Don't Question It
We're going to talk about science fiction this week. My recent project sort of falls in that category. It's not super intense, but the science is fictitious. Genetics play a big role and I've been struggling with trying to write genetics that would absolutely work in the situation I have them in, even though I know next to nothing about genetics.
Then I realized it didn't matter. I didn't need to be an expert. I only needed it to logically make sense. As long as it sounds like it could be true, readers will have no reason to question it. Better yet, if I don't give them a reason to question it, they won't.
It got me thinking about the Ant-Man movies. The second one, specifically. If you've watched those movies, you know the science isn't legit. They're talking about things that aren't possible. Honestly, that's most of the Marvel universe, but we'll get to that in a second.
In the first Ant-Man movie, they present the science as irrefutably true. They don't give the audience a reason to question it because all of the characters are confident that it's correct. And logically, it makes sense. It wouldn't work, but it mostly makes sense. On top of that, it's not explained in great detail. The audience is told exactly what they need to know to understand and nothing more.
But in the second movie, they were going into a lot of detail with how the science worked and the more they talked, the more I started to feel like they were just tossing the word "quantum" in front of everything and pretending like that made sense. Then, Scott (Ant-Man) says exactly that. For the rest of the movie, the science was not only flawed to me, but almost laughably ridiculous.
A character told me that it doesn't make sense. As soon as a character agreed with what I was starting to think, the door was opened for everything to be questioned.
Let's look at some other Marvel movies. Like any technology Tony Stark creates. Most of it isn't possible. He straight-up invents time travel in Endgame and I never questioned the validity of that. Why? Because it logically made sense. It wasn't explained in detail, so I didn't have a chance to think about if it would work or not. It just was and all the characters agreed.
That's the key: it just was. There's no need to question it, because it's existence isn't questioned in the first place.
Or Spider-Man. We all know that being bit by a genetically modified or radioactive spider (depending on which version you're talking about) wouldn't give someone spider powers. Why would it? But in the movies, shows, and comics, the explanation is logical and simple. We don't have to question it because no one else does and the science logically makes sense. We don't question the spider powers because they just exist and no one questions them. So neither do we.
So if you're writing something complicated that doesn't exist in the real world, keep it simple. The readers don't need to know every detail. If you're writing science you don't understand or that doesn't exist, details will just make that obvious.
But if your characters give readers the bare minimum they need to understand, then it will make sense. If all your characters agree that the science is legit, your readers will believe it.
Keep it simple, keep it logical, and don't question it.
Besides, readers don't want a lecture in rocket science or genetic mutations, They'd read a textbook if they did. They want a story. So stop worrying about the details and give them one.
P.S. This totally works with magic, too. After all, the line between magic and science fiction is very thin. If your magic system logically makes sense, no one will question it. If you go into extreme details, the logic is going to unravel.
Have you written anything like this? How did you handle it?