So, I come across this question a lot, whether it be in web logs, forums, in person, etc. How do you manage the physics in your sci-fi, where and how do you “hand wave” things for the sake of plot. Do you ever use those hand waves as points of intrigue, that push a plot further.
First, I should say that I am (was? tricky to say) a mathematician, with a lot of Physics background. Before I ever considered writing a novel I have been working on many ideas. Some down to earth and utterly boring and mind numbing for anyone that isn’t into math, some more…out there.
I say that, because most people will see them as such. Once you get a feel of the exotic math, the universe seems a much more ordered place. Ordered in a way that is beyond traditional understanding.
So, I have incorporated a lot of my research into the universe of my novels. Faster than light is merely a consequence of the result of one of my theorems. To be fair, I will treat that as hand waving. The negative energy issue, but once you have that, or any technology, you don’t have to come up with something brand new. All you got to do is think of applications.
Electricity was a huge step, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait for another huge step for more gadgets. Washing machines, toasters, trolley cars, the works. All are applications. So the same with negative energy, that’s how I derive FTL or warp (I interchange even in the book, both being common parlance) or how I derive anti-gravity or gravity, tractor/repulsor beams, artificial gravity for deck plating, weapons systems, ranging from FTL torpedoes that don’t need warheads, simply using momentum to cause damage to antimatter big mamas. Yes, that’s another application, antimatter storage, since you have anti-gravity, since you have negative energy.
So once you get all this stuff out of the way, for yourself at least, you can create the world, and slowly you can use those as plot devices. It becomes clear to the reader (score for teaching readers about some physics and math without them even realizing!)
What I wouldn’t do, is the techno-babble. Or I would do it but in a very particular way…more on that in another post.