Is there anything that you can't visualize?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by MorteTorment, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Regular Member

    Am I alone on this?

    You see, I just dropped this book calledStar Force 1: Swarm. I thought that I liked it a lot, but it was only 262 pages and yet 3 days in I'm only 75% in, which for someone who's a speed reader with nothing but time, that's absolutely insane!

    I realized why. I can't visualize space battles very well, at least when it's not really quick, and there's not a lot of constant commands from the captain.

    Take Star Trek: The Next Generation for example. Picard tries to solve shit diplomatically, and when that doesn't work, there's a 10 minute scene at the most where the captain gives quick orders, and the 2 ships fire at each other, crew members get knocked around, and it's this extremely immersive experience. I can visualize all of that but I'm mostly just focused on the crew talking about how they're gonna survive shit.

    Or take Star Wars. we got Han flying through space, being persued by the empire, and c-3p0 is panicing, and Han Solo tells you what his insane idea is to get away. and again, there's a lot of dialogue. Again, I can visualize that type of thing in a book.

    What I can't visualize however are ships fighting each other, where what's happening is described to you, and and the author saying whether it's good or bad. You might as well be describing locations for entire pages like in Lord of the Rings. And like I said, I can't really vizualize locations very well. I can visualize rooms.

    So, yeah, is there anything in sci-fi novels that you can't visualize, and kinda destroy the book for you if they're a big part of it?
     
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  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Some of my favourite space battle scenes have been from Iain M. Banks' Culture novels and Neal Asher's Polity books (specifically, the Ian Cormac series in the Polity).

    Depends on how they're describing it. If it's just generic ship-to-ship battles with missile salvoes like in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, then I can lose interest quickly. But Weber is good at building tension during his battle scenes with people at their stations, so those scenes are still enjoyable. And Weber kills a lot of people, so you're never sure who's going to survive. Try reading the first Honor Harrington book, On Basilisk Station. It's my favourite of the six I've read.

    I like crazy battle scenes, and I especially like them when they're crazy and hew close to known effects of science, or hypothetical effects if some things that are not possible yet but still plausible given extensions of current scientific understanding. How might faster-than-light weapons function in theory, for example? Or if the battle scenes are working within the constraints of c, then how would relativistic effects of communication or bombardment at, say, 10-20% of c impact logistics and tactics in a battle?

    To get full enjoyment out of these scenes, a basic familiarity with relativity helps, but a good writer can get the facts and feeling through to you even without any such familiarity.

    Two science fiction novels that I've recently read where I've had a hard time visualising are from Charles Stross' Singularity Sky and John Stith's Redshift Rendezvous. Stross' novel had me looking up Wikipedia and some other sites for explanations on time causality, and Stith's novel pushed my basic knowledge of relativity to the limit, because instead of the usual grand sweep of relativity that is usually depicted in books and movies concerning vast distances and time frames, Stith examines relativistic effects at a minute level by slowing the speed of light to just 10 metres per second. That was pretty ingenious, and I did quite a few double takes at certain scenes where I was like, "wait, what? Is that possible?" and I had to re-read scenes just to make sure I was understanding what was going on properly.

    But having a hard time visualising it didn't destroy the book for me. Made it more of a challenge and I enjoyed it. Well, I guess some parts of Stross' book were a little headache inducing. This book had both pluses and minuses, and the pluses won out in the end. And it had a bit of a Culture feel, so I liked that aspect of it, too.
     
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  3. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    I’m not good with 3D detailed descriptions i.e. inside buildings, the interior of spaceships etc. Coordinates confuse the hell out of me. However, when nicely written it doesn’t bother me, I go with the flow. It is like listening to a song in foreign language: no idea what is about, but I can still enjoy the melody...

    I love space ships battles, in particular when the tension is well balanced and the outcome is uncertain. I don't struggle visualising them. Perhaps because I have read many war books in the past, where different strategies were applied accordingly: field battles, sieges, ambushes, open sea ship fights, tanks, guerrilla type... I couldn't get enough!
     
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  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Good space battles are especially great fun to read about. I love sea battles, too, so that that sort of segues to spaceships if the writer (like Weber) is just translating 19th century naval warfare tactics into a space context. C. S. Forester's brilliant Horatio Hornblower books had me completely addicted to naval battles. @MorteTorment, I was thinking I'd recommend Forester's novels to you, but I think you'd probably get bored by them which is unfortunate since they are bloody great!
     
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  5. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    I am face blind - very, very much so - and that links to visualisation apparently. So I struggle a lot with description - both reading and writing it. And I have no idea what any of my characters look like. I hate being asked who'd play them in films....
     
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  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Really? So, do you leave it as pretty ambiguous for your readers, too, or do you at least point out some key features like skin/hair/eye colour and height/weight?
     

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