Good SF

Ganesha's picture

Maybe we did this already, but based on R4 observing "a disturbing trend," I'd like to discuss what we consider to be good SF.

The one and only rule for this discussion is that we respect that I am asking for opinions, so no one can tell the other person they are wrong.

I'll start.

The main reason I like SF is because of the science.  I prefer "hard" SF that explains novel tech and scientific concepts as part of the plot, but not as a substitute for a plot. The science also must be possible, with license granted for FTL and cold sleep as a way to keep the story moving. Otherwise,  an honest SF story would be, "Well, after 25 generations in this ship, we've mutated beyond human beings and have no idea what motivated the original crew in the first place. On top of that, we just received a message from the planet we intended to colonize that a later but faster ship got there first and they said they'd shoot us out of the sky if we tried to land."

The must be a hero's journey for a character who becomes transformed after suffering hardship. All his/her struggle must be for something in the end. He/she must learn something about himself/herself that helps him/her triumph over adversity during the climax. The hero must ultimately prove to be honest, intelligent, courageous and steadfast. Jim Gordon could be such a character under the pen of a competent writer.

The villain should not have a backstory that makes us feel bad for him or her. The villain should also be intelligent and courageous,  but the reason for his villainy should be megalomania of some sort. He should believe that he is right, everyone else is wrong, and he doesn't care how many lives he destroys to get his way. Alternatively, he could be someone who just feels the urge to kill everyone else. Moriarty and The Joker when written well.

The supporting characters should be valuable to the hero and villian. Readers should see real human characteristics in them and tropes should only be relied on when they support the story. Betrayal is A-OK so long as the reader realizes after the fact, along with the hero, that the clues were there all along, but he just missed them or chose to ignore them.

The best example I have so far of a story with a hero who was transformed and whom the reader actually cared about is a later novel in the Miles Vorkosigan stories where Mark, Miles' "evil clone" tries to establish his identity separately from Miles and from the terrorists who created him in the first place.

Another good example is the original series of Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you haven't watched it, I recommend it highly as a story that your family can enjoy and discuss around the dinner table. In fact, if you want to talk about what makes a story good and what makes one not-so-good, you can have a discussion comparing A:TLB with Avatar: The Legend of Korra.

Ok. Your thoughts.