Science fiction is a genre of fiction in which the stories often tell about science and technology of the future. It is important to note that science fiction has a relationship with the principles of science—these stories involve partially true-partially fictitious laws or theories of science. It should not be completely unbelievable, because it then ventures into the genre fantasy.
So when the current editor of this newsletter asked me to contribute to its pages I got the wonderful idea to impart a little knowledge of the genre to you, the reader, in the hopes that the next time you are at a show and that star ship is setting on the table completely ignored by the rivet and lug nut counters you may look at it with maybe a hint of appreciation for what went in to building it. We will start with a little back ground on what I like to call the Pyramid of Sci-fi creation.
What is the Pyramid of Science Fiction Creation? It is the basis for dreaming, designing, and creating a science fiction piece that makes it unique in the modeling world. This Pyramid has three sides to it and each will be discussed here.
So when it comes to modeling this style of sci-fi weather it is a ship from the series or the creation that came from a bad bear and pizza night, it has the merits of being based off of hard science. A created piece from this part of the pyramid should be believable, functional, and doable. The viewer should have no trouble identifying the functionality of the vehicle or ship. He should not have to imagine or wonder what causes it to go forward, or function on a faraway planet or what makes it go bang. This style should reach out and make you wish you had one of those in your garage back home. Or at the very least it should leave you with the thought of “it could happen”.
The challenges here for the modeler is the limitation of science as it relates to believable. We have theoretical physics that tells us a cold fire fusion reactor is possible, just not there yet. So powering your tank with one in a way limits you to certain physical laws that have to be obeyed. However this can also be a benefit to the creator in so much as they have real world subjects to base the creation on and use as guides to construction. I am fond of futuristic armor and conceptual ideas. To create a “new tank” that will be believable is easier from the fact of there are tanks out there to look at and create from. The fact that most people on the planet knows what a tank is it is not a stretch for the piece to be believed as long as it stays honestly within the reach of known science.
But what happens when you want you tank to fly? Now we step around to the second side of this pyramid. The one where it gets a little more interesting.
In this arena we deviate from the classic definition of sci-fi due to now we are creating from a stand point of what looks good. The science that drives the piece is now not only subjective but speculative as well. We all know we do not possess the technology to build a Death Star and go blow up planets in a distant system in search of the rebel base. Questions like, does it have to have artificial gravity, or how does it travel in hyperspace (what is hyperspace for that matter) without any visible engines are questions that are deemed irrelevant to the piece constructed. We just fill in the gaps later. All we care about here is that it looks fantastic. We are more creative here; we are not limited to hard or theoretical science. In some cases we are not limited by science at all.
I have had discussions on whether this would really be sci-fi at all. Again let us remember that science fiction is based on real laws of the natural world. Clearly a repulse lift, however theoretically possible, is not practically possible with known science. And let’s not even start on the whole light saber thing. What matters here is that it looks awesome and we like it a lot. The big plus here is there is not a limiting factor for your creative process. If it looks cool then it is OK. Most of the shows and artwork in this genre do not trouble themselves with trivial details on the mechanics, they create. For the joy of creation. And here is the flaw in this. When it applies to modeling it is more difficult for the viewer to understand or even relate to the piece. Here is where you hear the lovely phrase from that dear friend “what is it?” or “what does it do?” and finally “how does it work”. Here the modeler is relying on the viewer to have an equally high level of imagination as they do. And to be honest, they don’t. The viewer may have an appreciation for your skill to build and paint, but you rarely get much past that. These models are very popular with sci-fi enthusiasts but unless you are modeling a vehicle or ship from a well-established franchise, you are just not going to reach a large target audience.
So these are two of the principle schools of thought when it comes to creating or building a sci-fi model. Now we got to the third and last side of our pyramid. This is the one that garners most modelers that kit bash or scratch build. And for that we title it with the grand, awe inspiring title of. . . . . The Rest.
We have now come to the end of our conversation. I hope you found this both instructional and enjoyable. Remember it is one modeler’s opinion and open for debate and criticism. The idea behind this genre of modeling is to have fun with it. To deviate from the strict history and do something out of the box. Remember this is an art form that grew from a hobby. And hobbies are supposed to be fun. So the next time you are at a show and you see the guy across the room that just put his Klingon Bird of Prey on the table, go and take a look at it and see it for what it is. A labor of love and creativity. Look at it with the idea behind it in mind. Appreciate the art, even if you do not like the genre. Sci-fi guys are the same as you just with bigger imaginations. And a love for what they do that would rival any in our art. Who knows, if you try it, you may be assimilated in it. Resistance is in fact futile.
Model well plastic fans, where ever you are.