In sci-fi/fantasy, what kind of implausibility ruins your suspension of disbelief and what can you play along with?
Tamara: For a made-up world, I am okay with any crazy kind of in-world rules, as long as they’re kept consistent. However, it throws me when something is set in the real world and they’re historically or scientifically inaccurate.
Serdar: I could (and probably should) write a whole essay about this for my own site, but here’s my short version.
I don’t care what the rules are, as long as they make sense amongst themselves and are maintained throughout. If, e.g., faster-than-light travel is possible, that’s fine, as long as we have some idea of what the other consequences of that will be, and as long as those consequences are kept in sight. If the rules are broken — and many times, they will be — there had better be the best possible reason for it, and not just because the author found himself in a corner.
A story in which anything can happen becomes a story in which nothing makes any difference.
Ewen: A work of fantasy/sci-fi can potentially get away with just about anything through either speculative fiction elements or adopting a stylized kind of narrative, but there’s a need for consistency within a work. Star Wars pretty flagrantly ignores the laws of physics, and in many cases common sense, but it’s an over the top space opera (or in the words of one commentator, “a big dumb movie about space wizards”), so I’m willing to go along with desert planets, unexplained faster than light travel, explosions in space, and even “elite” storm troopers who can’t hit the broad side of a barn. On the other hand, the prequels run aground pretty quickly with a virgin birth and the entire podracing subplot that totally falls apart simply because it makes no damn sense that the currency of the single biggest government in the galaxy is completely worthless on a planet that’s a trade hub. Of course, tossing things that work fine in Star Wars into something like, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey would make it totally fall apart, just as a virgin birth angle could work in, say, a fantasy novel if the author did it well.
Scott: Usually, suspension of disbelief goes flying out the window when the author has no idea of the scale of things, when odd items are added with no regard to why they’d even exist*, when advances are too quick with no explanation. Basically, if something is odd, unexplained, and no indication that an explanation is coming. Along with this, unnecessary break of existing setting physics – FTL works in manner X unless the plot requires it to work in manner Y or sometimes manner Z.
*The Segway fell victim to this.
Ellen: That is a fantastic question! =)
I haven’t run into anything I can remember being held up by in fantasy, but in Sci-fi, I tend to get picky about science. If they bother to explain the modern day principles behind a certain phenomenon, but only do a half-assed job and leave obvious plot holes, then I get annoyed. I understand if not every piece can be explained, but if there are glaring untruths, it feels best to leave it vague, to me. Otherwise, its like acting as a British person when you’re terrible at a British accent. If you have to force it, you’re better off staying natural.
Bonnie: As has been pointed out before – consistency. If something is out of whack with the rest of the rules of the universe, it’s going to mean that suspension of disbelief goes out the window. This is why the Star Wars prequels so angered people – because Lucas wasn’t consistent with his own universe. In the original trilogy, we’re told that the Force is “an energy field.” In the prequels, it suddenly had something to do with particles in the user’s blood. Um, what?
Also, fans can usually tell when the writer has thought through a universe well, and if they’re just “pulling stuff out of their rear ends,” so to speak, in order to fill plot holes. Once something like that is detected, it puts the viewer off. (I remember some of the odd-number Star Trek movies coming under that kind of criticism).