Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What about Handwavium, MacGuffins, Unobtanium, and Technobabble?

Q: In this essay, you wrote about the Handwavium, MacGuffins, Unobtanium, and Technobabble that plague sci-fi. Doesn’t ‘Patriots’ also have its fair share of these?

A. Possibly. Probably. I’m not sure. er, I think that’s a fairly subjective call. 

My goal for ‘Patriots’ was twofold: 

(1) To create a world of its own - not necessarily free of Handwavium et al, but to have a relatively unique blend of tech that formed a reality I could more or less identify with (as opposed to Star Trek or Star Wars’ flights of pure fantasy.) I recognized that sci-fi baggage exists for a reason (as this essay details), but I still wanted to jettison as much of it as possible.

(2) To tell a story which works in the sci-fi form, rather than telling a ‘sci-fi story’. There’s a difference. This is not a story about greener green men or bigger ray guns or stranger creatures or stranger new worlds. Those are tired memes, and more to the point they’re the tail wagging the dog.

Our world is strange enough as it is, and I’d rather explore it in hopes of finding new revelations than follow sci-fi formula, however tried-and-true it may be.

If I had to evaluate ‘Patriots’ myself in terms of Handwavium et al, I’d say it contains very little Technobabble, and while I don’t consider the pursuit of the Nomad a MacGuffin, I suppose that might be a fair cop. 

There’s no Unobtanium that I can detect, unless one considers freedom for the Martians and the SIMs to be Unobtainium. That seems like a stretch to me.

As to Handwavium, much depends on how you define the stuff. Is The Guide an example of Handwavium, or an acknowledgement of the historical fact that there have always been some among us (such as Joan of Arc) who have said they could speak directly with God? Or, since the concept of multiple dimensions is now considered established fact, is it Handwavium to assume there could be entities in those dimensions who can communicate with us?

Likewise: Are the SIMs, the Interdim, Nirvana, the SuperOld, or Carmot examples of Handwavium, or logical extensions of paths we’re already deeply committed to? You’ll have to decide.

While you're mulling that over, check out these MacGuffins.

from F.A.Q.

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