Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Future in Recap

Lately I've been watching a sci fi show based in Vancouver called Continuum.  It's about a group of people from the future that get out of prison (and their sentence of death) by travelling back into the past.  Except, instead of the six years they intended to go, they find themselves sixty-five years in the past.  Namely, they find themselves in 2012 (though I assume that it moves into 2013, as this actually started last year.)

I've actually been meaning to watch this show since it started, but the reason I finally opened the file on my computer is because I'm currently in the midst of planning out a sci fi, and I want to get a feel for the genre.  Granted, my novel is nothing like this show.  While they're both, at their most basic route, procedurals, my novel is set in a generation ship travelling to a new world.  There will be no time travel in it.  Still, I was able to pick out a few things that I need to watch for when I'm planning and writing my novel.

1) The language.  At one point one of the young members of the terrorist group that went back said something that was purely 2012 slang.  Now, I suppose this could be explained away because they were trying to blend in, but the truth is, in 2077 their slang and English is going to be a lot different than ours.  Language evolves.  While the core language stays the same, slang develops, and eventually our language accepts it.  So I find it just a little bit odd that in 65 years they somehow haven't developed new slang and are still using ours.  After all, we certainly don't speak the same as the people who were alive in the forties or the fifties.

For my novel, however, while I still need to figure out some new slang that would have developed before they took off from earth in this ship.  Once their on the ship, however, preserving their culture and language would most likely be a priority for them.  While they would have acquired new phrases simply to refer to their new circumstances in their surroundings, their language shouldn't be all that different.

2) Familiarity of the characters with their surroundings.  One of the things that this show does great is make sure that we understand just how comfortable the characters are with everything.  The main character --  a cop in the future who was accidentally transported to the past when she tried to stop the terrorist group from escaping -- is extremely comfortable with her own tech, which isn't available in the time she now finds herself in.  But at the same time, she's completely unfamiliar with the things around her in present day.  For example, when putting on mascara she has a hard time of it.  And driving a car?  Not something she learned at sixteen, that's for sure.

My first step is, of course, figuring out what their technology is going to look like.  Once I figure that out, though, I have to make sure that my character's aren't acting like this is something they've never seen before. They need to not just be familiar with it, but adept as well.  Their technology would actually probably be old for them, as it's highly unlikely that their technology is advancing while they're in space.  So it might not all work as well as it once did.

3) The differences in the world that have happened between now and then.  One of the things that really gets me is that in 2077 apparently corporal punishment is something that has been accepted in Canada.  To me, I think of this as a step back for our culture, but that's not really the problem I have with it.  The biggest problem I have with it is that it has yet to be explained how we managed to get from a world where we didn't have corporal punishment to one where it's an actual option.  I've been told by my friend who has seen more episodes than me that they do eventually tell us what I want to know, but every time they talk about it (because it is a major plot point) I get just a little bit more annoyed.  While I understand that you can't throw in all of that kind of information without it being obvious that's what you're doing, I do think they had ample time to get that information across.

In my own story, the changes will be fairly obvious from the get go, and getting that information out to the readers is going to be difficult.  I highly doubt that most of my characters will be thinking about the reason they're out in space, since it really is an every day occurrence for them.  I haven't figured out how I'm going to do this yet, but I am aware of the problem, and am going to figure it out.

There are many more problems that writing a sci fi deals with.  Like, for instance, how they're travelling from world to world.  What kind of technology they would have that allows them to get between the planets without having to wait years.  But I think it's kind of part of the fun.  Kind of.  After all, I was never that good in science class.

But I will get there.  Eventually this book will be planned, and I will be writing it either in June or July.  I'm excited, as it's a genre I've never tried to write before, while at the same time being utterly nervous for the exact same reason.

What do you guys think?  What annoys you when you're reading (or watching) a sci fi?  And how much science do you like to see in your sci fi?

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