I love Science Fiction and Fantasy for many reasons, but one of them is that it makes the impossible, possible. I love seeing and imagining the creative architecture and worlds such as Gotham City from the Burton films:
The new artwork for the new Disney film Zootopia:
Arda from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien:
And of course, Disc World:
However, I am fully aware that not everyone likes this sort of Science fiction and would instead read/watch/play works based off accurate science. That isn't a judgment call on those people, everyone has their personal tastes and opinions and that's perfectly okay.
The problem arises when you feel that every work needs to be, "hard science-fiction" and then go about dismissing any other work straight out. Even going as far as to dismiss entire sub-genres and art forms for being too light and unrealistic. Then insulting those who disagree with you as if Sci-Fi was a way to judge character. That's when you've crossed the line.
Now of course, the reverse is true as well. Last year, after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of Shield, tons of people flat out harassed those who preferred darker comic works (like myself) and demanding that everything should be in the same tone as that film. Even works like Warhammer 40,000, a work entirely built on being grim and gritty.
So as such, here is why I believe that being scientifically accurate should not be the end all when it comes to judging Science Fiction.
One criticism that seems to be thrown at many works a lot is that bad science hurts works and undermines them. However, the problem isn't in the lack of realism, but the writer failing in storytelling. Let's take the recent Doctor Who episode, Kill the Moon.
The thing is, the idea of the moon being an egg, isn't a problem for me. I can buy it and it doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is the way it was used and how it took away from what could have been great character development and an interesting dilemma.
Think about it, just before the moon egg cracks, we have a great three minute scene with Clara & Lundvik debating on whether it is right to let the egg hatch, killing millions if not billions, but would lead to humanities rejuvenated interest in space. Or kill the creature, saving those people but meaning that humanity may stay on earth forever.
In the actual episode, the Doctor comes back and sweeps everyone into the Tardis and the Dilemma is swept away.
But think of this, what if the Doctor didn't come back then and they decided to kill the creature, saving millions and the moon slowly goes back to the way it was. Only then does the Doctor return and angrily takes everyone home except for Clara. He goes off at her for damning humanity and takes her 1000 years into the future to show her the world she has made.
However, much to his surprise, the earth they find is booming with satellites and spaceships. This is because the Doctor, like in The Caretaker and Robin of Sherwood, had failed to see the smaller picture. The experience had changed Lundvik and she had encouraged others about the wonders of space travel and slowly and through generations, the human race by itself began exploring the stars again.
Not only does this further build upon the themes of the previous episodes, but it also fits better with what comes after. Clara now is less trustful of the Doctor's decisions such as In the Forest of The Night, Mummy on the Orient Express and the final two-parter as well as The Doctor being more caring about the smaller picture like in Flatline and In The Forest Of The Night.
You see the problem of the episode wasn't the bad science, it was bad storytelling. Peter Harness, the writer of the episode, failed to use the moon effectively so we ended up with what many consider the weakest episode of series 8.
Both inaccurate science and accurate science can be used in such a way. Using it as an excuse for bad storytelling, lack of proper characterization or even characters not behaving like real people would in those situations.
It's why ignoring canon annoys me because it just another way to be lazy and shows the failings of the writer in being creative.
Now let's take a look at Gurren Lagann, a series that is based entirely on doing the impossible and seeing the invisible. Hell we have a mech in the second film that is over 52.8 billion light years tall. I think that's a wee bit more scientifically impossible then a moon egg. But yet, Lagann is considered a classic of the modern anime art form and received much fanfare and accolades. Why is that?
In the same vain, Star Trek episodes such as the City on the Edge of Forever, Tapestry and The Visitor are all considered classics for their respected eras. But yet, all three use inaccurate science, why is that?
It is simply because they were better written, using their fantastical science as a strength, rather than a crutch for creativity.
The same is true the other way round, with works like Foundation, Ringworld, The Color of Distance, World War Z, Ethan of Athos and Queen City Jazz. These are works that used there more realistic science approach to their advantage while also not ignoring other important areas. As such, they are also considered classics.
This is why I dislike seeing people dismiss works that don't use accurate science, like their existence is upfront to real science somehow. Personally, I hate the terms, "hard Science Fiction" and "Soft Science Fiction" because it implies that any work that doesn't use real science are somehow inferior and shouldn't be taken seriously as real science fiction (let's also not forget that many who use those terms, use it as an excuse to dismiss works by women like Madeline Ashby, Amy Thomson and Kathleen Goonan).
It is even worse when it comes to art forms, genres and sub-genres where you see people on both sides dismiss them. Anime and animation being dismissed for being just kid's stuff (despite thousands of examples proving this wrong) and should not be taken seriously. Superheroes are just light escapist material. Fantasy is dismissed as just a gateway drug to the "real" works or calling Fantasy writers cowards. Hard Sci-Fi writers lack creativity. Or even how grim and gritty works get criticized for never being funny or entertaining (guess nobody watched Samuari Jack, Hellboy or Darkman).
It dismisses the nuances of each of them and implies that everything can only ever be the same, which is completely not true. Animation can be both silly like Adventure Time & Teen Titans Go or serious like Batman TAS, Grave of the Fireflies and Waltz for Bashir. Superheroes can be light action adventures like most of the MCU films or darker like Sandman, Spawn and Berserk. Fantasy can be as thought provoking and intelligent as any other genre, or be dumb and silly like Roverandom. Hard science fiction can be just as creative as any other genre, or as boring ad dull as they come.
None of these genres/sub-genres/art forms are objectively better or worse, with both good and bad works in all of them. None of them should be held as more important as they all have material worth exploring and can help in the real world. But most importantly, none of them should be used as a test of character. Someone who loves Sci-Fi Romances is not smarter or dumber then someone who reads science fiction fantasy or realistic Sci-Fi. Honestly if you do use it as a test, I'm sorry but you're just an asshole.
It's also just a really lazy way of debating and just halts any conversation so please don't use it.
In short, it's perfectly okay to prefer works that use realistic science over more fantastical works and vice versa. It's not okay to then completely dismiss works because of your preference and it's wrong to insult and harass those who disagree with you (which is not the same as debating).
If a science fiction work is bad, it's rarely has anything to do with the writer choosing to be realistic or fantastical. But rather because the writer failed because the story was poorly written or the writer failed to properly use what he had written.