Tuesday, 14 March 2017

SF Premises

An sf story or novel needs a good premise. The author presents either an original premise or an original treatment of a familiar premise. Some premises are standardized almost as sub-genres like robots, time travel, alternative histories etc. See SF Themes.

Poul Anderson
A science of society is possible - but its application is distorted by social conflicts.

A cyclical theory of history applies to future civilizations.

A police force is necessary to prevent time travelers from changing history.

Corridors constructed in space can be rotated onto the temporal axis.

Time travel is a psychic power.

A few mutant immortals survive through history into an indefinite future.

A relativistic spaceship accelerates indefinitely.

Faster than light travel is discovered and spreads but there are so many intelligent races that it is possible to communicate and trade only within a local "civilization cluster" and some human interstellar explorers return to the Solar System to find that Earth has been sterilized in their absence.

Lifespans are extended indefinitely, instantaneous intergalactic travel is possible and an intergalactic planetary system is inhabited.

Inorganic intelligences spread through a mostly lifeless galaxy at sublight speeds.

Human consciousness can be preserved in artificial cybernetic systems.

Human and animal intelligence suddenly increases.

Magic is a set of technologies. (From Heinlein.)

Shakespeare's plays were histories.

Medieval Englishmen do not know that they cannot defeat aliens with interstellar capability...

At sublight speeds, interstellar traders live in their ships.

After a nuclear war, civilization is rebuilt in the Southern Hemisphere.

Teleportation sends fuel to interstellar ships and is used to travel to extrasolar planets that the ships have reached.

SM Stirling
Nantucket time travels.

Technology stops working.

When a comet strikes Earth, the British Empire relocates to India.

Slave-owning society survives and thrives into the twentieth century and beyond.

Mars and Venus were terraformed a long time ago.

A small group from an Earth like ours colonizes a North America that had never been invaded by Europeans.

Premises And Conclusions
A conclusion can contradict its premise. The purpose of Anderson's temporal police force, the Time Patrol, turns out to be to counteract temporal chaos.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I did wonder if one of the ideas Anderson wanted to suggest in his Psychotechnic Institute stories is that NO science predicting how a society can or should develop is possible.

And I find John Hord's theory of how civilizations rise and fall more convincing that what anyone else has suggested. And, of course, Anderson adopted Hord's work for his Technic Civilization tales.

I'm not sure I can agree with your comment about "instantaneous intergalactic travel." We do see mention in WORLD WITHOUT STARS about how it took SOME time to travel by FTL to other planets.

And the idea of a mostly lifeless galaxy repels me. I hope that does not turn out to be the case!

I"m frankly skeptical it will ever be possible to preserve individual human consciousnesses in artificial cybernetic systems. This was one of those ideas I had difficulty "assimilating" in the HARVEST OF STARS books.

I don't think I've ever thought of Stirling's idea that in one single instant our technology simply STOPS. Disturbing!

We see what might happen from comets striking Earth in Niven/Pournelle's LUCIFER'S HAMMER and FOOTFALL. Stirling's THE PESHAWAR LANCERS contributed very interesting twists on that theme.

I do wonder how PLAUSIBLE it would be for the Western Hemisphere to not have been settled by other peoples as late as our 20th century (as we see in Stirling's CONQUISTADOR). If not Europeans, might not the Mongols and Chinese have done that? See Anderson's "The Only Game In Town."


Paul Shackley said...

In WORLD WITHOUT STARS, each space jump is instantaneous but it takes time to travel between jump points. This is necessary to make up energy differentials.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It sounds a bit like the FTL hyperspace travel we see in the Technic stories. See the discussion of that idea in ENSIGN FLANDRY, where Persis d'Io was trying to understand how it works.


Paul Shackley said...

That was different. It was many instantaneous but very short distance quantum jumps.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And that made for longer journeys, even if FTL, than what we see in WORLD WITHOUT STARS? Understood.