O.K., I’m feeling a tad eccentric today… so here goes…
Words are to pictures what digitisation is to analogue computing.
What this means that words are like points on a picture and if you only have so many of them, then you will only get idea of some of the picture. Or putting it another way, if we don’t have enough words then we won’t get the picture. Similarly if we don’t have enough digits in a digital message, then we won’t get the message.
But we can the analogy further. Digital messages can use certain techniques to repair message (for the techies among you, a simple example is checksum). We can use extrapolative logic from the words to fill in the picture.
In each case we need a sufficient amount of the right material to be guaranteed to get the right picture / message.
But how do we know when we have sufficient?
It’s when everyone can agree and talk about what the words / digitisation said.
In the case of science fiction writing, how do you get to that state of global understanding, especially when you may be obliged to use obscure words e.g. while describing an obscure technical fact around which the story hinges.
Well, you can go into what I call the long descriptive definition. The disadvantage is that it breaks the tempo of the story, which can be very destructive to the reader’s entertainment.
Or you could add in a subplot before the main plot point to describe the necessary detail. Only that will make the story longer, and make the story feel tedious to boot.
Or you could do a series of stories where the first story is really written to discover what the word means and the second story is the originally written story. The snag with that is if the first story is not a success, the readers are unlikely to want to read a follow-on story.
Or you leave the story as is, and do an article alongside it to explain what the obscure technical word is all about. Taking this a step further, you could blog about said obscure technical word’s meaning the day the story in question is published. So I find it intriguing that with all these blogs on the web, there is not more by way of such explanations.
To me, this shows that science, which ought to be at the heart of science fiction stories (at least in some of the sub-genres) is not as prevalent as I and perhaps many others would have hoped.
But there is a reason for that… find out when I publish the next part in this series…