When writing some types of fiction, how accurate do you have to be?

accuracy

Unlike some genres, when it comes to pure science fiction, if you as the author prefer a quiet life, the answer is – extremely!

If you want examples of wild inacurracy, look no further than the many sci-fi films and video games churned out by Hollywood and others. Accuracy means nothing to them, spectacular sound effects do. For instance, while it may be acceptable to have music playing in the background via a speaker system when you see a space ship travelling through space, what isn’t acceptable to the pureist is the sound made by the ship’s engines. Or far worse, the sound of any weapons being fired in the depths of space; bearing in mind that it’s actually impossible to hear sound in a vacuum. On the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable if what you are hearing is happening during a scene filmed inside the said space ship. But you just try pointing out that fact to the producers and directors responsible. They couldn’t care less. Nor could most movie goers and scifi gaming fanatics.

In that case, why is it that when it comes to a pure sci-fi book, if you as its author have the effrontary to say something about a particular phenomena that flies in the face of what is currently accepted, or when you are referring to a specific celestial body, that the nerds and others who endlessly obsess over minutiae will immediately take you to task. I can give you a ‘for instance’. I had one individual have a go at me here on my blog several months back, maybe a year, I forget exactly, when I called the Earth’s satellite a planet in one of my recent scifi books – The Next Age, after he had read it.

While learned gatherings of academics like the International Astronomical Union are emphatic that it is not, as seen here in an extract taken from one of their interminably boring papers –  A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, other academics argue that the science behind their reasoning is sloppy at best.

In other words, the jury is still out. Maybe I was correct, maybe the nerd was. In the end, what does it matter? If you want peace and quiet, trust me it matters. Nerds, or anal retentives as I have come to think of them, can’t accept the simple fact that your book is just a fiction. To them anything like that has to be correct, fiction or not! In that particular nerd’s case, as far as he was concerned, what the IAU said on the matter was sacrosanct, not to be flouted by a successful mid-list scifi writer like myself!

If only he could have seen my instant reaction to his hissy fit when I read it. If memory serves, it involved the rapid upward motion of the extended index finger on my right hand, in conjunction with my tongue protruding from my mouth as a loud raspberry was blown in his general direction by your’s truly.

What? What’s wrong with that? Writers are no different from anyone else. We can’t stand total idiots either. We have feelings just like any other human being don’t forget.

***

Yesterday morning I had just begun to write some more of my current WIP The Guardian, when I came to a grinding halt. I had just written a mini scene involving Lynne and one of the other characters – Cliff. In it I suggested that she had sensed something when the pair were exploring a part of Mars’ surface.

Bearing in mind that the planet’s atmosphere is 95.32% Carbon Dioxide, 2.7% Nitrogen, 0.13% Oxygen, 0.08% Carbon Monoxide, with minor amounts of water, Nitrogen Oxide, Neon, Hydrogen-Deuterium-Oxygen, Krypton and Xenon, I was about to say that she had heard it, when I wondered if that was possible. So I had to stop writing to research whether or not you could hear sound on the surface of Mars.

Eventually I came across this article –  On Mars, no one can hear you scream. According to the article the theory is that sound does travel through the CO2 rich atmosphere, but not nearly as far as in our oxygen rich one, which means that she probably could hear sounds extremely close to her, always providing her space suit’s communications equipment was tuned to the lower frequencies of the Martian atmosphere.

But just to be on the safe side, I have inferred that she felt vibrations brought on by a tremor, through the soles of her space suit’s boots, when she stamped one of her boots down hard, indicating a void beneath her. I don’t need any more nerds taking me to task over a minute detail like that after they eventually get to read The Guardian, now do I? Chances are though that one of these idiots will do just that, arguing over whether or not Lynne would feel anything like a tremor through the thick soles of her space suit’s boots.

***

I’m not the only one in the firing line. I know of one well known writer of historical fiction, Michael Jecks, who also gets his fair share of flack from idiots who complain about all kinds of things in his books. Even my good friend Robert Bauval is constantly being taken to task about his knowledge of ancient Egypt. Lets face it folks, there’s just no pleasing some people.

Well, I’d better get back to it now I’ve found out how far sound travels in the Martian atmosphere.

PS – My ego was given a major boost yesterday when one young lady, Emma Paul, said of me in passing, “Jack Eason is a master storyteller.” It’s always nice to be appreciated. Thank you for making my day yesterday Emma.

That’s all for now folks. More later if your lucky.

😉

25 thoughts on “When writing some types of fiction, how accurate do you have to be?

  1. I’m always waiting for someone to pick apart my writing! There’s always someone out there who knows more than you, or at least thinks they do!

    So far I’ve been lucky. I’ve made the odd mistake and those who spotted it informed me in a positive way. Thats how I could tell they really did know more than me, and appreciated their input. I’m just human after all, even if half the time I’m away with the Sidhe… fairies, if you dont know, but in Ireland they’re not like any fairies you’ve ever come across before!

    Mythology is not fact or science, but you’d be amazed at the number of people who treat it like it is, or should be. If they’re rude about it, I know they’re just ignorant, and actually know nothing.

    I guess we just have to grin and bear it. I love the picture you conjured up with your description of your reaction… I’d probably do the same!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are all people and we can make mistakes and I think it’s okay to point them out. But what I have no patience for is the vitriol that some people pour on a writer for getting some tiny detail wrong. It made me stop read Goodreads reviews almost entirely because people just latch onto some small thing and drag the whole book down for it.

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    • It doesn’t just happen there Barbara. Any book featured on Amazon gets its fair share of one and two star totally unnecessary, often vicious reviews, mainly by the same people who still inhabit Goodreads.

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  3. I write very soft sci-fi fantasy mash ups about parallel worlds and places that don’t actually exist for this very reason. It’s also why there are no dragons, faerie folk, elves, goblins vampires etc in my work. Because I didn’t want to spend my life replying to angry emails from people who knew more about dragons, faerie folk, elves, goblins vampires etc than me.

    Lovely article.

    Cheers

    MTM

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  4. I have a big problem with books exploring well-known places on this planet and getting them wrong. I had a snarky rantish post about it (I edited most of the snark and rant out) the other week. The thing is, even if you don’t find the key thing you want to know on Google, you could ask all your bookreading friends – and if you’re on Goodreads, you’ve probably got a lot of those. http://jemimapett.com/blog/2015/02/02/on-writing-real-places/ in case you’re interested.

    I think tolerance of sloppy detail has to go hand in hand with the genre you’re working with; if it’s a highly detailed plot, and you want your readers to pay attention, then you have to get the details of other things right too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I’m in total agreement with you Jemima, since I was viciously attacked by certain people on Goodreads, merely for being friends with one of the Goodreads’ troll’s targets, I closed down my account there in support of my friend. Goodreads is the last place anyone should go to for help of any kind. Fortunately I am fully conversant with what my readers demand of me. In that regard, researching anything I need to use in any fiction I write is first and foremost paramount, particularly when it comes to actual facts, as I’ve done regarding whether or not sound can be heard on Mars. 😉

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      • I’m sorry to hear of your bad experience. I was thinking of asking my friends on Goodreads, rather than the entire population.

        I wonder why people feel they can behave so badly online when they wouldnt dream (I hope) of being so nasty in person?

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  5. I enjoy researching things like how far sound travels on other planets. I did a lot of research on that for a short story, Hand of God, which describes a battle scene on the moon. I ended up with what you describe here; tremors felt rather than sound. This had the added advantage of making the whole experience even spookier, as my character could see the monsters heading his way, but not hear them.

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