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Thread: Week 46- Superhero Levels

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by madelf View Post
    Why is science any more important than any other aspect of a superhero story? Anything you don't know should be researched (police procedure, for instance - because your vigilante crimefighter is going to butt heads with the cops eventually). Science is no different, and no more important that I can see. And science may even be largely irrelevant to a given comic, unless the character or story are particularly science-oriented. In general, superhero comics (stretchy geniuses aside) don't really seem to sweat it all that much (and please don't try and tell me that a kid gaining superpowers because he was bitten by a radioactive spider has anything to do with science - 'cause I'll laugh in your face).

    I'd also like to point out that, these days, you don't really need any book on your shelf. You can research online. I had a story that required knowledge of astrogeology as it pertains to potentially habitable moons - I sure didn't have anything like that on my bookshelf, and neither did the library, so I researched it online (I even managed to find an actual astrogeologist to chat with and bounce some ideas off. Try that with an old text book).
    Here's the thing about things like "police procedure": it differs from town to town, from state to state. What goes as "standard police procedure" in Arkansas isn't what's standard in Iowa. What the state police does in New Jersey isn't what they do in Illinois. So, that calls for even more research on your part in order to get the setting "right."

    When it comes to superhero comics, science is more important because it's not easily as fudged. As I said before, when you're writing superheroes, you're writing science fiction, and you need to know something of science in order to do it well.

    I find your argument pointless. It's like you're trying to say that you don't need to do any type of research into criminal behavior/techniques, local police procedure, or forensics in order to write a crime novel. To be more obvious, you're saying that you don't need to know anything about math in order to talk about mathematics.

    You can't take the science out of science fiction, otherwise you just have fiction. Superheroes are science fiction, first and foremost. If that's too hard for you to understand, then you shouldn't be writing superheroes. If you dream of writing for Marvel/DC, you need to understand that before you're allowed to walk through the doors.

    As for research, the internet is a great place, but it's not the end-all, be all. Like Seb points out, there are innumerable sites out there that aren't verifiable in their research. A textbook, or a book that's not vanity published on the subject, will have well researched information in it. Would you trust a website that's put up by Dr. Joe Hooligan, where you'd have to cross-reference with two or three other sites in order to do your due diligence, or would you trust a book put out by Harper Collins, which may contain the rare misspelling or two, but will also has to be well researched in order to be published by so prestigious a house?

    And yes, weird things do happen on the internet. Hundreds of millions of people are on it, and it takes every kind of person to make the world go 'round. And if you're in a place where there's no computer, or doing research on the go, where are you going to find the internet, then?

    Web pages go away, power goes out, sites go down. With a book, all you need is some light (besides the book itself). You can take a book anywhere with you, and don't have to worry about battery life. And a book will always be there for you. Didn't pay your cable/phone bill? No home internet connection for you.

    Books also cover a variety of topics while still being under a general heading. This is just more information for your edification, that might find a use later. You might think of a new hero/villain, or a cool application for a power, or something you didn't know before that illuminates something that's been puzzling you for years. You won't get that doing a search on the internet because of the narrow focus of the search.

    I find books to be better than the internet in every conceivable way when it comes to information. Frankly, if you found it on the internet, I believe you can find it in a book. Local libraries, while good, don't have every book ever printed. You'd be better off going to a college library (if you're lucky enough to live in a college town), or going to Barnes & Noble and reading a book in there. Yes, I'm saying in a roundabout way that you didn't look hard enough for your research.

    Our own Tyler James writes a column wherein he also talks about research. Go there. The second part is here.



  2. Dungbeetle Guest

    Researching police procedure etc. would still be following scientific process, wouldn't it? The very fact that, when writing, you want something like that to be correct, betrays your inner amateur scientist.

    A good exercise they do for design courses in art colleges is to take a product or idea right back to the beginning. You do this by removing the established name, so a "kettle" becomes a "pourable container for heating liquid" and a "lightbulb" becomes a "electrical fixture for generating light". Seems like a silly exercise but stops us making assumptions and, in writing, probably allows for a lot more creativity. Why do these aliens who have never been in contact with us have the same teacups, drapes, rugs. Why has their vegetation evolved in such a way that their homeworld looks like Canada? What the hell's going on?

    The same can be said of where we get our information - the real world, and observation thereof, or existing texts (which are authored). A good example of authored texts messing with the real world to make a better story is UK police drama The Bill. In this, when a suspect is getting interviewed, their solicitor is present in the room with them. That's not actually how it works here, but it makes for a better scene while also representing the questioning process in a rosier light. So if you were writing a similar scene, which you hadn't researched properly, you'd probably assume that's how it works. Lazy.



  3. Join Date
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    I'll tell you this much about police procedure....

    ..it does NOT include putting a giant light on One Police Plaza from which vigilante's can be summoned!

    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  4. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    I find your argument pointless. It's like you're trying to say that you don't need to do any type of research into criminal behavior/techniques, local police procedure, or forensics in order to write a crime novel. To be more obvious, you're saying that you don't need to know anything about math in order to talk about mathematics.
    Steven, for an editor, your reading comprehension really sucks.

    I said, quite clearly, that anything you don't already know needs to be researched (science or otherwise). I just don't think science is more important to research than anything else that has a bearing on the story. I certainly didn't say it shouldn't be researched.

    And if you're in a place where there's no computer, or doing research on the go, where are you going to find the internet, then?
    Where are you going to find a book you don't already have, when you're on the go (or even when you're at home?) Take along your laptop or internet-capable phone and you actually can do research on the go, even when you don't have the right book. (Heck, these days you could probably even download an electronic version of the right book)

    A book is only good if you have it. And it's only good for what the book covers. The internet is a great starting point for researching any subject, at any time. It'll at least get you enough to get started and point you in the right direction for more research.

    As for books often being better (or at least more in depth) than the internet for research... I'll give you that. But how often are you really going to have a book specific to a given subject readily at hand? In those cases, the internet can be your best friend. Even in the case where you may want to do further research beyond what you can find online, the internet is a great starting point - if only to figure out what particular elements you want to explore in more depth, and find the best book(s) for additional research.

    I'm not saying don't ever keep a book around, but it's not necessary to build a library of every single subject you might ever have to address. In many (probably most) cases where you're actually writing science fiction, your old science textbook probably isn't going to be nearly enough, and an exhaustive library of every specific subject you may ever need to address is obviously impractical.

    I freaking love books. I've got more books than fit in my house, and I'm always buying more. I'll never tell anyone not to buy a book. But it's silly to expect a person to have a book on any subject that may come up, already sitting on their shelf. Buy (or borrow) some books on subjects you're interested in and want to explore, and look for inspiration in them... sure, great idea. Buy (or borrow) some science books so you're ready for that Fantastic Four assignment you're dreaming of... equally great idea. Worry about having reference material sitting on your shelf for any esoteric subject that may come up in a story... not necessary at all. And thinking that some basic science is the only thing (or even the most important thing) you'll ever need to know to write superhero comics... complete foolishness IMO.

    I find books to be better than the internet in every conceivable way when it comes to information. Frankly, if you found it on the internet, I believe you can find it in a book. Local libraries, while good, don't have every book ever printed. You'd be better off going to a college library (if you're lucky enough to live in a college town), or going to Barnes & Noble and reading a book in there. Yes, I'm saying in a roundabout way that you didn't look hard enough for your research.
    The college library isn't a bad idea, but I'm not near a college town and not in driving distance of one that amounts to much of anything. The local Barnes & Noble is a pathetic joke, and my local library... don't even me started. But even in an area with more resources available, I still say the internet would be the place to start, even if it's only to narrow your search and research what books will best suit your needs (and, at least in my case, ordering them). It's also possible to find out, online, what library has the book you're looking for, so you don't waste time running around to find it.

    But bringing up libraries and bookstores kind of side-steps the point. I was disputing the idea that you needed a book on any specic subject "on your shelf". As in "If you don't have them on your shelf and haven't read them at least once, you're just faking the funk." You don't need them on your shelf. You just need to have done the research somehow. Library, internet, personal experience, (though hopefully your personal experience doesn't involve vampires and demons )... the method doesn't matter so much as the knowledge itself.

    Superheroes are science fiction, first and foremost.
    I'm sorry, but I just don't agree with this as a blanket statement. Many, sure. Most, maybe. But not every superhero book out there has significant elements of science fiction, and, IMO, most blatantly fly in the face of anything resembling real science. Generally speaking, superheroes are pure fantasy. Sometimes with a garnish of technobabble.

    If you want to be able to write Reed Richards, or Beast from the X-men... sure, you'll want to make the technobabble more-or-less plausible. And if you're going to do a science oriented story, you're going to need more than just technobabble to make it plausible. But not every superhero story is science oriented, or even technobabble oriented. And there's a lot you'll end up needing to know, to write plausible stories (superhero or otherwise), besides science.

    Yes, I'm saying in a roundabout way that you didn't look hard enough for your research.
    Yeah, because the rural liberal arts college or the crappy excuse for a Barnes & Noble I have within driving distance would be sooo much better for research on a specific, and somewhat esoteric, scientific subject than reading applicable online articles from science magazines and consulting with an actual scientist. :rolleyes: If I had claimed I'd learned everything I needed to know from wikipedia, you might have a point
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 04:56 PM.



  5. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Dungbeetle View Post
    The same can be said of where we get our information - the real world, and observation thereof, or existing texts (which are authored). A good example of authored texts messing with the real world to make a better story is UK police drama The Bill. In this, when a suspect is getting interviewed, their solicitor is present in the room with them. That's not actually how it works here, but it makes for a better scene while also representing the questioning process in a rosier light. So if you were writing a similar scene, which you hadn't researched properly, you'd probably assume that's how it works. Lazy.
    Now that's a really good point.

    Fiction is no place to get reliable information, and TV fiction is worse. God help the writer who thinks he can learn how forensics really works from watching episodes of CSI, or police procedure from Law & Order.
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 07:10 PM.



  6. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by SebastianPiccione View Post
    As for the Spidey jab, while we all know radioactivity plus insect bites do not a super-hero make, it's still a good example. Look at at the various tweaks that origin has gone through through the years. Because we now know much more science than Stan Lee did, the origin has been altered to no longer include radioactivity being blasted away above an unshielded open room, accessible to the general public. because, thanks to our knowledge of science, we all laughed in the faces of the original version.
    Shows how much I read Spidey comics, I guess.

    What's the origin now? Some brief poking around seems to indicate a "genetically altered" spider. If that's the case, I'm not really impressed, as genetic experimentation "gone wrong" is just the latest craze in pseudo-science boogiemen that replaced atomic mutants. It doesn't have any more to do with real science than radioative mutants did in the 60s. Scientists knew that getting caught in a nuclear explosion didn't give you superpowers, even then. And I'm pretty sure most of the people reading comics didn't really believe it did either - it just sounded cool.*

    That's why I call superheroes fantasy. Some of them throw around technobabble buzzwords, but when you've got people flying under their own power and shooting energy beams out of their eyeballs, realistic science just doesn't apply as anything but set dressing.

    *And actually, if you want to make psuedo-science superheroes, radiation should still be as good as anything. The linked article is a couple years old now, but it shows that beneficial mutation can be achieved through radition exposure. It just isn't the latest fad in pulp fiction.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/28/science/28crop.html
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 07:08 PM.



  7. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by SebastianPiccione View Post
    I'll tell you this much about police procedure....

    ..it does NOT include putting a giant light on One Police Plaza from which vigilante's can be summoned!

    Yeah, but cool is better than realistic. Or at least cooler.



  8. Sliverbane Guest

    Great discussion everyone! Very thought provoking.



  9. MattDocMartin Guest

    I will say that the internet is a terrifically crappy place to count on for any kind of accurate information.

    Wikipedia is the enemy.



  10. AdamH Guest

    The old internet vs. books debate.

    For me, it comes down to this. The internet is good for general research, anything you want specific knowledge on & you're going to be writing a lot about, I would try to get a book on.

    I don't live in the biggest town here in Michigan. But our local library is linked with libraries in several neighboring counties. Just recently all of the libraries in the state linked up, including several college libraries. It takes a week or two to get the books, but if you don't have the scratch to buy them, a week or two ain't that bad.

    Michigan's not the most progressive state, so I wouldn't be surprised if this option isn't available in more states.

    I do live near a college, which helps if I have specific questions or I can't find a book on the topic I'm doing research on. Even if you dont live near a college, it never hurts to cold call colleges in your state to see if professors or heads of deparments can help you out in your research. One time for a story I even cold called a few local businesses to see if someone could shed some light on some questions I had about manufacturing processes for a specific industry.

    Something that hasn't been mentioned is friends and family. Dad was a Detroit police officer for 25 years, so that helps if I have questions about police things. Several family members fought in vietnam and korean wars in one capacity or another so I can go to them about certain topics.

    A recent example concerning friends was me asking a few questions to my group of friends I get together with once a week at a local pub. I was asking questions about laser weapons underwater (just for the hell of it because it crossed my mind), one of my friends used to work at an autoparts plant where they did laser etching under water. Goes to show you can get good answers from the most unlikely of places. My pub crew comes from a variety of different backgrounds, so that helps.

    Point being, in most situations there are a lot of non-internet resources available, you just have to look.

    -Adam Hudson



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