The Difficulty of Writing a Harder Sci Fi Story

Its very interesting that the week I wrote this post, Bodacious Space Pirates, and Planetes, that Orbital Children came out on Netflix. As of me writing this post, I’ve only watched two out of the six episodes, but I really do love it. No doubt that I will have easily finished it by the time this comes out and a post will come out after Mecha march. (Me from the future: it drops its harder sci fi elements in the second half, but it still counts.) I guess that makes the week that I am writing this a harder science fiction week and I really love that. There aren’t a lot of harder science fiction shows in anime because I’ve named about most of the ones that I know of. Maybe They Were 11 counts, Freedom as well, and so does the original Gundam in some ways even if there are some fantastical elements in that story. OG Gundam tries.

I feel like it is just very hard in writing a science fiction story that wants to be more realistic. The first part has to do with technological knowledge, right? It’s a lot easier to write a looser sci fi story where the technology just does what the script needs it to do. I can see why Ronald Moore almost never showed the engine room in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series other then it being a show about the characters. There has to be a lot of technical knowledge in making a space series feel realistic. Or at least something that holds back the series from doing the fantastical. That could come from a lot of researcher or working with engineers to make something that is plausible.

With the two series this week, both series at least feel like there was some research done to make them believable. I honestly don’t think I have to say much about Planetes because it gets so many things right so easily. Bodacious Space Pirates gets a lot more accurate then one would think even if some aspects of the show are really fantastically. There is an effort in showing how the ship works and how it functions. Plus, all the work for when ships go through the gravity well of The Sea of Morningstar to environments when there is no gravity is very impressive. The ship designs are decently believable as well especially with the way the Oddette is arranges. That ship was obviously not designed with artificial gravity in mind. Mostly because it doesn’t have any.

The second challenge is finding how much technical narrative should be thrown into a story to make it work. No over shadowing of characters with technical knowledge and the show still having an interesting story. Something very important considering I feel like harder sci fi stories have to be smaller in scope to allow the world to show how everything functions in interesting ways that can engage an audience. For instance, it doesn’t make sense for a series like TTGL to over explain what is going on because everything that happens in that series is cool mecha nonsense that I and a lot of people love with our hearts. Trying to explain it at all would not work in that case.

From the small amount of time that I’ve had with Orbital Children so far, the actual story is simply having the Earth try to take down a comet that came with a nuke causing the space station the kids are in to malfunction and slowly fall down to Earth. That’s it, the rest of the story telling comes from the kids interacting with malfunctioning and falling apart ship as they fight for survival and to me, that is some enthralling story telling. Planete’s look at the space janitor business while focusing on space capitalism is simple but seeing the system around the Earth break apart is fascinating. It takes a lot of work to do so little in a harder sci fi story because every single detail needs to be planned out along with how characters interact with it.

In real conclusion to all of this, harder science fiction series are not going to appeal to as many people as the more fantastical Star Gate and Farscape like series. I’ve had some ventures with reading a harder sci fi book compared to people who started it earlier and they stopped halfway because of the terminology. So finding that balance between the technology and jargon with telling a story is very important to capture more people’s attention easier. Softness is important too. Since I have some engineering nonsense in my background, I love seeing so many interpretations of how a realistic world would function in space in the future. So naturally, there is already a draw into Planetes and Orbital Children to me even if they weren’t as good as they were because I would watch them regardless.

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  1. People like Arthur Clark and Isaac Asimov wrote a lot of hard science fiction back in the 60s and 70s. probably the best recent example is “The Martian” by Andy Weir with Matt Damon in the movie. Or the series “The Expanse.”

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  2. I find those more bombastic mecha go over better because of their ability to cross over into different genres, such as action, while hard sci-fi have a much harder time crossing over because their appeal is precisely what makes that “hard”. If you explained the scientific nitty-gritty of how Gunmen worked, for instance, it would suck all the fun out of watching mechs punch stuff.

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  3. Personally I like when sci-fi is technologically correct. Sure we can still love it if it isn’t (mecha), but I love those moments in shows where the science and the technology is correct. That will instantly get my attention. Whereas when I see obvious bs, I start to think it’s out of convenience, and that the author didn’t put in the effort to make the science correct. That’s different from stuff that’s obviously impractical or ridiculous technologically, but I think that if an author is going to try to make his work seem scientifically plausible, it really should be that way. I’ll like it if it is, and I won’t if it’s not.

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