Friday, 29 November 2013

A Conversation with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra Series - Plot vs. Character (and Conscious vs. Unconscious Creation)

November 14, 2013 Plato’s Pizza, Edmonton Alberta

Part Eleven – Plot vs. Character (and Conscious vs. Unconscious Creation)

Question:  So, Helena Puumala, plot or characters? Which do you think is more important overall?

Answer:    I’m not sure, but I think in my writing I emphasize character.  I am acutely aware of the need for plot, though.

Question:  Any reasonable plot, or a strong plot?

Answer:  Naturally you want both,  though I think you can carry a story with a weak plot and strong characters.  And by strong character, I mean interesting characters.

Question:  Any old interesting?  Or do they have to be likeable?  Or at least some of them, some of the time?

Answer:  I think it’s important that your main characters be both interesting and at least somewhat likeable.  The more that people can relate to your main characters, or identify with them, the better off you are as a writer.  That makes readers want to follow your characters, to revisit them as they grow and confront new situations.  It’s like it is with good friends, or at least interesting acquaintances.

 Question:  From a commercial point of view that seems like a no-brainer.  People generally won’t pay money to be with people they don’t like.  What about from an artistic point of view?  Some critics or academics would say that lacks the courage to fully explore the dark side of the human psyche.

Answer:  That’s why you have villains (laughing).  But in the end, you do end up exploring the grey areas of your main characters, anyway.  For example, Kati has the sometimes unpleasant Granda node, which may reflect the underside of the human psyche in psychological terms.

Question:  Sort of a Jungian thing?

Answer:  I suppose that would be “the shadow” in Jungian terms.  So, although I take the attitude that I write from the “positive school”, that doesn’t mean that I won’t explore the “non-positive” too.

Question:  This is very interesting, but let’s pull back to the notion of plot versus character.  Summing up to this point of the discussion, would you say that a strong, interesting, likeable character can carry a story irrespective of plot (within reason), but that character has to be real and complex enough to satisfy the reader’s need for a deeply interesting friend?

Answer:  Sure.  But having said all that, I do love plot, in both my reading and my writing.  A complicated, satisfying story is a delight to behold and contemplate.  And they are fun to write.

Question:  Do you find that plot is a more left brain, rational exercise and character is more of a right brain, intuitive exercise?  In other words, do you have to think about the plot, construct it, literally plot it out, versus letting the characters organically express themselves, through words and action, without a lot of deliberation on your part?

Answer:  Dividing the two processes is a bit of a red herring, I find.  For myself, I find that the process is co-dependent, for lack of a better term.  You may plot things out, which leads the characters into a particular situation and environment, but they may do something that you hadn’t really planned on, which then leads to a plot development that surprises you.  You start with one idea, but the interaction of plot requirements and the personalities of the characters will often take you in a very different direction.

Question:  So, as I understand it, you start with a plot idea, a situation or a problem, and you insert your characters into it.  But they have their own personalities, their own strengths and weaknesses.  So, they react to this situation, but that changes the situation, which nudges the plot in directions you didn’t’ expect.

Answer:  The kidnapping of Xoraya in Kati 2 is a prime example of that.  When I brought her onto the space station, I had no idea that she would be kidnapped.  She was supposed to go to a fancy ambassadorial reception, where she would have been introduced to all of the VIPs of the Federation, and would have argued the case in favour of the investigation of the corruption on the planet Vultaire.  That was my plan.  But any reader knows that is not how the story developed.

Question:  Indeed, the Vultarians kidnapped her, to prevent that very meeting with Federation VIPs.  But their kidnapping led to the very actions that they were trying to avoid, namely the investigation of Vultaire.   So, in a sense, the story arc remained, but it unfolded in an unexpected manner.

Answer:  And I think in a better one.

Question:  So, this blog has turned out to be more about how stories develop, though the relative importance of plot versus character is a very important aspect of that.  But, at a deeper level, it’s about how stories manifest, how much is consciously directed and how much comes up, apparently unbidden from the subconscious mind.  I get the feeling that plot is more of a conscious process, while character is more subconscious.  But once the process gets rolling, there is so much interaction, that it becomes difficult to separate out these aspects of story creation.

Answer:  That seems like a fair description.  As a writer, though, one doesn’t want to overanalyse the process, for fear of getting in the way of it.  It’s like the joke about asking a centipede how it walks.  Before long, it is tripping over its own feet, thinking about which one goes first.  Perhaps it is best if the process remains something of a mystery, for both the reader and the writer.

Question:  And the publisher too.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Happy 50th anniversary to Doctor Who

Here's a picture done by artist Jordan Lange to help celebrate Dr Who's 50th.  Jordan is doing the artwork for the upcoming Dodecahedron children's book "Nathan's Adventure in the Other-Other Land".  She does cards (wildlife as well as more whimsical stuff, like the Dalek below), if you want something unique for Christmas.

You could leave a message here or on Dodecahedron Books facebook site

Jordan Lange, copyright 2013 

Whither Chapters (or Wither Chapters?)

Indigo Books and Music Inc is the major corporation behind Canada’s big book chains - Chapters, Coles, Indigo and the World’s Biggest Bookstore.  And according to the November 7, 2013 copy of the Globe and Mail (“Indigo falls as dividend disappears”) it is in significant trouble.  Please note for American, British or other readers, that you can be pretty sure that whatever is happening to Canada’s Indigo/Chapters is also happening to Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, or whatever your national big book retailer happens to be called.

Here’s a selection of quotes from the Globe and Mail article about Indigo/Chapters:

·         "dying bricks and mortar bookstore model"

·         "falling margins in its core book business"

·         “remodelling… stores to step up its move away from books and into other products”

·          “investors are considering whether to wait for the results"

·         “The book part of the store will continue to decline in sales”

In terms of numbers, here’s what happened.  There was a net loss of $10.1 million dollars in quarter 2 (April to June) of 2013, based on lower sales and higher costs.  In fact, revenues fell 3.3%, to $179.4 million, while costs of operations went up slightly.  It should be noted that Q2, 2012 also saw a net loss, but a lower amount, about $4 million.   Another negative sign would seem to be the loss of 9 stores compared to the second quarter of 2012.

 Because of this, the company decided to suspend its usual dividend payout for Q2 2013, and the stock price plunged 18% in one day. The company has been paying dividends since 2009, when Indigo finished paying off debt incurred from its acquisition of Chapters.  So, it seems that investors are used to a dividend, and they don’t like to see it yanked.

The money that would have been paid out ($11 million) is to be redirected to its conversion into a “lifestyle company”, focussed less on books and more on toys, gifts, house wares and electronics.  This is due to falling margins in its core book business, related to pressure from online paper book and digital book sales.  The fact that this year hasn’t seen any mega best sellers, such as “Hunger Games” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” hasn’t helped matters.  Add to that more competition In the paper book mega best-seller domain;  other retailers such as Wal-Mart are also beginning to be significant competitors for sales of those books.

There is good evidence that this conversion from books to other products is in full swing.  I did an informal content analysis of the last 5 flyers that came to our house, roughly corresponding to October and first half of November 2013.  I scanned the flyers, and recorded how much advertising space was being devoted to books versus other items:

·         Indigo, Best of Fall Books Flyer - four large pages, 81% book ad content.

·         Indigo, Joy of the Table - four large pages, 25% book ad content.

·         Indigo/Chapters Christmas Flyer - 50 pages, 44% book ad content.

·         Indigo/Tech Christmas Flyer  - 12 pages, 13% book ad content.

·         Indigo/Kids Christmas Flyer - 44 pages, 34% book ad content.


Overall, this gives 114 pages of ads, with 38% of these ads being devoted to books.  So, the conversion is proceeding apace.

Certain types of books are taking longer to transition from print to ebook form, and therefore are still primarily purchased in bookstores (though also by mail order, primarily through Amazon).  Among these are picture books (kids books, coffee table books), cookbooks and technical non-fiction.  Basically these are books that aren’t mostly straight narrative, the type that has transitioned best to ebooks (especially genre books such as romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller and so forth).  Looking at the books that are in the Indigo/Chapters flyers we find:
·         35% are picture books (mostly kid’s books).

·         5% are cookbooks.

·         5% are kobo ads, with book titles shown.

·         55% are miscellaneous books, with a significant narrative fiction component.

So, putting together the above results, we find that:

·         62% of ads were for non-book items.

·         13% were for picture books.

·         2% were cookbooks.

·         2% were kobo ads.

·         21% were narrative books.

Going by this analysis, Indigo/Chapters has only about one-fifth of its business promotion directed at what was, until recently, the bulk of the book buying market, which is to say narrative fiction and non-fiction.

So, what’s this mean for book publishing?  Basically, the big bookstore chains are either failing or converting to other products and business models.  That means the major “value proposition” for big publishers is withering away.  What is that value proposition?  Just this - they can put writer’s books into the bookstores.   Self/Independent/Small publishers really can’t do this, for the most part.

So what happens when that advantage goes away?  I would guess that, over time, writers will be less and less willing to take the substantial royalty losses that they do with the big publishing houses.  Once big publishing houses can’t offer entry into the big bookstores, it simply won’t make sense to give them a large cut of the money for formatting an ebook and putting it up on Amazon.  People can do that by themselves.  This is called disintermediation, and it is a dagger at the heart of any business whose model relies on being a “middleman”.

Furthermore, by necessity readers will move more and more to sites like Amazon, which don’t make a major distinction between books by the size of the publishing house.  Amazon makes money whether the book is published by on the Big Five or by a small independent.  And , for the most part, readers don’t care either.  There is ample survey evidence that says they shop by writer, genre, subject and word of mouth recommendation.  Amazon reader reviews and “Also Bought” lists are also major factors in buying decisions, and they don’t discriminate by publisher size either.

All that being said, the power law phenomenon in book sales will continue.  A relatively small number of books will dominate sales.  But that power law will probably flatten somewhat as the vectors of distribution open up (that just means that sales will spread out more evenly and the “long tail” will become more prominent).  So, writing and publishing books will still be a tough way to make a living.  As the value proposition of the middlemen withers away, it may become more and more a labour of love and art for the producers than a hard headed business.  But that’s another blog.

Friday, 15 November 2013

E-books and the Small Publishing Phenomenon, Sales and Revenue

It’s no secret that many readers are moving from paper books to e-books and as time goes on, it is expected that this trend will continue.  There are many reasons behind this transition, but the primary ones are probably price and convenience (check out the Dodecahedron Books blog “Imagine that you had a Magic Wine Glass” for some further thoughts on this).  A significant aspect of this transition is the move to self/independent/small publishing.   But it can be hard to gauge just how far along we are on this path - good data is hard to come by, and many parties have an interest in obfuscating the issue.

So, an October 2013 article in Publisher’s Weekly was quite timely.  It contained data on e-book sales that were the result of the recent anti-trust suit in the U.S. , where several of the major publishers and Apple were determined to be guilty of a price-fixing conspiracy.  This data is to be used to help estimate damages to be awarded from the suit, so we can assume that the accounting books have been opened and that a lot of scrutiny has been given to the data.  The data comes from sales by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Google, and Books-a-Million, which account for the vast majority of e-book sales in the U.S.

Among other result were the following (the period in question is April 1, 2010 to May 21, 2012, a bit over 2 years, and concerns sales by the Big Five named in the suit):

·         There were 1,348,121 unique e-book titles, that had at least one purchase.  Remember, this is separate titles, not total e- book sales. 

·         Of those, 83,463 were by the 5 biggest publishers.  That’s just 6% of these unique titles.

·         It seems reasonable to assume that Random House, the other member of the big six publishing houses, would have published several tens of thousands more titles.  So, if we add them in that would mean that about 10% of unique titles were published by the big six.

·         So, roughly 90% of the unique titles published during this time period were self-published, independently published, or published by smaller publishers.

In terms of money, over the same period:

·         The Big Five (Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster) earned $1,548.223,900, or about $1.55 billion through these e-book sales.

·         Dividing that dollar figure into the number of unique titles gives an average (mean) revenue per title of about $18,550.

·         We can estimate that the median revenue per title is probably about one third of that, or about $6000 per title.  The median is the point at which half the titles will make more money and half will make less.  Book sales follow a power law, and in that mathematical model, the mean is generally much higher than the median.  This simply reflects the “best-seller” phenomenon, where a few dozen titles might account for over half of all sales.  I will do a blog about the power law phenomenon in the future - it’s a fascinating subject on its own, as it shows up in everything from human cultural products (e.g. book sales, music) to earthquakes to galaxies.


Here’s where we have to make some assumptions about self-published titles, in order to estimate how much money they earned:

·         Let’s conservatively estimate that self-published and independently published e-book titles had a median revenue of about$150 to $200 during that period.  That’s in line with some estimates that I have read about, based on survey data.  Either way, it is a rough estimate, but useful to get a ballpark estimate.

·         Using the same power law mathematics as above, we can assume that the average (mean) earnings per self-published or independently-published title is about three times the mean, or about $450 to $600.  To remain on the conservative side, let’s use the lower figure of $450.

·         So, multiplying the roughly 1.2 million unique titles by $450 per title gives an estimated total revenue of about $550 million.

So, in summary:

·         About 6% of these unique titles sold were published by the Big Five, and they earned about three quarters  of the total revenue.

·         Conversely, about 90% of these unique titles sold were published by self/independent/small publishers, and they earned about a quarter of total revenue.

Kobo officials have been on record as saying over 10 percent of their sales are from self/independent/small publishers.  Many observers think the percentage may be as much as double for Amazon, as they are generally thought to have a website and corporate culture more conducive to sales by independents.   So, this estimate is probably not too bad.  If sales of Random House (who were not part of the suit) were included these calculations, the resulting percentages would probably be closer to those other lower estimates (i.e. around the 20 percent mark).

In fact, it is reasonable to think the e-book transition has, in fact, sped up since mid-2012 i.e. the percentage of sales going to independents has probably gone up.  Some reasons:

·         There are simply more independents e-publishing all the time and their titles are growing at a faster rate than those of the Big Five.

·         The acceptance of non Big Five publishing (self/independent/small publishing) is steadily increasing, according to surveys of readers and the general social phenomenon that something becomes normalized the longer it goes on.

·         The major block buster effect of Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games will be diminishing, and there has been no mega best-seller published by the big five since then, at least not on the scale of those books.

It is also well known that the e-book transition has progressed more quickly in some categories of book than others.  Those books that generally go by the name “genre”, have had the speediest  transition.  Key among these are Romance, Science Fiction (Dodecahedron Books category) and Thriller.  Some estimates have these categories as 50% transitioned to e-books, with self/independent/small publishers getting a significant share of that action.  Other categories, such as picture books, cookbooks and textbooks have been slower. Literary Fiction is probably somewhere in between.  In a later blog, I will do a content analysis of Chapters (Canada’s major book chain) advertising, which generally supports this notion.

Another transition that is affecting the paper book market is the increasing availability of print on demand books.  That means that readers who prefer paper can still read via their preferred medium, even without visiting a bookstore (these are generally ordered via Amazon and delivered to the customer’s door).  Independent publishers are increasingly making their books available in that format as well, at prices competitive with the Big Five.  As an example, Dodecahedron Books is working on this now, though we expect the majority of sales will continue to be e-books.

One other interesting finding in the Publishers Weekly report was that 98% of all U.S. sales during that period could be accounted for by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Sony.  Kobo still has some way to go in the U.S., though its global presence has become stronger over the past few years.  So, writers and publishers, it may be a while before those Kobo sales do much more than trickle in, at least as far as the U.S. market is concerned.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Astrophysics Corner, Part 4 – Dark Matter

In The Witches’ Stones – Book One - Igniting the Blaze, Coryn and Steph bring up the topic of dark matter during their rescue of the amarto-sensitive Sarah Mckenzie:

“How’s it look, Steph,” Coryn asked the pilot.  “Are you picking up anything besides the beacon from the Beth?”

“We’re still a long way off.  All I get is the beacon”, Steph replied, with a shake of his head.  “But something else isn’t right.  I’m picking up slight gravitational anomalies in this system – I don’t recall them being there when we were here before.  Maybe they mean nothing but extremely dark asteroids, or some peculiar effect of dark matter, due to this being so far out on the fringe of the galaxy.  But….”  He sighed.

“You don’t like it, at all,” Coryn finished for him.

“Recent omega-hops can also leave traces like that.”  Steph sighed again.

So, just what is dark matter?  As of this time, nobody really knows, though there are, of course, theories.  What is known, is that the rotation rates of galaxies can’t be explained by the visible matter that we see in them.  The rotation velocity of stars nearer the edges of galaxies should be much slower than the rotation velocity of stars nearer the center, similar to planets in the solar system, where for example the Earth travels around the sun at about 4.7 km/second, while Neptune’s speed is only about 0.9 km/second.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case for galaxies, as indicated by Doppler shift measurements of their stars’  radial velocities.   In fact, the stars in the outer parts of galaxies move much faster than expected – their speeds aren’t much different than the inner stars.  So, there seems to be much more kinetic energy in galaxies than can be accounted for by the gravitational potential energy in their visible matter (these are connected by something called the viral theorem, which says that the kinetic energy ought to be about half the potential energy).

The best way to account for this discrepancy is by assuming that there is much more matter in galaxies than we can see, and that this dark matter is in a halo around the galaxy, rather than concentrated in a disk as most visible stars are.  Both theoretical density profiles and computer simulations support this conclusion.  There are also other observational phenomena that support the notion of dark matter, such as motions within galaxy clusters, some observed gravitational lensing and cosmological considerations (literally, the big bang theory).

So, while the evidence for dark matter’s existence is good, we don’t have much idea of what it actually is.  There are some who say it is just regular (baryonic) matter that is hard to see from any great distance  – black holes, neutron stars, cold brown dwarfs, rogue planets, asteroids and so forth.  But so far, searches for these objects (via gravitational micro-lensing for example) haven’t turned up nearly enough of them to account for the estimated missing mass.

That leaves new exotic particles, so called WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles) which are thought to interact only weakly with regular matter, basically via gravity.  If they exist, there are probably millions going through your body every second.  But so far, there haven’t been compelling observations of these particles either.   Maybe in five or ten centuries (as in The Witches’ Stones series) we will know more about this astrophysical mystery.

Friday, 1 November 2013

A Science Fiction Writer, an Astrophysicist and a Blog Writer Discuss “How Important is Getting the Science Right, in Science Fiction” Part 2

Oct 15, 2013 Dodecahedron Books Media Centre, Edmonton Alberta

Part Two – Categories of Science Fiction and the Limits of Scientific Possibility


Writer:  Helena Puumala (Kati of Terra series, Witches Stones, Northern Gothic short story collection).

Astrophysicist:  Scott Olausen ( PhD student, several papers in The Astrophysical Journal).

Blogger:  Dodecahedron Books blog writer (also a statistician in his day job).

Blogger:  Previously, we talked about categories of science fiction/fantasy and the boundaries that define them, however indistinctly.  How about we give some concrete examples that might typify these categories.  So, the  next question: From your different perspectives, give me an idea of what you would include in the categories Hard SF, Middle SF, Soft SF and Fantasy.

Writer:   I think Kim Stanley Robinson is a good example of Hard Science Fiction.  He wrote the very scientifically credible Mars trilogy.  For Middle SF, I will give my own book, The Witches’ Stones: Igniting the Blaze as an example.  Is that ok?

Blogger:  That’s always acceptable on my Dodecahedron Books blog.

Writer: No surprise there.  Well, then, for Soft SF I will go with my Kati of Terra books, which follow the conventions of Science Fiction, but focus on the human side of things and throw in a nice side order of romance.

Blogger: They do, at that.

Writer:  And for my example of Fantasy, I will go with a classic, the Toklien stories - The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Astrophysicist:  I will use the previously  mentioned move “Gravity” for my example of Hard SF.  All the science in it is completely credible, though you might say that the engineering takes liberties.  I think I would place the Star Trek universe in the Middle SF category.  They have a lot of far out edge science, such as teleportation and warp drive, but they still sort of care about the science being at least vaguely plausible.  For Soft SF, I will go with Dr. Who.  It gives a nod to science, but is generally a lot further out there than Star Trek.  For Fantasy, I will say Game of Thrones. 

Writer:  Dr. Who is interesting.  It seems to me that series intersects with folklore archetypes to a great extent.  It is both Science Fiction and Fairy Tale.  That’s not surprising, since the show started off as a kid’s show and is meant to appeal to both kids and adults now.

Blogger:  Yes, a recent Dr. Who episode had a wonderful scene where the Doctor explains to someone the scientific creation story of the Big Bang and the brings alive the concept of the many universes theory.  It really did make the Big Bang seem as amazing as any religious myth or fairy tale - and I mean that in a good way.

What about books like 1984 or Brave New World?  Where do they fit in?

Astrophysicist: Political dystopia, with the trappings of SF.

Writer: And since the year 1984 has come and gone, you can’t really say it is even futuristic, which is a pretty significant aspect of science fiction.

Blogger: How about James  Bond?

Writer:  Skirts the edges of SF, but that’s about it.

Blogger:   Ok, here’s a little Rorschach test regarding science and Science Fiction.  On a scale from 1 to 10, rate the scientific credibility or plausibility of the following:

Life on Other Planets

Astrophysicist: Almost a sure thing, at least some form of life.

Writer:  I consider it an established fact, based on some of the Viking Lander results, the obvious existence of water on Mars, and the reports of methane in the atmosphere there.  Beyond that, we now know of so many exoplanets that there must be life on some of them.

Intelligent Life on Other Planets

Astrophysicist: It’s probably much less common than life in general, but given our existence, we are pretty well guaranteed that intelligent life is out there somewhere, or at least has been out there somewhere.  Otherwise, we would be absolutely unique, which goes against the principle of mediocrity.  We can use the Drake Equation as a guide to the question, but there are a lot of unknowns, so it doesn’t narrow things down much.  At least not yet.

Writer:  All that being said, we shouldn’t necessarily expect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe to be much like us.  Naturally in the Kati of Terra universe I have had to make the intelligent creatures recognizable to us, but in the real universe that might not be the case.  It could vary immensely - intelligent gas clouds, intelligent undersea creatures, non-Oxygen based, non-Carbon based, perhaps pure energy, perhaps beings in other dimensions as in the frontier physics we read about.

Signals from or Contact with Intelligent Life on Other Planets (SETI/CETI)

Astrophysicist: Not impossible, but probably technically very difficult.  There are so many things that have to come together just so - for example, proximity in space, proximity in time (e.g. the lifespan of civilizations, the length of time that signals will be sent,  accidentally or on purpose) and the likelihood of actually being able to make any sense out of a signal even if one is detected.

Writer:  It’s possible that if it happens it could be through something like ESP rather than physical signals, like radio or laser light.  If the physical is impossible then it will happen in a non-physical way, something to do with consciousness reaching out and contacting other consciousness.   Anyway, I posit that sort of thing in the Kati books, if anyone wants to explore those ideas further.

Interstellar Travel

Astrophysicist:  Well, in a limited sense we are on our way with Pioneer and Voyager, which are interstellar ships of a sort.  Generation ships are possible, I suppose, but you almost need breakthrough physics, as the economics of generation ships are so formidable.  Near light speed ships also have formidable technical and economic challenges.  Warps and wormholes get talked about, but they are still a long ways off, if ever.  Current theories say you would need strange matter, for example.  But who knows, in 1000 years what might be possible.

Writer - Well, as a science fiction writer, I have to assume that this is possible.  The actual means of doing it may be so beyond our current understanding, though, that we can’t even begin to guess.

Blogger:  I will just put in a word or two about rockets and warp drive.  Supposedly, the first rockets were used by the Chinese in the twelfth century.  So, in principle, the basic idea for the propellant technology that was eventually used for Apollo and the other interplanetary probes existed for nearly a millennium, before humanity perfected it for those purposes.  So, perhaps warp drive might be the same.  Perhaps the current  theorising behind things like the Alcubierre drive is the equivalent of those twelfth century rockets.

Machine Intelligence, that would pass the Turing Test

Astrophysicist:  It seems possible, but we still don’t know much about consciousness and sentience.  It may be a lot more difficult than the optimists (e.g. The Singularity is Near) believe.

Writer:  I admit that I really don’t like the idea.  It seems to postulate a rigid materialism that I am not comfortable with.  If it ever did come about, it might still be that some sort of non-physical entity would be instantiated or be used by this apparent machine intelligence.


Astrophysicist:  Shrug, can’t say.  That’s getting a little too far out there for someone without tenure.

Writer:  I think we all have it.  I think I do.

Time Travel

Astrophysicist:  There are ways to solve general relativity and special relativity that can lead to these possibilities.  But still, the logical paradoxes…

Writer:  You would need multiple universes to deal with paradox, but hey, I’m a Science Fiction writer.

Blogger:  So, summing up our discussions, what’s more important - a good story or good science?

Astrophysicist:  Ultimately, a good story is most important.  That’s the point of fiction.  If I want something narrowly focussed on science, I can read the Astrophysical Journal (or write for it).

Writer:  Who can argue with that?  Fiction is fiction, and we need our entertainment.  Exceeding the bounds of current science also helps to inspire hope and wonder, and we need that too.

Blogger: Indeed, who can argue with any of that?  Based on our discussions, I would say that creative people should keep the science at least vaguely plausible, don’t insult the audience’s intelligence, maintain internal consistency, and write a compelling story.  That’s good Science Fiction.