Realism in your work:

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51 drunkscriblerian6th Oct 2011 02:12:18 PM from Castle Geekhaven , Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
I always create my own world rather than use the real one, so I'm equally concerned with consistency. If I state something works in a certain way, I make every effort to stick to that. Characters do not get to break rules like that without a good reason, and even then I really hesitate to do it.

As to scientific details, I make sure there are no glaring errors, but that's about it. Little quibbly details are usually debatable anyway, and people who make a huge deal about them are probably flogging their pet specialty more than anything else so I don't worry too much about it.

Example: In my Steampunk series, I've done a bit of research into how steam-powered devices from the 19th century actually work and how I can adapt this into my world. Often this research turns up really cool bits that can be stretched a little; a good example of one I plan on using.

So yeah. Realism is important, because truth is usually stranger than fiction. See Reality Is Unrealistic and its sister tropes.
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
52 nrjxll6th Oct 2011 06:17:20 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
You've just summed up quite well why I focus so much on realism myself. Real Life is frequently much more interesting, and at the least less neat, then fiction.
Dammit, Drunk, I am writing a comic with heavy use of external combustion. I wanted to do a "Stirlingpunk" work since the "aesthetic era" I was writing did not quite fit either the era of classic steampunk or of dieselpunk.

As for realism, I am more invested in what would be convenient for the plot than how "realistic" it would be... I am more than happy to bend the rules where needed.

edited 6th Oct '11 9:04:53 PM by TheFedoraPirate

"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
54 drunkscriblerian6th Oct 2011 09:08:03 PM from Castle Geekhaven , Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@nj: you're welcome.

@Fedora: Don't worry, the technology is a backdrop. I'm not surprised that I'm not the first one to notice the coolness potential of the Stirling Engine.

Which leads to another point about realism when discussing "path not taken"; quite a few technological innovations have been done in not by impracticality, but sheer random chance and/or poor marketing. Take the struggle between VHS and Betamax; Beta was the superior technology, but it didn't make it because of...luck? Marketing? Something that had nothing to do with value.

Again, truth is always stranger than fiction, and authors can get a lot of mileage out of asking "what if".
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
55 Wolf10667th Oct 2011 01:25:27 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
@ alethiophile:

The problem with cybernetics is that the "meat" is the weakest link. You could put some kind of cool damping into the limb to reduce the stress to the meat bits but if you're limiting the form of the legs to human-like appearance, that limits how much you can do. You may be able to increase the distance a person could drop without harm - to above human normal - with just cybernetic legs but in the end, the "squishy bits" will be a major limiting factor. The legs would survive, hips, spine and organs would not.

If you want really superhuman capabilities, you're going to need to replace the whole body and put in some serious internal stuff to protect the brain from the sudden stop (the very reason bike helmets are lined with polystyrene foam to collapse and slowly bring the skull to a rest gently without jarring the brain).

However, you can still have fun staying with realistic limbs - tireless, oblivious to pain, harder to damage etc.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
56 Night7th Oct 2011 01:28:04 AM from PSNS Intrepid , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Bring it on! I'm right here!
[up]Assuming you can't upgrade the squishy bits as well. Which, to be honest, you probably can if you have the knowledge to make cybernetics work.
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57 Wolf10667th Oct 2011 02:21:48 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
[up]You presumably can upgrade the squishy bits - most of 'em, anyway - and make a full-body 'borg, but what I was digging at was the clusterfuck known as "The Six Million Dollar Man" in which the titular cyborg - with nothing more than two artificial legs, an artificial arm and an artificial eye - managed to leap over, or down from, tall buildings and break handcuffs that were holding his two hands together without any impact at all on the fleshy bits (like the perfectly normal wrist that's having a steel handcuff embedded into it by the pressure exerted by the cybernetic arm or the hips, spine and organs that are also having to cope with a drop from a 4th floor window).

The original novel, Cyborg, by Michael Caidin was far more realistically written than the TV series.

If a story has full body replacements, fine, build Superman. But if the person has only his legs replaced, you can exceed human normal by a little but not by much - there's only so much that readers would accept as "reasonable" before they wrote it off as too fantastic. But you can make a big thing of how the person can walk for much further before the torso and arms tire of the strain but the legs are fine. You can improve shock absorbtion in the legs so that the 'borg can run faster for longer without undue strain on the "meat" (maybe not outrun cars, but certainly faster than the best sprinter can manage and also maintain the pace for longer than a marathon).

edited 7th Oct '11 2:23:01 AM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
58 Night7th Oct 2011 02:38:45 AM from PSNS Intrepid , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Bring it on! I'm right here!
I don't necessarily disagree, but I think you missed my meaning.

If you are going to accomplish anything superhuman, you're going to need full skeletal replacement to do it. And if you can do full skeletal replacement, your biotech knowledge is such that it's actually something of a question as to why you'd build cyborgs. If you could build a cyborg then you could genetically engineer the squishy bits, possibly even after the fact, to withstand the forces that will be generated by the cybernetics.

Six Million Dollar Man's failure was in its details of how partial cyborgs would work, not in the theory that they could.
Trusted Poster of Legitimate Advice (from Wo-Chan)
Realism tends to be pretty prevalent in my work, with exceptions made (and rules still being configured) for the magic element.

Alcoholism will still take a heavy toll on the body of a half-breed or a full demon, assuming they drink enough, and it will definitely kill their innate Healing Factor. Wounds might not heal at a normal rate (they will be faster), but for demons and half-breeds, the explanation is that their cellular processes are sped up (including energy conversion and replacement), while their bodies have much more that they can spend on the healing process (meaning that they will have a longer lifespan, if they don't overdo things). Their metabolisms, as well. However, they still have to set broken limbs to splints, sew things closed, and keep injuries relatively free of stray particles. If they don't, it won't necessarily kill them (depending upon the nature and severity of the injury), but it won't feel as pleasant. They can also use their own stores of demonic energy to help them, if they want to. This weakens them, though, depending on how much they have to start with.

With the rest of them, their skeletons are augemented by thicker bones, their heart and lungs are both enlarged, and their organs have different placement (plus stronger tissue). Their soft connective tissue is much more durable (mine's weaker than that of the average person, so I know what happens when the connective tissue has a defect), and their muscles can withstand more lactic acid breakdown. . And as for the squishy parts, that would be their throats, which one of my characters uses her fangs to kindly remove. In fact, the one weakness that everything shares in this work (aside from being mortal in some sense of the word), is that the throat is a vulnerability. Along with the heart, but the throat is more easily reached, especially if you're a Lightning Bruiser like she is, and can get to it quickly.

I've tried to keep the political and social elements as realistic as possible, at least partly to facilitate my main conflicts. Because Real Life is more fun that way, and it gives me some pretty clear boundaries within which to work.
60 Wolf10667th Oct 2011 04:25:27 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
[up][up]My original meaning when I first referenced the limitations of a partial cyborg was that if you do have a partial cyborg (for instance, the person has prosthetics to replace damaged bits, as was the premise of the Six Million Dollar Man), you need to do it fairly realistically or readers/viewers will pick holes in it.

That's a distinctly different situation from deciding to build a superhuman cyborg but you still bear those things in mind when you are writing about a full-body 'borg and make the necessary modifications - full skeletal and organ replacement.

My point was, if you have technology/functional magic that we don't currently have (i.e. not real stuff) you can still use it logically and consistently (i.e. "realistically") and writing about stuff that is not strictly "real" or rather "fantastic" does not mean you have to throw all hope of realism out the window.

The idea is "Willing Suspension of Disbelief" and - as with Mary Sue characters - too much unbelievable stuff will break it and you'll lose the audience.

You've got fantastic elements - functional magic, trolls, cyberware, aliens, gaseous life forms, whatever - so you reduce the unbelievable nature by thinking through the limitations, consequences, social/economical impact etc and portray them in a consistent rational manner. The audience willingly accepts that trolls are battling aliens because everything else around them makes sense.

edited 7th Oct '11 4:28:14 PM by Wolf1066

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