What If
Someone once said Science Fiction is just a bunch of people sitting around asking What if. So what's your what if?
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Are you in the Imagination or Science camp?
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2 Imagination
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Ok from a conversation in another topic there is discussion of if Science works with or against imagination.

I made the point that it seems people are not allowing their imagination to soar because they know too much about science and believe that things have to have a scienfic explaination. People now a days seem to want to limit their imagination wanting realistic stories and reality TV.

While another made the point that the imagination can be large but still stick to the laws of physics. You can still travel to the stars and meet ailiens but they only if they're scientifically possible.

So what is your take on the debate? Are you for Imagination which pushes beyond the limits creating the impossible (think Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers) or are you for pure Science (Azimov's a good example). And no cheating by saying something in-between, there are no real clear cut lines here but they have to be drawn somewhere.

I guess this is kind of like the age old debate between magic and science.

1/30/2009 #1

I really cannot decide. I use both. I imagine something, and then apply the laws of physics to it to make it viable. Things that do not necessarily follow the known laws of physics can still be viable, if they are constant and follow the basic rule of cause and effect.

1/31/2009 #2

You see I was drawing the line in the sand, one or the other. Sounds to me like you are on the science side to me. Cause and Effect is simple physics. It sounds like everything to you has to happen within the rhealms of science even if it's not a science we understand. The other side of the line, which I'm on is stories that are far beyond anything that's possible. Don't know if you know Terry Prachett (he's more fantasy than sci-fi) but he created a flat world (Discworld) that traves throughout space ontop 4 gigantic elephants on the back of a seaturtle. THAT is what I'm talking about imagination wise, something so completely out there it's not in anyway scientfiically possible.

I used to be very much side on the scientific side, I was an engineer for many years very logical mind. Then I quit engineering and pretty much only write now. As the years go on I get farther and farther from my scientific roots. I really want to write "out there" sci-fi and fantasy but that logical part of my mind keeps me closer to reality. I have been enjoying the magical side of reading and writing, the things that are beyond reality but not just fantasy. I want to see more of starships that can travel faster than the speed of light because of some pebble, found only on Mount Olympus, can communicate with a distant star. I want the improbability drive, strange and weird devices that are not scientifically possible but still make for a good story.

I'm not saying it's not possible to have imagination in science (we wouldn't have any technology without it), I'm just saying that I would rather see more strange imagination in stories.

So in many ways (not just this one) I think science is hurting imagination because more and more people want reality based stuff.

The line's been drawn. Are you on the side of starships powered by physics or starships powered by funny pebbles?

1/31/2009 #3

By the way, I'm not saying one is better than the other, I just want to see how many people are for one side or the other, to see if it's balanced or not. I know there is major crossover, we each like imagination in science and reality in some imagination. I just want to see if there is a lean towards more of one or the other.

1/31/2009 #4

Hmm... I'm more in science than imagination. In my universe, magic is the manipulation of atoms using the mind. Of course, the people of Terra (the main planet, which is actually Earth in a few billion years) don't know this. The most advanced people, Humans, are incapable of magic, thus they ride around in things like locomotives. Of course, all the species on Terra are either real on Earth or fictional on Earth. This is because, sometime in our future, there is a great war usuing very powerful weapons, and just about the whole planet is reduced to ash. Godlike beings come a couple hundred years later, and begin the work of restoring the planet, and re-populating. However, they are confused by what's left Earth literature, mainly information files in some surviving computers and books in missile silos and similar structures, and mistake things like Elves and Dwarves and Dragons as real creatures that existed. They also refill the sun with hydrogen, allowing it to burn on for about ten billion more years.

About 3 billion years later, after a catsrophe involving a planet fragment with alien cephalopods, and the beings having to restore about half the planet again, sentient species evolve. And a certain alien population, all that's left of a genocide against their kind, land. They try to stay out of the native's affairs though. After a bunch of stuff, sparked by the arrival of the aliens, a war breaks out, in which 5 species are either driven extinct or near extinct. The most advanced flee to Mars (thanks to magic and a rocket), what they call Haven, and another, the descendents of the alien cephalopods, return fully to the seas and recover in the ocean. Various other species have either half or less of their population killed in the war. Get this: The war was about slavery. My first story on this universe takes place about 11,000 years after. A large, totalitarian and theocratic coalation of species, the Western Alliance, never advanced much beyond pre-medieval technology. The Humans go from hunter gatherer tribes to circumnavigating the world in an steel battleship. Shortly after, the first powered flight is made in an airship.

As you see, it's a large mix of sci-fi and fantasy. I use my imagination to think of things, then apply it to science. One day I'll post some stories from this universe.

2/11/2009 #5

Do you focus on the scientific details making sure they're accurate and realistic or do you go more the technobabble route?

I mean it sounds like you're focused more on the Imagination side really, if they're mistaking dragons for real creatures than no mater how futuristic and technological it is it doesn't sound like you're going for realistic.

2/11/2009 #6

Realistic? Pff. Who needs realistic? We have enough of it in the real world. But, on the defense of these Beings, they aren't even from the same universe, let alone galaxy or system. If I went to some alien world and saw drawing and writings about some creature, I'd think it was real. That what these things did, but on a different scale. And I do try to make it realistic enough. Like using actual elements found on Earth, and real physics when possible. It's hard to describe something like a nuclear missile going off in space when they're no pictures and hardly any descriptions of it. But I do my beste to recreate it.

2/11/2009 #7

Thank you! You're my hero :D No need to defend them.

So I would definitely say you're more on the "imagination" side than "science" side.

See that's my point you can have have science stuff but it does not have to be realistic. If you let your imagination go beyond the confines of what we know. Yes we can use our technical knowledge to be somewhat realistic but why stop there? How do your beings get here from another universe? I mean you could explain it but some people would tell you it's completely implausible and pass it off as fantasy.

So thank you. :) You might not be off on the far end, but at least you get it.

2/11/2009 #8

I have a lot of stuff I consider pretty imaginative, but I always explain it. For example, I have aliens that can create lifelike illusions and alter reality with their minds, and the more powerful aliens can even make their own dreams come to life; literally, while they're asleep they dream living, breathing, physical creatures into existence, which can think on their own. I have mythical creatures with a dozen heads, and quarter-mile-long wormlike aliens that burrow through the ground and are immortal. Some aliens are so powerful they're viewed as deities by other alien civilizations, and there are viruses which can destroy any living creature and survive for billions of years in the void of space.

2/12/2009 #9

If my Beings can create life from nothing, than they can cross the boundries between universes. It's logic put to use with the implausible.

2/12/2009 #10

well, ok that is pretty imaginative :D how do you explain scientifically how the aliens can make dreams come to life? It's pretty interesting.

2/12/2009 #11

I believe sci-fi is science fiction because it's based on science. If it doesn't agree with science how is it science? That's where fantasy comes in - fantasy doesn't have to obey any science laws so if you really have science based stuff that doesn't fit you could throw in fantasy to make it work. Otherwise, I've had friends that say how a sci-fi stuff was wrong due to it not being possible. We can imagine but if it's not realistic - then a lot of people can't imagine it working that way. I remember getting told off by a teacher for creative writing that what I imagine is too hard for others (aka this teacher/marker) to see it that way.

2/13/2009 #12

Basically, the aliens that can do that have a huge amount of brain matter, millions or even billions of tons of it. And what happens is their brainwaves can create illusions just by thinking, but these illusions are so complex that they have minds of their own, and they're each unique, meaning that if one "dies" it can't be replaced. However, the illusions seem real to each other and to the creatures that create them, but if anyone else were to land on their planet, they would find it uninhabited. And if the alien that's the source of the illusions dies, all the illusions it's maintaining will die as well, and if it wakes up the illusions of its dreams will disappear. It can, however, sort of transfer control of some illusions to other creatures like itself.

...It sounded better in my head. XD It's the huge secret of my story; the planet is populated by aliens that are all illusions created by a sleeping superadvanced alien, but they don't know it.

2/13/2009 #13


Well granted there comes a fine line at times between fantasy and sci-fi, some of the stuff I referred to earlier does lean more on the fantasy side. But I have one great example for you: Star Trek. No one would argue that it's fantasy and yet when they created transporters there was absolutely no scientific explaination for it. They made them because they didn't want to do the special effects of landing the ship all the time. So that's more what I'm talking about, they used their imagination to get them out of a jam without any science behind it. It wasn't realistic at all at the time, and yet no one questioned it. If someone tried to do that today they'd get called on it. Just like your teacher did you. That is my point, too many people don't use their imagination anymore.

2/13/2009 . Edited 2/13/2009 #14


"but if anyone else were to land on their planet, they would find it uninhabited" Ah, well that wouldn't really make them real would it? but great point! I like it, they're real to each other. :) When you first described them in the other post I thought you meant they made them physically real so that explains that. Very interesting concept nontheless.

2/13/2009 #15

They are physically real, but at the same time they're not. It's one of the main themes of my story: How does one define existence?

It also has some subtle religious undertones (anti-abortion, for example), but even if you're not familiar with any religion it should still hold morals.

2/13/2009 #16

Guess whom is back? Me. My lamp just burnt out, I'm writing in the dark now... Anyways, I'm wondering what everyone else thinks of a story about a machine slowly becoming free-thinking, sentient, if you will. It occurs here on Earth in 2068, right here in the city I live in. But, the main point would be: Why do people fear machines (I don't like the term robot, sounds to basic, and the term droid belongs in Star Wars) becoming sentient, thinking and feeling as we do? What's a very strong alloy or metal? How realistic would what basically is a machine designed to go beyond it's programming be, and why would someone make something so "dangerous"? And how would a device that changes molecular density work? These questions don't exactly belong in this topic, but any input would be helpful.

3/28/2009 #17
T.T. MacAlester

I would have to say that I would lean heavily toward the science side. It is not because I prefer everything within the story to be possible, it is because I prefer a high degree of self consistency. If the author's imagination dictates that X is possible, then I would expect that the implications of X be reasonably well explored. Furthermore, if later in the story X suddenly becomes impossible, then I would expect that a self consistent reason for X to be impossible. So, I find the techno-babble to be distracting at the least. For my own writing, I try to keep in mind the science even though I may not directly put it into the story -- I use it as a constant reminder to myself to avoid to much gimmickry in the plot and make the story self consistent. Would it ruin one of my stories if I didn't have the science backdrop? Probably, not. It is just my preference for writing.

3/30/2009 #18

^See, this is exactly what I mean. Science and imagination are not necessarily separate; in fact, it takes more imagination to think of viable explanations for things that aren't currently possible than it does to simply have them happen and not explain how they're done. Everything happens for a reason, and even in the most unscientific stories the basic laws of causality are preserved. Usually the same cause causes the same effect.

3/31/2009 #19

hehe... and I was thinking he/she proved mine by showing a purely scientific way of writing. It does NOT exclude the use of imagination but only means that it is limited to what is possible not what is probable. The use of imagination I'm referring to means anything the mind can think up no matter if it's possible or not.

Look here's the thing, I think the definition of "Imagination" is off. What you're describing to me is simply "Thinking process" has nothing to do with "Imagination." As I've said, I was an engineer for many years. I've been on both extremes as a creative writer and a scientist. I KNOW they are two seperate thought processes.

It is extremely normal for a scientific mind to go through and think of all the possibilities, causalities, and explainations for a scientist and yes this can be seen as imagination as they actually sometimes have to imagine what would happen and not just experiment to see it. However that type of imagination I'm talking about is the type that goes beyond this and thinks what would happen without the laws of physicis or just what is plain silly. It's a thought process too. You don't always just pull stuff out of the air. To come up with something completely original that hasn't been thought up before and not be some random crap takes as much thought but more Imagination.

And yes, that imagination can work sceintifically because of course, how do we think up new technologies? And that is the border where the definition is grey. Yeah, I'd say Tomas Edison was imaginative, and Steven Hawking too, but I wouldn't consider my old engineering boss imaginiative. He could write one hell of a technical manual and was one of the smartest guys there but couldn't think of anything new.

3/31/2009 #20

...Wait, who was that aimed at? Me or the person who made this topic?

EDIT: Wait, you made this topic. o_o But my definition of imagination was the same as what you said it was...

3/31/2009 . Edited 3/31/2009 #21

Celebi96 sorry that was unclear, obviously you, since I'm the one that made this topic ;)

3/31/2009 #22
T.T. MacAlester

I agree with your assessment Celebi96. The two are not mutually exclusive. Imagination tampered by scientific reasoning creates new ideas that can be compelling in a fictional sense. But as JDSandara points out, pure science without imagination can be boring. Uncontrolled imagination, in my opinion, produces mush. I think the creative process for fiction in general, and science fiction specifically, requires imagining big at first then editing down with scientific reasoning until the story is self consistent and entertaining. Note: I use the words scientific reasoning to describe the process only -- the same process can be used without any science actually being present.

A friend of mine pointed out that the science fiction or fantasy author has the double problem of developing a good story and creating a believable world at the same time. Some are extremely good at the science part such as Benford; others are good at the imagination part but weak on the science such as Bradbury. I think that both have a good editing process so that we aren't bored or distracted by their particular methods of creating a story.

4/1/2009 #23
Robespierre Cincinnati

I try to come up with a basic scientific explanation for anything in my stories. I even wrote a Fantasy where magic was explained as another part of science (very similar to the theory of Interrelation).

8/3/2009 #24
Violette Skies

For me, it's both. I use what I know about science and technology to sort of influence what I've imagined. I think that everything a scifi writer comes up with, it all has a grain of truth to it. Everything we write could be possible, just as of right now, we don't have the technology or the knowledge to be able to make it a reality

Are you for Imagination which pushes beyond the limits creating the impossible

This sort of reminds me of Star Trek: even though the original series is so old, there really aren't that many aspects of the show that don't follow the law of physics. In theory, it's possible. And I think this is the part where imagination comes into play: In order to further our knowledge of science and in order to create new devices, it all has to start in our minds, with us imagining what the device would do and how it would actually work.

I don't know if this makes much sense...

9/4/2009 #25

I'm working on a story which explores a theory of physics growing in popularity known as String Theory. Now, I'm no expert, but from what I understand, in the near future it will either become the theory which changes everything we know about the universe or just another puzzle piece in a much more complicated system.

I'm banking on a little of both.

You see, deep space travel in the way of Warp Drive or Hyperspace is scientifically implausible. Not impossible, but it doesn't really follow the rules of physics as we now understand them. Man will never travel at the speed of light and the power required to send anything traveling thousands of A.U.s (1 A.U. = 150 million km) in a mater of hours is beyond comprehension. So a different system needed to be figured out.

For my current story, I needed a reasonable method of deep space travel AND time travel, both which had to be accepted as science fact (within the context of my story). I knew two things: String Theory could revolutionize how we understand our universe; and there is no way to change your own timeline. This led to the simple explanation that there are incalculable timelines running parallel. String Theory, with a little fiction magic, could back that up.

So how do you travel through deep space without hyperspace? Simple, you use an as-of-yet undiscovered principle of physics, made possible by String Theory, to collapse all the matter within a specific area (containing your traveler), then expand it again, placing your traveler at their destination. Obviously this requires an enormous amount of energy, so the range would be limited to, say, Mars? The amount of matter being collapsed would have an effect, as well. This is an extremely useful method of travel when you think about solar radiation that could kill space travelers without the protective shielding from a planet's magnetosphere.

Time travel works along the same principle. The matter between time A and B is collapsed, along with your traveler. When it expands, you simply place everything exactly as it was, with the exception of your traveler, who is now at his desired time.

It works in the same way as a wormhole, only instead of being a tunnel it's a point. Crush matter into a single point and then expand it again. You can place particles anywhere you want as you fill the void. Obviously the only matter you're changing is the traveler's.

I'm no physicist. The probability of any of that being possible is excruciatingly slim. But the principle upon which it is based is something that many people have heard of.

My method is to find a way to make what I want to happen real. A story has to be real in it's own context. If you provide no explanation for why or how something is the way it is, readers will draw no parallels to their own lives. It's not that science has limited my imagination, it's the desire for readers that makes me focus more energy on writing things I can make believable.

1/1/2010 #26
Prof Pumpkinhead

Wow, what a serious debate you guys had here! Pity I came here kinda late, but....

I agree with what JDSandara said, about Thomas Alfa Edison and all. I mean, why people call lamp "lamp"? Why don't they call it, for example, "monkey"? There's no significant relationship between word "lamp" with the real thing. It's just that people use their imagination to make word "lamp". I think no matter how scientific you are, you still use your imagination for various situation. :-)

7/2/2010 #27
A Fire Rose

They should not be in oppositin, but in joint partnership. You can't improve scientific knowledge without the "what if?" of the imagination, nor can you put your imagination into practice without science. Einstein actually said that imagination was more important for the reason I already mentioned.

10/14/2011 #28

"any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clark

given the nature of the question I'm on the science side, but that should increase the outlandish potential in the story, not limit it. any plot device or event can be explained with science, its up to the writer to make it 1: not feel shoehorned and 2: make sense in the setting.

that's what i love about writing, making the world. writing a story from scratch is a lot like making a pie from scratch, step 1 is to create the Universe. a Universe has rules. is FTL possible? can gravity be manipulated? can energy be bent into fields and defensive screens? is there sentient life other than humans? are they also humanoid? i love figuring all that out, maybe even more than writing the story itself. Take two of my stories i have here for example, in one FTL is a big thing, and takes a long time to get up to speed and then decelerate, travel still takes long enough to need stasis, but my other i just abandoned FTL all together since mankind just uploads there minds to cloud computer servers. they use FTL communication, but not travel. ('Nameless' and 'The Thirteenth Birthday', respectfully, no im not linking i think that's against the rules)

7/15/2012 #29
I'm for imagination. Because think about it what has reality tv done to society? It has desensitized it. If you have ever read Suzzane Collin's Hunger Games you can see how bad reality tv can be( read it in school.) I prefer to take things past the "limit." I have a theory of Aliens existing and like to think about things most people would just But science had to be started somehow. And imagination has been around longer. If you want to talk to me about anything in here just message me.
1/5/2013 #30
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