Don't read this if you potentially don't want your love of science fiction tainted forever

Bill Loguidice's picture

For some reason, towards the end of my sleep cycle, I had a dream I was in a Doctor Who-like world. It's hard to recall now, but I remember lots of wood and alcoves, sort of like some space cruiseship thing built from stuff at Ikea. In any case, I remember the Doctor and his companions (at first the Doctor was another but he ended up being Tom Baker) struggling to get into the TARDIS for whatever reason and me dropping all the stuff I knew about him, almost like an outsider looking in, despite my standing right there. In any case, it was when I said "TARDIS" that they were finally able to get into the craft that was elaborately blended into the wood surroundings, though looking really nothing much at all like the famous sci-fi staple. In any case, I'll save that bizarre imagery for another day and perhaps turn it into a short story or something, where the Doctor and his companions don't know they're on TV or something (complete with our inability to hear their inner monologues).

Anyway, that rather long winded blathering brings me to my thought upon waking just a few moments ago thanks to a rather loud lawnmower cutting my lawn (or perhaps it was the fact that both of my arms were asleep or that my cat was warmly nuzzled in my left armpit; the point is, I woke). This thought can indeed ruin or at least taint my love of good science fiction, particularly when it involves humanoid travel between planets. You see, it's the very real issue of gravity. Why the hell in nearly every sci-fi book, movie, videogame, etc., is gravity never ever an issue when humanoids (or any other non-magical gravity balancing creature) land on a new planet? The planet could be very, very large, the planet could be very, very small. It could have no moons or it could have lots of moon. The point is, no matter how alien, regardless of need for some type of breathing apparatus or other equipment, there's no consideration made for the gravity, meaning the humanoids aren't either leaping about with ease or struggling to move? (I'm looking at you, Star Trek) Obviously part of it is convenience, part of (depending upon the medium) is expense, and part of it is that it wouldn't often make for a good story. Loud explosions in space I can handle, no inertia in movements I can handle, etc., but it sure would be nice if someone could throw a bone to gravity once in a while. Perhaps in Doctor Who's case it's yet another mysterious "gift of the Time Lords" or some type of blessing from the TARDIS, like being able to understand and speak all languages anywhere. Who knows?

By the way, I've been watching even more science-based programming than ever of late so that's had something to do with that weird and disturbing (for entertainments-sake) idea just popping in (recently our cable company moved channels like The Science Channel, Discovery, History Channel, etc., to hi-def). That and reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic "A Princess of Mars" on my Sony e-Reader for the past several weeks, which does in fact address the gravity thing (ding, ding, ding!), albeit a bit incorrectly (when the main character is mysteriously transported to Mars he's imbued with superhuman strength, including the ability to leap massive distances due to the red planet's lesser gravity). And maybe, just maybe, I was also influenced just a wee bit by my listening to the introduction of the digital audio book of "The Answer" on my way home from work yesterday, a book which explores where creativity and those "aha!" moments come from and how to make it far less of a random occurrence. Anyway, back to writing "Vintage Games"...


Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
LOL, yeah, Doctor Who relies

LOL, yeah, Doctor Who relies mostly on verbal clues to make the worlds seem alien, usually along the lines of the Doctor alluding to some historical figure or author and the aliens clearly having no clue what he's talking about. I suppose the "gift of the time lords" allows them to perfectly understand all his idioms and colloquialisms, just not a reference to Hamlet or Einstein.

Another problem is that *very* few humans have experienced anything but earth gravity, so it would involve lengthy descriptions (to say nothing of scientific research) to integrate it properly into a story or movie. Movies, of course, would need extensive special effects to show it. For Christ's sake, they still have loud explosions in space...! If we ever do get to space, that kind of thing will look as cheesy as a 1940s Buck Rogers serial.

There's a good site for this kind of stuff: bad astronomy. The author now has a blog on the discovery channel website. Unfortunately, the author has limited himself exclusively to astronomy; I'd love to see a more general page that also considered bad physics, biology, etc.

P.S. Read Ben Bova's Space Travel. It is very clear, well-written, and about as accurate as I imagine any general purpose book could be. I intend to use it if I ever write another story or game involving space.


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