Don’t bore me with all that medical stuff!

“I like a good doctor story as much as the next reader, but don’t bore me with all that medical stuff! Don’t tell me the patient’s blood pressure, don’t tell me what course of treatment they tried that accidentally made things worse, and don’t tell me how they found the real illness hidden behind all of those mysterious symptoms. Just tell me that the patient went to the hospital, and the doctor did some doctor stuff, and the patient got worse until they did even more daring doctor stuff, saving the patient in the nick of time!”

“I like a good sports story as much as the next reader, but don’t bore me with all of those plays and strategies! Don’t tell me the plays they tried and how their opponents blocked them, don’t tell me the ingenious strategy that turned disastrous, and don’t tell me how the replacement quarterback tried something no one had ever seen before and surprised everyone with the winning touchdown. Just tell me there was a game, and the teams clashed, and the home team was on the verge of losing until the underdog turned it around and won the game!”

“I like a good police procedural as much as the next reader, but don’t bore me with all of that forensic stuff! Don’t tell me how they combed the scene for clues, don’t tell me the strange evidence they found but couldn’t explain, and don’t tell me how the forensic team managed to tie together disparate clues to paint a picture of the real crime. Just tell me there was a crime, and the police were stymied, and then the lab fingered the real killer. Don’t waste time on procedure, just get to the exciting chase scene at the end!”

“I like a good science fiction tale as much as the next reader, but don’t bore me with all of that science stuff! Don’t tell me how the laws of physics blocked the protagonists’ plans, don’t tell me how they pushed their ship to the limits to try to skirt the edge of possibility, don’t tell me how they pushed too far and their ship broke down, and don’t tell me their ingenious plan for turning disaster into triumph. Don’t waste time on believable science, and especially don’t waste time convincing me that it’s believable. Just make something up, and get to the exciting chase scene at the end!”

I don’t think anyone would watch House M.D. and say the writers should cut out all the medicine. I don’t think anyone would watch The Replacements and say the writers should cut out all the football plays, the huddles, and the practices. I don’t think anyone would watch CSI and say that the writers should cut out the, ya know, Crime Scene Investigations and the laboratory scenes.

Yet some people show no hesitation in dismissing science fiction with actual science and engineering at its core. Not just “I’m not interested in that,” but rather, “You’re doing it wrong!” And often they’ll add (with a sneer), “It’s science fiction! Duh!” I can only shake my head and pity them. Such limited imaginations…

There’s room for medical soap operas, and room for medical mysteries. There’s room for stories about the lives and passions of pro athletes, and room for stories of a team of underdogs fighting against all odds to get to the championship. There’s room for buddy cop films, and room for forensic investigations.

And there’s room for fantastical, metaphorical science fiction verging on fantasy, and room for real nuts-n-bolts, hard science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Don’t bore me with all that medical stuff!”

  1. In every human endeavor there are folks who overdo it, and this causes blow back. Star Trek: The Motion Picture overdid the new and shiny CGI. And everyone and their brother complained about it. The writer who does his/her homework and thoroughly researches the science and technology has to avoid the temptation to show every bit of it. And the techno-phobe who has no idea of how the sciency bits work will go overboard the opposite way.

    The hard science fiction writer–like every other writer–must balance his/her work. You need enough of the human dimension to engage the reader and you need just enough of the techie stuff to make it interesting to the reader.

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