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!

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Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

I don’t always understand all the science, but I usually just go with, lol! I like to believe that it’s all true and the authors have done their homework.

3 years ago

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!

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

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… Read more »

Jacqueline @bluejaybooks

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… Read more »

Jacqueline @bluejaybooks

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 🙂

Lashaan Balasingam
3 years ago

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… Read more »

Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum
3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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.

3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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.

Laura Thomas
3 years ago

I enjoy science fiction and learned a long time ago to remind myself it is fiction. I don’t have to believe it’s all possible and I do learn some interesting things that are factual. I still prefer watching the movies though. Not sure why.
Thanks for another excellent post!


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3 years ago

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?

3 years ago

Haha this is true! I️ definitely need to read more of the genre.

3 years ago

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

Jenna @ Falling Letters

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.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

I’m like your friend. I actually love to ponder many issues covered in sci-fi, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty scientific details, I often feel a little lost. As long as the book isn’t filled with them, I’m okay, but sometimes I get overwhelmed with the science.

2 years ago

omg that’s so true!! I just CAN’T get into SciFi