August 15, 2018, 03:22:10 PM

Author Topic: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?  (Read 2367 times)

Offline Yora

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2018, 06:02:14 PM »
Fantasy needs to adhere to the laws of its own setting. The laws don't have to be the same as in reality, but it's vital that the story sticks to the laws it has. They don't need to be explained, and it's usually more interesting if they aren't, but they have to be consistent.

If something works one way in one scene and a different way in another scene, then there has to be an aditional rule that governs under what special circumstances they work differently. If rocks are always fall down and sink to the bottom, then they have to keep doing this in the future. You can still have floating mountains later on, but then it needs to be a special rock that is different from all the rock we've seen before, or it is lifted up by some force that was not presence in all the other scenes when rock didn't float.

It does not need to be explained how things are suddenly behaving differently than they've been shown before, but it needs to be explained why the rules seem to be different for this exceptional situation.

My rule of thumb is always stick to the standard rules of physics and nature unless you make an active decision to change them. When a normal steel sword cuts through normal steel armor, then there is clearly something wrong. Then I need a statement that this is a magical sword or that the armor is actually made out of rubber.

I think fantasy should obey Newtonian mechanics, unless there's a good reason not to, but I'm not so bothered if it doesn't obey Einsteinian mechanics.
Great example. Because we experience newtonian mechanics all the time in our everyday life, but Einsteinian mechanics are pretty much invisible to our normal perception.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2018, 06:05:31 PM by Yora »
Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

There is nothing to read!

Offline Rostum

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2018, 08:30:13 PM »
absolutely not, with a bucket load of proviso's. Describe your world, universe, pond or whatever and either define the laws that enable it or or the exception that defines it. Don't use an earth type template and suddenly decide to ignore physical laws to suit your story without previously having made it clear in the worldbuilding. If snow isn't cold in your story then it cant be made out of ice crystals precipitating out the atmosphere at Earth temperatures so the freezing point of water (and boiling point) must be different or snow isn't made of ice or someone magiked it that way, but make the reader believe.

I can cope with Dragons and magic but my belief will not be suspended by the the hand and a half sword your barbarian favours in a back scabbard unless they have seven foot arms and their knuckles drag on the floor behind them.

Make it consistent and logical no matter how fantastical it is and it works for me.

Offline Skip

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2018, 09:17:15 PM »
I agree with the comments generally. Do what works. Do it well, and no one will fuss. But the discussion has raised a couple of questions for me.

Which laws are we talking about here? I'd like to see a list. Thermodynamics. That's three laws. Which other ones?

As a corollary, would we have to adhere to *all* of them? Whichever ones are on your list.

Are there aspects of "science" that you would include for adherence that are not necessarily formal laws? I can think of something like Euclidean geometry, for example.

And now I've brought it up, a cleverer person that I could write a hard SF story that intentionally broke exactly one law. Just to explore what happens. Change one variable at a time, young Jedi.

Visit Altearth

Offline Lady Ty

  • Blessed River Lady and Defender of Baby Dragons
  • Ta'veren
  • **
  • Posts: 3373
  • Total likes: 2825
  • Gender: Female
  • So-Old-That-She-Can-Nearly-Be-Called-Oldest-Ty
    • View Profile
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2018, 10:12:29 PM »
 ;D ;D I love it when a post takes off and so many new perspectives, ideas and talking points crop up. It is also confirmation of how much we all love our chosen variants of SFF, so writers should rejoice because you are readers too and it all goes to widening the audience.

Thank you all, loving all I read, any further thoughts, keep them coming, especially if you can reference books that bear out your comments as some have done. That way we can increase our TBR’s piles  to topple-over point.

It will take me some time to read through carefully all that has arrived here, mostly when I was asleep, so will be back to comment more on individual points.

Thank you @xiagan and @ScarletBea for moving the thread to exactly where I should have chosen to begin it. Sorry @Eclipse, but this is a general discussion and putting anything in Writers’ Corner may unfortunately imply it is limited to their comment and interest, even though that is a misconception. No way, all readers deserve to make clearer bids for what we want to read and what makes the books more appealing so up there at the top is a perfect place. Mutual advantage.
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline Nora

  • Dropped in from another planet avec son sourire provocateur - et Hades and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4454
  • Total likes: 3502
  • Gender: Female
  • The Explorer
    • View Profile
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2018, 11:40:58 PM »
There is gravity, weak and strong nuclear forces, and electromagnetic force.
But go figure which one magic breaks? Potentially all of them? Often gravity, with people and things getting to flying...
But plenty of natural "laws" of biology get broken or simply stretched.

I honestly don't think fantasy breaks these laws in secondary worlds, or even books with hidden sub worlds. It implies that it is a natural state. That it adds forces rather than break the others. It says that it's a world in which monsters have evolved somehow. The potential realism of that is what makes zombies so scary, especially the virus kind, for me at least!
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline The Gem Cutter

  • Captain Analogy
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2851
  • Total likes: 2272
  • Gender: Male
  • We've exhausted all possibilities - time to begin.
    • View Profile
    • The Gem Cutter Tales
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2018, 01:38:40 AM »
There is only one rule - the work must be entertaining. So sure - have spaceship sounds in space, swords of light that do not pass through each other, alien races with predictably identical personalities from one to another. It's all good - so long as it's good.
Hence The Rule of Cool and its cousins, which are to the arts what the Special Forces saying is to war: "If it works but it's stupid, it isn't stupid."
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing context regular
  • Writing Group
  • Ringbearer
  • *****
  • Posts: 6599
  • Total likes: 4468
  • Gender: Male
  • ridiculously obscure is my super power.
    • View Profile
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2018, 02:17:49 AM »
There is only one rule - the work must be entertaining. So sure - have spaceship sounds in space, swords of light that do not pass through each other, alien races with predictably identical personalities from one to another. It's all good - so long as it's good.
Hence The Rule of Cool and its cousins, which are to the arts what the Special Forces saying is to war: "If it works but it's stupid, it isn't stupid."

Quite off-topic, but I love the advertising motto: “it’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.”
Applied to writing, none of it matters if it doesn’t excite.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline cupiscent

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2018, 02:40:07 AM »
I'm with Yora: break all the rules of reality that you like, just do it consistently. The world of the novel needs to have its own laws of physics, but they need to be laws, with consistency of effect and consequence, otherwise it's just a constant deus ex machina as the author pulls out whatever nonsense s/he likes to make things interesting or solve problems. (e.g. weren't we all just bitching about Holdo's swandive in the Last Jedi discussion?)

Offline Skip

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2018, 04:29:08 AM »
There is gravity, weak and strong nuclear forces, and electromagnetic force.

Thanks for the reply, Nora. I got hung up on the word law, which has a rather specific meaning in science. If we are talking forces and principles, the list gets very much longer. I reckon few will fuss if my magic system breaks the weak electromagnetic force. :)
Visit Altearth

Offline Nora

  • Dropped in from another planet avec son sourire provocateur - et Hades and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4454
  • Total likes: 3502
  • Gender: Female
  • The Explorer
    • View Profile
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2018, 09:01:44 AM »
I reckon few will fuss if you break any law. Having beings who survive eternally on blood and sparkle in the sunlight isn't exactly biologically possible, without even getting into the mind reader, super speed, special powers side of things.
Yet as an author, Meyer is very rich and very able to find publisher for anything she desires to publish. People complained that sparkling vampires were ridiculous, not impossible. We're all ready to accept them and the multitude of natural laws that they break.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #25 on: January 09, 2018, 12:42:14 PM »
Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?


No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no... I was asked this question at the weekend and my answer was no  ;D

Offline Ryan Mueller

  • Needs a Cheesy Quest Fantasy baa-aadly
  • Writing Group
  • Auror
  • ***
  • Posts: 1032
  • Total likes: 244
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Ryan W. Mueller
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2018, 04:26:45 AM »
If breaking the laws of physics is consistent with the world's magic and overall worldbuilding, then it's fine. If your story seems to follow our laws of physics and then suddenly doesn't follow them for no logical reason, that's going to annoy me as a reader.

Offline Justan Henner

  • Barbarian who pronounces are, our and hour all the same way
  • Writing Group
  • Valheru
  • **
  • Posts: 991
  • Total likes: 528
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2018, 04:51:33 AM »
Whatever works for your story. Don't worry too much if it's Superhero (anything goes), SF, Fantasy etc. BUT only explain science if the plot needs it. You don't explain a petrol engine in a detective story unless there is clever sabotage. So don't explain how the FTL drive works or the armoured suit works.

Heh. It's an odd paradigm that writing advice in SF is shifting to a state of "Don't describe the science" while fantasy has been in a state of "describe the magic system to the point that it's basically a science."

Offline Rostum

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #28 on: January 11, 2018, 07:42:19 AM »
I am reminded of this particular gem http://www.davidbrin.com/practiceeffect.html

I change to the laws of physics consistently played, and played with to create a lot of fun.

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Should Fantasy adhere to the Laws of Science, Physics in particular?
« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2018, 01:47:02 PM »
Absolutely not for Fantasy, that's one thing. I think it's enough for the novel to adhere to its own set of internal rules and laws (in terms of consistency). Something like the magic system created by Sanderson or the twist on physics by Mark Lawrence are my absolute favorites.  8)