Most people who enjoy speculative fiction have read about star ships with quarters that seem like those on a cruse ship today, or the iron-age inn, complete with indoor plumbing. How about the SF hero shaving with a straight razor? I don’t know how the casual reader views this, but as a devotee of the science fiction genera and a fairly scientifically-literate person, I always find that these incongruities jerk me out of the read.
It is a fact that technologies tend to advance together. If a culture has plate armour, it is likely to have iron ploughshares, steal edged knives and it must have billows and forges. Likewise, if a society has faster than light (FTL) travel it will have advanced computers and indoor plumbing, with all that implies. If a society has nano-bots in common use, it will have nano hair and skin maintenance systems, not straight razors.
The point is, to keep consistency in how one writes technology. Look at the implications of the ‘neat advance’ that you give your society. If electric cars are common in your world think about how they would be recharged. Would there be things like parking metres on the street that you’d plug into and drop a coin in to recharge? Would there be stations where you’d pull in and swap out a battery pack?
Science fiction, if it is to be done well, probably requires the most research of all forms of fiction. Let us return to the example of the electric car. You decide to put a solar panel on the roof to recharge the battery. Now you’re faced with a problem. Even if the solar panel converted 100% of the light hitting it into electricity, in reality they convert between 15% and 25% the last time this writer looked but the tech is advancing, you still couldn’t gain enough energy to make everyday driving practical.
This needn’t be a bother. With a little thought it can be an advantage. Nothing makes the reader more aware that they have stepped into another world than an everyday thing done in a different way. A robotic butler that scoots coffee from the pot to one’s writing desk comes to mind. Sigh.
An example of how placement of everyday technologies in ones world can inform the reader of that world from my own writing is the tinker’s wagon from Tinker’s Plague.
“The boy sprinted along the crumbling asphalt road, his twisted left arm flailing in his haste. He scrambled over a wooden gate and ran to an ancient van sitting in a field. A tower of interlocking pipes, topped with a windmill, rose from the van's back corner. Solar panels covered its roof. Gasping, the boy wailed, "TINKER!"”
Here the image of the tinker’s wagon allows me to imply a world now reliant on sustainable energy and cannibalizing the past because of the van’s battered condition.
If you want to work with future tech remember it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Use it to build your world and spread it throughout your story.
Stephen B. Pearl is a SF/ SF-romance / new age-romance writer check out his website at www.stephenpearl.com
Causes Stephen Pearl Supports
World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, Farley foundation, CNIB,