Friday, December 07, 2007

Suspension of Disbelief or Lack Thereof

This follows on the preceding post...

What makes a reader lose belief in a book?

My friend Ellen give up on Red Mars after an error in physics. I sort of dimly remember what the problem was. I didn't notice it till it was pointed out to me, and then it didn't bother me especially. Robinson got technical help from Charles Sheffield, which meant he tried to get things right. He -- and maybe Sheffield -- slipped up. Everyone is human.

On the other hand, when I got to the point in R.A. MacAvoy's Damiano series when she mentioned the Jesuits existing in the 14th century, I had Ellen's response of shock and rage. Everyone knows the Jesuits are a Counter-Reformation Order and did not come into existence till the 16th century. I mean, really!

I've had people from SCA tell me I got the sword smithing in my first novel entirely wrong, but they enjoyed the book none the less.

I asked Ellen to check the science in one of my stories. After she finished reading the story, she said, "Is your science bullshit? Yes. But most of the science in science fiction is bullshit. The question is, is it irritating bullshit? The answer is no."

We then had an argument about the alien geometry I had in a footnote and reached a compromise that Ellen could sort of tolerate.

I don't have a good rule for when I will tolerate mistakes and when I will not. Or when I enjoy an author playing games with facts and reality, and when I get angry.

Whatever happened to R.A. MacAvoy? She did some fine writing and then vanished, as far as I can tell.


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