Blogger Panels: Representation of Science in Sci-Fi



For this year’s Sci-Fi November, Rinn, Kelley, Leanne, and I thought it would be fun to introduce Blogger Panels, inspired by the Blogger Panel feature done by Meg @ Adrift on Vulcan! Every Friday we will feature a blogger panel, alternating between Oh, the Books! and Rinn Reads, where bloggers are asked their opinion on a sci-fi related topic. This week’s question is:

“How do you feel about the representation of science in science fiction? Does it ever bother you when it’s portrayed as ‘evil’?”

Do you have any thoughts in relation to this question? See how they compare to the blogger responses we collected below!

Panelist #1: Nara @ Looking for the Panacea

To be honest, personally, I’m not really that bothered by it.

I think it’s fundamentally because fiction is fiction, and it’s easy to separate that from the reality of how science is generally viewed by people today. There’s also the whole “it’s not science that’s evil, it’s the people who use science to do bad things that are evil” (and really, I wouldn’t even necessarily call those people “evil” per se, although that’s a whole other issue).

Conversely, I guess the other thing is that as science is becoming more advanced, there is more chance of it being used for “evil deeds”, and science fiction is all about exploring those possibilities. I mean, really, what sort of book would it be if there was no conflict? A lot of the time, science going wrong in some way is simply a plot device. The same way a character suddenly contracting a disease is a plot device (is disease evil?). And isn’t it interesting? Seeing what sorts of ideas authors can come up with to twist science?

Red HillThe only case in which it really bothers me is when it’s scientifically implausible, or just plain wrong. Take Red Hill by Jamie McGuire. It’s a zombie novel, and the cause of the zombie apocalypse is the influenza vaccine. Honestly, that is one of the stupidest causes I have ever heard. More annoyingly, the entire apocalypse apparently starts at the same time in one day, all over the world, because the virus magically activates at the same time to zombify everyone, despite the vaccine being administered at different times. Yeah, no. That would not happen. If you’re going to use science, use it logically.

Tl;dr: nope. Not bothered at all, if the science makes sense.

Panelist #2: Kristen @ Fantasy Book Cafe

I feel that most of the science fiction books I’ve read portray science as either neutral or positive. Most of the science fiction I’ve read is space opera, and often in these books science is a way of having cool things such as space travel, unusual weapons, or gadgets that make everyday life easier. It can also be a means to improving people’s lives since it often means access to better medicine, longer life-spans, and the ability to prevent disease. Sometimes it’s also a convenient plot device when it allows near insta-healing from wounds that would result in death or permanent injury today.

Consider PhlebasThe other side of this that results in science seeming neutral is that there may be some characters who use the advanced technology resulting from scientific advancement to do harm instead of good. I think this is the way it should be in a good science fiction book—science itself can lead to great advances, but how it’s used should really depend on the individuals involved and their characters. Even The Culture series by Iain M. Banks, which paints a rather idealistic society due to what’s made possible through science, also shows the darker side of this society and the ways advanced technology can be used that are not so benevolent.

I can’t think of any books I’ve read which made me feel science was being portrayed as evil instead of the people using it. I can think of a book in which the only scientist was a stereotype—someone willing to harm people in the name of scientific discovery, not even because any knowledge gained might help humanity as a whole but because of wanting to be remembered for discoveries that saved lives—and this did bother me because it seemed like lazy characterization. This character may be a stand-in for the evils of science, although I didn’t really feel that way about it since there seemed to be a high regard for knowledge and learning in general in this book. If I did read a book that made me feel like it was all about the evils of science, I’m quite certain that would bother me too.

Panelist #3: Kayla @ The Thousand Lives

Free to Fall by Lauren MillerThis is actually the #1 thing I get incensed about when I read science fiction, and probably the reason I had a mini-meltdown in my American Lit class in 9th grade when we were reading Walden (the topic was basically that tech is evil and causes humans to do horrible things so isolation in the woods is obviously the best option – so kind of linked to this question. I still have issues with that teacher if you can’t tell). To put it in a single sentence: technology is an inanimate object. It has no will or motivation of its own, and there is no way it could ever exert control over a human being in a way that could classify it as “evil.” It’s just not possible! It’s humans that make their own choices, and technology can become an evil in the hands of someone with less than pure intentions to use that technology. But yeah, to put fault on machines when something awful happens that’s truly humanity’s fault is just idiotic.

Though Skynet does throw a bit of a wrinkle into my argument… but that’s getting into artificial intelligence and I don’t think that’s the point of this question. I’m basing my opinion on stuff like cell phones and cars and whatnot – actually my most recent favorite sci-fi book that posed this question using smart phone technology was Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. LIFE. CHANGING.

Panelist #4: Lina @ Every Book a World

Science sometimes being portrayed as “evil” in Sci-Fi? I can’t say that it bothers me all that much. I think that most every reader can agree that in real life science does so much more to help people than hurt them, and this doesn’t always have to translate into fiction when the purpose is to entertain. For every sci-fi book that portrays science as “evil,” I can think of one in which science produced amazing new technology to heal and/or help.

Origin, by Jessica KhouryI personally love reading “evil” sci-fi books! Not only is it fascinating to read about, but it also serves a potential warning to keep people aware — it is possible for science to take advantage of the public or have bad intentions. Some of my favorite evil scientists happen to be the Corpus scientists from Jessica Khoury’s companion novels, Origin and Vitro, who are always plotting to take over the world somehow — whether it be with immortality or brainwashing. Reading about teens trying to take down such a large corporation kept me on the edge of my seat!

Panelist #5: Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story

At first when I received my question for this year’s Blogger Panels for Sci-Fi November, I was a bit on the fence as to have a direct reference point in which to guide my thoughts, however, after reading King of the Mutants recently I can expand a bit on what bothers me – when stories become a bit too underlit by the evils of science without having a bit of an upswing resolve at the conclusions.

I should start by mentioning I have always appreciated a hearty dose of science-fact within science-fiction, because to me it helps us not only become grounded in the realities of where science can lead humanity as a whole but it helps to fuse together the proportions of what is either realistically probable or imaginatively plausible.

A lot of proven advances in both science and technology have stemmed out of scientific theories woven throughout the science-fiction genre (either through novels and/or tv serials and motion pictures) — as the genre has become a lifeblood of exploring how far we can push future technology in today’s world. However, I do agree with Albert Einstein on the level there are times where certain discoveries within the sphere of science need to either be dismissed and/or left unremarked in scientific circles if the gravity of how the discovery can be used could take on a more sinister result.

The blessing of scientists are the fact they have a human conscience and a vein of humanity knitted into the fiber of their core yet the downside to their conscience is the pursuit of besting a theory and/or an experiment from the past. I believe that science and science-fiction have always danced between what is right and what is wrong; it is one thing to imagine what is possible, but what if what is possible doesn’t lead to bettering human life but dissolves the balance of order? To plunge chaos into the forefront of where peace and tranquility once survived without added chaos to throw everything off-kilter?

Chaos theory is a side venture of mine running parallel to quantum physics, as I’m self-educated and highly curious about certain topics and subjects where classic and modern science-fiction took the roots of their own story-lines.

King of the MutantsReturning back to King of the Mutants for a moment, I think what bothered me about the conclusion is how evil-centered the scientist was who created the experimentation which caused the mutants to become altered out of their natural state. It was a sickened reality of taking living breathing humans and physically altering them to where they could no longer function in their everyday lives. If the ending had ended with a resolution where Maverick had discovered other children like him, who were not only fully functioning but they could use their mutant attributes in a way that enabled them to do things other children like them could not; I might have felt differently all the way around.

For me, the plot was centered on the evilness of the mutant technology and what I was seeking was a path back towards where the revelation of how Maverick became an alligator boy would lead him to transition into a new life where he could communicate not only with wild gators (as my favourite section of the novel is set in the Bayous of Louisiana; a stone’s throw from New Orleans) but he could become a liaison between the mutants and the humans within society. (I think I was hoping it was going to end more along the lines of “X-Men”.)

Parts of the novel were a bit too mad scientist for me, as it was hard to get around the fact that only a mad scientist would experiment to bring animals and humans into a quasi-non-human race of mutant beings who could only live in sterile environments.

– quoted from my review of “King of the Mutants” by Samantha Vérant

The tone of a novel is very important to me, as although I am a hybrid reader who dances through Inspirational & Mainstream markets, what I am initially always in seek of are stories which illuminate this pursuit:

I tend to move like a dancer through genres, as what motivates me is the inertia of magnetism that draws my eye, heart, and mind into a particular setting, time period, locale, and character sketching… that vortex of suspension in-between first finding a book that whets your fancy and drinking in the words that will either leave you blissfully entranced or ruminative about where the writer was intending to take you.

I have no compass point to guide me, as I wander and find that internal spark of light igniting inside me the flutterment of bliss, as I am about to partake in an adventure filling the shoes of someone not yet known, but will be fully acquainted with in the end.

I am rather keen on stories by which are character driven, have a fully realised world inclusive to their point of time reference, are wholly real in their embodiment of the subject contained therein, and include an undercurrent notation that the author not only enjoyed his/her writing process, but took the time to etch research and heart into his/her story.

– quote combined excerpts from “Introduction Post
of Jorie Loves A Story” & my “Review Policy”

Intangible by C.A. GrayIf we are speaking about straight-up science within science-fiction, I wanted to talk a moment about the sub-genre “Sci-Fantasy” of which I highlighted on my blog with my first book review for the Piercing the Veil series by C.A. Gray. Intangible is an incredible breadth of narrative where quantum physics, metaphysics, and parapsychology (in regards to abilities beyond normal human capabilities) thrive in the undercurrents of the novel itself. I was so keen on reading (err, devouring!) the first novel because of the manner in which Gray writes her stories.

To me, Sci-Fantasy is a hybrid of both science fiction and fantasy, by augmenting the groundings of science fact into science-fiction whilst giving you a breadth of history through the expanse of a High (or Epic) Fantasy novel. Herein, the High Fantasy elements are explored through the back-story leading to King Arthur and the Arthurian legends whereas the science is never far behind and is at times at the forefront of what affects the characters both lead and secondary.

Peter is living a path outside the realm of his peers because his father took a keen interest in his education at a young age, and endowed him with the ability to learn at a rate that was highly fused to his son’s interests rather than limited to what his level of education would be dictated at a scale of his accent in age. Peter became aware of things that others were not clued into simply because his sense of reality and the sense of his environment as a whole, was altered out of the scope of where his classmates put their perceptional lens. Where they wanted to focus on the routine of the hours within the structure of where they were attending school, Peter was looking at the world from different angles and from a perspective of science bent back into the folds of reality itself. His mind was electrically charged and fundamentally curious about the process of things and the more he was curious about how things worked, the more he wanted to experiment to drive the hypothetical theories out of thought and into a foundation of evidence, for which his mind could lay a baseline of support against what is purported and what is true. The tricky part for Peter is accepting that not everything can be explained by science because he forgot the greatest key we’re all given is our imagination.

Lily finds the patience to live within the spectrum of ordinary hours a bit of a daunting tug of will against what she already knows as truth; her sensibility of awareness is locked within the unseen and yet she is altogether fascinating at how she purports what she understands back into the everyday fold of a regular day. She likes to be a bit organised in her being, even if who she is has never truly been accepted by anyone who has known her as she tends to stand out a bit from her peers. She has a quiet confidence that has not fully blossomed into acceptance but she’s been struggling to overcome not only the loss of her parents but the manner in which she was saved the night they died. Lily believes with an innocent heart and a mind willing to suspend the laws of reported science.

– quoted from my book review of “Intangible” by C.A. Gray

In conclusion, what I appreciate the most is where the science not only drives the story forward, but it expands the origins of thought that you originally had when you first picked up the novel to read. To encourage you to consider what is not necessarily impossible but ultimately potentially possible through science and imagination working in conjunction with each other.

The only time I feel where science and the balance of light vs. dark fall out of scope for me is when I cannot see the light through the darkness of where the plot shifted it’s focus. For me personally, I do not like when stories evolve to such a gradient of darkness as to not allow the light to permeate back through the lives of the characters I felt compelled to see have a transition and/or a resolution towards the end of either the stand-alone novel or the first installment in a series. The transitional sequence involved in a series can end on a cliffhanger, as it will become the motivation to continue forward. I love taking journeys when I read but if I feel in the end the journey I took was incomplete, I find myself a bit wanton for a story whose depth of heart matches the courage of the characters. If the story can have a firm grounding in science I am evermore fulfilled.

What do you think? Are you ever bothered by the representation of science in sci-fi? Do you ever feel it is unnecessarily evil? Let us know in the comments below!

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