Technology in SciFi: Star Trek, Star Wars, WH40K, and David Brin


I still think it’s a useful model to follow. It can range from “Romans in space” to more of a reasoning by analogy. Following some kind of historical model (or a mix of historical models) is probably going to have more twists and turns than you could get by just trying to create it directly, while leaving lots of room for creativity. Sort of like how a restricted form of poetry could stimulate creativity more than free verse.


The big leap in technology on Star Trek was when they stopped having the computer give them paper printouts after the first pilot.


Fusion I think is probably a matter of time. I mean it would be surprising if it was ultimately impossible.

FTL is on the other side, I think. It would be surprising if it was possible. FTL plus relativity leads to causality violations, and we have a lot of evidence for relativity. The best hope for FTL is that we live in a universe that kind of looks like it obeys relativity but the real explanation is quite different.


Of course sometimes that gets you derivative dreck like this shit

I read way too much of that when I was a teenager. . .


That’s one of those little touches I liked about the Star Wars franchise, Lucas mandated no paper from the beginning. There’s no recognizable alphabet or written language at all really*, so he may have been trying to avoid stuff seeming to fake or taking you out of the universe.

  • though now that I think about it, they refer to the fighters in the first movie as X-wing and Y-wing models don’t they? Only exception I can think of.

** oh damn you forum that wasn’t a bullet point


There are symbols written a few places, including on the control consoles for the 2nd Death Star. Like most minor, pointless details from the films, this eventually became a big deal in the expanded universe. . .


Ha, should have figured that was all annotated out somewhere. Yeah, I remember the symbols though. One thing I had to do when I finally got the trilogy on VHS was pause the bit where Luke and R2 are flying to Dagobah having a “conversation” about their destination. I had to see if I could figure out what R2 was saying, though of course I couldn’t.


You know, the concept of the story beats and personalities of WW2 in a fantasy world seems like it could be fun, but the slavish description in the wiki article does sound pretty awful.


It was pretty painful, probably made worse by the fact that I was just coming off whatever grade you learn 20th century US history in, so it was pretty painfully on-the-nose for me. Honestly, with more time and distance from the source material, it might not be as dreadful.


My understanding is that fossil fuels aren’t particularly energy dense. Rather, it’s their portability and stability that makes them crucial for our current society. You can store it in barrels and tankers and get it where it needs to go, super easily. For pure energy output, solar, nuclear, geothermal can easily replace fossil fuels, once that’s exhausted (which may not be any time soon). What I assume you would see is the mega-cities common to so much Dystopian sci-fi. Dense concentrations of humanity because it would no longer be cheap or easy to make energy available across distances. Even if we developed practical fusion, it would presumably require substantial facilities/plants and there are substantial infrastructure challenges to getting power to transmitted to the boonies.


One mans rubbish is another mans treasure. Humanities tech is derived from the leavings of ancient races. 40k is a derivative of this, but I reckon Slaver stasis boxes came first.


I am reading The Forever War by Haldeman and he approaches it from an angle I have never encountered before. I haven’t finished the book (so no spoilers) but his character fights a war over the centuries (because of the time required in long range space travel) and technology changes with almost every trip.

The idea of your enemy being ahead of you in time because of the time required in you reaching him struck me as something no other space fantasy has used.


There was motions in this direction in Enders Game, where due to technological advances, the first fleets deployed were the least advanced. It was actually a significant element of the narrative development.


Somehow I missed that in Enders Game.


I’ll spoiler it, for those who aren’t familiar, but the execution is thus:

Human fleets were deployed, initially to the core worlds of the Buggers. These early fleets were slower, less agile, and had less powerful weapons. Early engagements in the book were the most recent fleets, sent to the closest planets, and with the fastest and most advanced ships. His early battles had both technological and numerical superiority. AS he progressed through his ‘training’ the human fleets got less capable, while the bugger ones got more technologically and tactically advanced. The final battle at the alien home world involved the choices it did due to the fact the human ships were so much more limited than what they had been before. Hence the suicide rush. But the negative technological growth played both into the reveal and character development of Andrew.


When I read the OP, Vinge was the first thing that occurred to me (and @divedivedive) – technology is “capped” depending on where in a galaxy you stand.

I also enjoy the conceit (found in some 40K books) that you don’t dare exceed a certain level of technology because AI is never benign, so you have to go in a different - and generally equally dangerous - direction. Like powering your computers with the reanimated slave-corpses of your citizenry.


Shades of Dune in that. Mentats are delightfully ridiculous awesomeness :)


Yeah, it’s outside the scope of this thread probably but I also like the idea of civilizations in decline, something like the lostech of Battletech - they’ve lost the knowledge how to create new mechs and are basically salvaging and repairing what’s left as best they can.

WH40K is a cool one too. I like the idea that the consequences of technology - like accidentally configuring a circuit board into a rune that summons a demon that eats your head - has made everyone devolve into a quasi-religious paranoia. The technicians are now techpriests, who must have knowledge of the demonic ramifications of the work they do.


I kinda dig the post-scifi fantasy trope, too, in a similar vein; everyone wandering around with swords and spells around the rusting hulks of the death mechas of some bygone age until some idiot teleports to the moon and reawakens the machine god.


I’ve read a bunch of great books in this vein. My favorite is The Unforsaken Hiero by Sterling Lanier, but Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stuff is pretty good too.