy themselves.
So it only made sense when authors and readers alike starting dividing SciFi into several categories. While it helped authors develop their works and keep within a narrow definition based on their own styles, and therefore a specific group of readers, it also allows us to stray a little farther (depending on which side of the SciFi spectrum you choose to write) down the path of believability one way or the other.
From those purists, like me, that enjoy putting ‘hard’ science into their SciFi, to those authors that weave fantastical technology that we could never hope to see in ten lifetimes, I say this: as with anything else regarding structure of your work – keep it consistent. If you make it believable within the constraints of your created world, then the reader most often makes a seamless transition and falls into the flow.
If, like me, you decide to go the ‘Hard SciFi’ route (or any degree of it); make sure you do your research. It may be SciFi, but if you’re passing it off as ‘possible’, the reader will see right through your lack of commitment to making it plausible.