Robots don’t bleed motor oil.

I just wasted two hours of writing time calculating the specifics of a starship traveling from Epsilon Eridani to Rigil Kentaurus, little of which will be appreciated by the reader. We demand accuracy in other forms of literature, but for the most part, people are willing to give science fiction a pass.

I’m one of those people who cringe whenever we see spaceships flying like airplanes, when there’s sound in space, when robots “bleed” motor oil, or, and this is the worst, when aliens come to Earth to steal the water. It gets really bad when you see all of those in one movie.

Fans have complained to the creators and writers of Star Trek that warp speeds are not consistent, and that’s probably the least of Star Trek’s sins. I understand that the point is to tell a story, often one of social commentary, not give a physics lesson.

In the television show Firefly, there was no sound in space, but they abandoned this convention in the movie Serenity. In the book The Making of Star Trek, Stephen E. Whitfield describes how the showrunners actually added the Whoosh! in the credits after the fact, because it didn’t feel right when it wasn’t there.

If we encountered these kinds of factual errors in a murder mystery, we would cut the author no slack, because details are important.

Well, they’re important in science fiction, too. Or, they should be.

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