reading / science fiction

Science Fiction Pet Peeves: Space

Space is vast. Space is full of wonder. But, apparently, space is also either an enormous black void with absolutely nothing in it aside from some significant stars and planets, or completely cluttered with asteroids, comets, and even whole planets, so much so that you can’t gave a decent trek in a rocket without crashing into one. Space is so misunderstood in Science Fiction and these are either mistakes or cliches that I, personally, am so tired of seeing.

  1. Hazardous Asteroid Belts. An Asteroid Belt is a “belt” of mass that revolves around the stars filled with space junk, including asteroids, meteors, and centaurs (tiny planets). As large as they are, however, asteroid belts are estimated to be made of little mass, at least in relation to their size. Generally, the mass of an asteroid belt is stretched out by its enormous volume, meaning most of an asteroid belt is space. Assuming that your rocket is sufficiently “advanced” and “science fictiony” enough there should be no reason one couldn’t navigate safely in the space between space junk.
  2. No Oort Cloud. The Oort cloud is, in theory, a vast cloud of space junk surrounding our heliosphere (the area of which the sun’s radiation has influence). It is supposed to be the source of all of our comets. There is an abundance of amazing stories which this cloud could be used for! But no. It isn’t even mentioned in most space stories I’ve read.
  3. The Moon’s Distance. The Moon is far away enough from earth that all 8 planets can be placed between them.  But it’s often assumed to be much closer than that for some reason. Probably because of simplified pictures of the earth that put the moon right next to it.
  4. Speaking of Which, The Distance Between Stars/Planets. The universe is enormous, everyone knows this. People seem to underestimate the size of a Galaxy, or even a solar system! The space between planets in our solar system alone is Enormous and liable to shift because they are always moving. In Science Fiction I’ve read interplanetary travel is treated as easily as driving from one town to the next, sometimes even with cute little pit stops between destinations on asteroids. I find the idea of treating interplanetary travel like this…actually pretty cool. But only assuming that the level of science depicted in the story makes it believable that interplanetary travel is this easy! Whole epics could be told just about the trip between two planets! (Plus, pit stops on asteroids? That’s pretty cool too)
  5. Visible Black Holes. Black Holes are invisible. They absorb light which prevents us from seeing them. However, certain black holes emit an enormous amount of light due to consuming millions of stars.
  6. Humanoid Aliens. In a lot of science fiction, a lot of the alien races are humanoid. The worst offenders are just humans with different colour skin. Sometimes their “different alien cultures” are just a change of food and technology level. Not only is this cliche, it’s also problematic for one reason: Real Life cultures on Earth differ more between each other than these “aliens” differ from Western culture. “Our alien race eats bugs and believe in polygamy!” Yeah, real life Chinese cultures eat bugs (technically arachnids. we adapted to eating tarantulas) and believe in polygamy!
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