Hello, Mythcreants, I hope you all are doing well!

My story has a little bit of science and a little bit of magic, which I’m working on blending reasonably.

I read somewhere online that in a lot of sci-fi stories, the authors and screenwriters have scientific explanations for the weird occurrences and strange experiments—and a blogger said that having a scientific explanation for a science fiction concept makes it less believable. Is this true? If so, how do I make a science fiction concept make sense without providing an explanation?

Thanks for your time!


Hey Murphie, Oren here. Great to hear from you again! 

I’m not sure what exactly this blogger said, so here’s my take on scientifically explaining your story’s speculative elements: It’s not automatically bad or unbelievable, but it has a high potential to be. 

If you have a robust, believable explanation for how your advanced tech works, then, great, that can add a lot to the story. You still need to make sure the explanation isn’t boring to read, but that’s a challenge for any form of exposition. This is a big selling point for books like The Martian and Project Hail Mary, both of which are near future scifi. Note, I’m not saying the tech in those books is scientifically accurate; I’m saying it feels scientifically accurate to most readers. 

This can also work for magic, though it’s much harder. While magic and tech often accomplish the same purpose, they are themed differently, so a “scientific” explanation for magic is much harder to sell. It’s not impossible though, and the Horizon games do a decent job, with most of the seemingly supernatural abilities actually being advanced technology that humans no longer understand. 

The difficulty is that a lot of speculative elements are simply impossible to explain, especially when they’re following established tropes that persist because people are used to them rather than out of any inherent believability. 

For example, it’s very difficult to create any kind of scientific explanation for classic wizard spells, where the wizard chants magic words from a spell book, makes fancy hand gestures, and then sprinkles in a few miscellaneous components. Any explanation would have to be so complex that it would also qualify as magic. 

The same thing can happen for scifi tech. There’s no realistic explanation for giant walking battlemechs, as the physics just don’t work out. Likewise, it would be extremely difficult to scientifically explain why space fighters engage each other at close range, more reminiscent of WWII dogfights than modern air combat. 

So when deciding whether to scientifically explain something, the key is deciding whether you can have a plausible explanation at all. If you can, then great! If not, then you’ll just end up calling attention to unbelievable elements, and probably breaking theme to boot. 

Hope that helps, and good luck with your story!

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