Ok. Let’s try this again. I accidentally trashed the first try. Sorry.
Toni Weisskopf took over Baen Books as publisher after Jim Baen died. She is a hoot. She is in your face and says it how she believes it. I think it’s safe to say you will always know where you stand with her.
Now all through the weekend I heard a lot about information dump, don’t do it. The first thing that came out of Toni’s mouth was she is a fan of the info dump. In her words, “…give me the effing science. Be specific and get to the point.”
Gray Rinehart, her General Slushmaster, had just said in another panel not to info dump. He was sitting next to her as she said this and gave her the ‘are you kidding me’ look. I had to laugh because I’m sure they had a talk about that later.
A colorful, larger than life woman Toni was eff this and eff that for a while until she stopped and apologized. Editing and publishing induced “passionate” feelings in her, she said.
The panel touched very little on the science versus the story angle but I do like a well written sci-fi story, especially a good space opera. It’s important so we will talk about it.
So what did they discuss? There was a lot of discussion of how important it is for the science to be believable. The entire panel agreed the science has to be right but there is some leeway. As long as the science is at least plausible the audience will stay with you if you’re consistent throughout the story.
Much of the discussion centered around the credentials of many of the authors who write science fiction. Some of them have jobs as real scientists. For instance David Brin is a scientist and Gregory Benford is an astrophysicist. I have not read their books so I can not comment on them.
David Weber is a good author and I like his fantasy books but his sci-fi books are swoosh! Right over my head. Those books are a good example of when science steals the story. His Honor Harrington books are very popular but I just can not read them. They are so techie I get a headachie.
In his sci-fi books, science drives each scene similar to the way sex drives each scene in a book of erotica. There’s nothing wrong with either of those type of books but they’re not balanced and in my opinion they’re hard to read. Too much of a good thing, as it were.
Some of my favorite authors are C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Greg Bear, Elizabeth Moon, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Melisa Michaels, and Catherine Asaro. These authors keep the science in check and tell a good story.
In C.J. Cherryh’s Hammerfall I swear I was on my feet shouting, even though I’d just had surgery on my foot, at the end. The characters and plot drive the story, not the science, and the book is better for it. In fact it’s excellent.
Balance is the key. Of course, there’s always exceptions but science should punctuate the story, explain it, and enhance it. It should not drive it unless you’re a techie or robot and you get a, uh, charge from it.
Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers came up in this discussion as it did in many of the panels. The book came up so much I went and bought it. Now I need to read it. One panelist stated this, “The story is not on the page, it is what the reader produces in their imagination.”
The point is well taken but it’s easier said than done and I can’t help it, I want just a bit of description. At least enough to get me going. Maybe the book will change my mind. I’ll let you know.
So who is your favorite sci-fi author or book? Do you want more science or more story? Do agree the story is not on the page but in the reader’s imagination or do you want some description?