Discussion, Scifi, Scifi month

This Is Why You Can’t Ever Seem To Get Into Scifi Is There A Scifi "Language Barrier"?

Okay, so… Breathe in deeply – it’s the last SciFi Month post! It is exciting, but by the end of it, I find myself tired of blogging pretty much exclusively about scifi (there were only two unrelated posts, not counting the wrapups!) I hope you have not grown tired of me yet… But if you have, good news! Cause right after this one last post… We are going back to normal.

I’m both sad and relieved. It’s a strange feeling!

Anyway, post is a discussion. Or really, more of a question. I’m going to talk about what might be relevant to you all – even those who don’t read a lot of scifi. In fact, it’s even more relevant to you, if you don’t read scifi.

How so?

Well, the other day, me and my blogger bestie Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku were talking about scifi books, and she told me that she sometimes finds it hard to read them, because she can’t wrap her head around all the sciencey bits.

Mostly because she can’t tell whether it’s at least somewhat believable, rooted in true scientific fact, or absolutely and completely fantasy.

For me, that was news. I mean, I should have realized that that’s mostly why a lot of people don’t dig scifi, and especially a lot of women. Not a lot of people did science in university or college. Not many of them even did physics in school. Or if they did, they didn’t love it. Or even like it. Most people I know downright hated it, cause it made them feel bad about themselves. (Or rather, their teachers did.)

See, the thing is… You kind of have to love science to love scifi. Most of the time. Not all of the time! But most of the time indeed, at least with hard scifi. That’s the thing with me – I’ve taken quantum physics in university. I greatly enjoyed it, and it still remains one of those things that I like to ponder about, that almost crosses the line between science and magic, physics and metaphysics – by how incredible it sometimes it.

So we come to an example. That bit in Philip Pullman’s Amber Spyglass when the Gallivespians talk on the resonators through any distance because two paired particles act the same even when separated? That’s a scientific fact. Now, separating them over great distances is no scientific fact, not that I know of. At least, we’re probably quite a ways away in out timeline for that (feel free to correct me if you know more on this.) But this is exactly the thing! A lot of you won’t know this (I applaud those who did!), and this will take away from your enjoyment. To you it all might as well be fantasy, right? To me it isn’t. And you’ll find that to a lot of other scifi fans it isn’t. (Alright, let’s overlook the fact that Pullman’s trilogy is mostly fantasy, not scifi. But it has a lot of it based on quantum mechanics.)

So does this mean that maybe you’re just not sharp enough for ‘all the science talk’? LOAD OF BULL! You just haven’t found the right kind of scifi, which is why I also want you to recommend me some language-barrier-less scifi if you have read it. So we can spread the love!

There will always be incredibly approachable scifi books like The Illuminae Files etc. which are there for all of us to enjoy, science background or not! And I feel like this IS the great revolution of scifi and this IS why it’s bringing in these unbelievably big audiences – precisely because it doesn’t have the ‘hard scifi language barrier’! While I will always love the sciencey bits in books, I also feel like this is a very welcome change in the world of scifi. We must include everyone. It’s great that scifi is opening its doors not only by actually including female and diverse characters (for once), but also allowing for a greater audience to be reading and enjoying it.

So this is what I want to talk about. Discuss with me! Is it like that for you? Do you think this theory is correct for you? Have you experienced the ‘scifi language barrier’? Or do you think my theory is nonsense and it’s really not like that at all? Tell me everything!

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

32 thoughts on “This Is Why You Can’t Ever Seem To Get Into Scifi Is There A Scifi "Language Barrier"?

  1. Ooh, that’s a series I’m dying to Read – The Illuminae Files. For me, I love scifi. And I love the tech speak. But I was a science geek at University. I realized late in life that my passion was for literature but because of my background, I’m able to adapt to the heaviest of scifi books. I love it all!

  2. Hey Evelina! That is really news to me! I guess I’m pretty intelligent? I’m not sure but I don’t have a problem with hard science… it’s pretty clear what is embellishment by the author and not simply from the science i got in school (at least for me)… And I haven’t taken any radical science courses (that is super cool you took quantum physics)! I can see why it is a barrier though… I personally find it terribly BORING… I’ve read a selection of hard science sci-fi books and there is such a dwelling on the science that the characters tend to be meh. There are exceptions of course but it isn’t a genre I seek out! <3
    Dani @ Perspective of a Writer recently posted…Keep it or Skip it? Fantasy or Paranormal Oh my!My Profile

    1. Glad to hear 🙂 it’s not a problem for me either, but as I’m always trying to understand others and our differences, I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends say they just can’t get the science in those books. So I think it truly is why many people don’t read sci-fi.
      That’s true though that a lot of writers make it ABOUT the science and make it boring that way. But I’ve noticed that tends to happen more with older sci-fi. It seems like they were just trying to sound smarter and make their book smarter 😀 haha… maybe the trends at the time called for that. Or maybe it was considered futuristic?

  3. Good point, I think I see a lot of people put off of sci-fi because they’re not into science, which is a shame. Ironic you should mention taking physics in here. I’m in my final year of an English degree. A few weeks ago, when the people in one of my classes were asked who’d taken physics I was one of the few who raised my hand. 🙂

    I hated physics the first time I took it, but really enjoyed it the second. I think it’s because of the “language barrier” you mentioned. The second time I was able to understand and enjoy what I learned. The first time I was just too frustrated.

    1. Physics is just so magical though, isn’t it? It’s magic in reality. I think it depends a lot on prejudice (“physics is hard!”) and on the teacher’s methods and general class mood. So I take it, you do enjoy your sci-fi then? 🙂

      1. Yes, once you get over the “physics is hard,” it is magical. I think I liked the class better the second time because my teacher taught it in a more conceptual manor whereas my previous teacher focused on the math.

        Yes, I love sci-fi 🙂

  4. I guess its being able to understand the vocabulary and logic behind the science stuff thrown at us in hard science sci-fi that really brings a lot of readers to look away from them. After all, there’s a bunch of people out there who are avoiding anything that reminds them of school whenever they read hahaahh Those who seek sci-fi definitely find the science and rationality behind it fascinating and just love to learn more about it, whether its fake or real. How the author tells it is definitely the deciding factor, since some author just drop it like a tons of rock on us, while others know how to deliver it in a way that readers can follow easily and enjoy it! Great post, Evelina! Looking forward to more scifi book reviews in the future (hope you won’t be too tired of them). 😉
    Lashaan Balasingam recently posted…Into the Drowning Deep by Mira GrantMy Profile

    1. Yeah, I think the vocab really does do it 🙂 thank you, Lashaan! I hope for more scifi reviews too 🙂 the trouble is, scifi ARCs are harder to grab and currently I’m mostly reviewing ARCs xD but I’m hoping to slowly change that next year 🙂

  5. For readers new to sci-fi, it’s definitely hard to jump right in. When I first started, I found myself struggling as well, and did the mistake of hitting up all the recommendations from my “hard science fiction” reader friends who have been reading the genre for years. They have great taste I’m sure, but because I was so inexperienced I found myself in way over my head with their picks! Later, I found it easier to just ease myself in with humorous sci-fi books (John Scalzi was a great gateway author for me) and now I can pretty much read any science fiction book, hard or light, with no issues.
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Communication Failure by Joe ZiejaMy Profile

    1. You are right, I guess it’s sort of like an acquired taste 🙂 you get used to it after a while. But that’s why a lot of scifi fans stick with it, once they do!
      You’re right, I think Scalzi is a great ‘gateway’ author indeed. So is Clifford Simak, in my opinion 🙂

  6. I think you have a very good point here. I’m not a scientific person, so the science elements don’t add a lot for me. I don’t mind them necessarily, but I’m aware I won’t appreciate those parts nearly as much as someone else might.
    Lyse recently posted…Lyse Links: Apple to ZumbaMy Profile

  7. As a woman and a physicist, I feel very strongly about encouraging the interest of women in physics. We are underrepresented for sure, possibly for some of the same language/culture barriers you mention as also being a barrier to science fiction. I sincerely hope that science can feel more welcoming to women and others in the future (and that physics class doesn’t make people feel bad anymore! The concepts can be really exciting!).

    I read a lot of SF, possibly because I do love science. Speaking from the other side, sometimes I’ll read a book and be like, “Nope, that’s not really what that means…”. I can get really picky, especially about particle physics. By and large, though, I try to just roll with whatever neat ideas the author tosses in, like I would with the rules of magic in a fantasy. I have seen a few SF books, which mix real and fictional science, that have a section at the end to describe what is real and what is speculative. I think this can be really helpful, for people who prefer to keep that separation clearly in mind after reading.

    1. I know right, physics can be SO exciting 🙂 I hope for the same things as well.

      I read quite a bit of SF, but I haven’t read enough lately. I would like to read more. Luckily, SciFi Month to the rescue – I have found a lot of great titles through everyone’s posts 🙂

      I know what you mean though! Yeah, sometimes I feel like they’re bending reality as well, but sometimes you have to let it go, cause every writer can’t be a physicist. It’s tough to know everything well. But all the more respect goes to the people who do write it believably!

      Yes, real and fake science – The Punch Escrow did that really well! Have you read that one? It’s really good.

  8. I do think it puts a lot of people of. On the other hand I think that those that watch a lot of sci-fi shows where a lot is explained can also ease into hard sci-fi without having had the science background.
    Annemieke recently posted…TTT #118 – Winter TBRMy Profile

    1. Yeah, it’s like how I was commenting back to Laura… It’s hard to imagine something you don’t understand. But in a movie, it’s already imagined for you, you don’t have to visualize anymore, and so I guess it takes some load off 🙂 makes sense!
      Thanks for reading.

    1. That’s a very smart point of view, Laura 🙂 well, movies move faster, I guess 😀 and maybe you can infer more things from just seeing? 🙂 harder to imagine something you don’t fully grasp sometimes 🙂
      Thank you for reading!

  9. This is very interesting! I have to say, I do struggle with sci-fi a good bit of the time. I don’t know that it’s even the “science-y” bits that get me, just… The writing style? Similar to historical fiction, I just feel like a lot of the time, sci-fi is really unapproachable. And dusty feeling. (sorry not sorry) I feel like I just woke up a curse. Oops?
    Amy recently posted…Jingle All the Way Book TagMy Profile

    1. You might have just been reading the wrong sci-fi 🙂 yeah, there is surely some dusty sci-fi 😀 someone said b their comment that it takes several years to get acquainted with the style and if you begin with the lighter ones later on you just transition 🙂 it was never like that for me, but I can see what you mean by ‘dusty’, and I’ll admit that some of them are, even if I still like them 😀

  10. I haven’t picked up a science fiction book because I barely read anything outside of classics. This year I ventured into fantasy and now because your blog I’m looking into sci fi books! I never considered not being able to understand it because I do enjoy learning anything science-y haha
    Cam recently posted…LEARNING TO READ LESS AND WHY IT MATTERSMy Profile

    1. Really! Well I’m so glad my blog is showing you some new directions 🙂 reading classics, huh? I don’t read a lot of classics anymore, mostly because I blog and all of the ARC business xD but yes, do try out sci-fi! I guess you just have to pick the right titles to begin with… don’t go for hard sci-fi, maybe 🙂 maybe Illuminae or something like that for starters 🙂

  11. Hmm, sometimes I wonder why I like fantasy but not scifi (though I can think of some scifi books I like, they lean more to ‘speculative fiction’). I think you’re onto something with this theory. I don’t find the basis in scientific fact as interesting or as entertaining as a story that’s based more in magic.
    Jenna @ Falling Letters recently posted…October and November 2017 Month in ReviewMy Profile

    1. Yeah, there’s a very thin line between speculative fiction and scifi. Sometimes they even intersect. It must be the sciencey bits then, after all 🙂 I think I find stories based on science more interesting because I feel like maybe it could even happen in this world! While stories based on magic probably won’t 🙂

    1. Yeah, I guess in this sense you would be looking for well-balanced scifi books 🙂 I should maybe make a list… Although I wonder if I’m qualified 😀 I might not notice the science is getting a bit too… sciencey.

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