New Discovery Story

If you don't feel up to the confusion of time travel, perhaps the fourth type of science fiction plot will intrigue you: the new discovery story. First, you conjecture a new discovery—it may be a device, process, or simply a theory—which would revolutionize modern life. You then concern yourself with detailing the effects that discovery has on society and, more immediately, upon your small cast of characters.

Harry Harrison's The Daleth Effect deals with the discovery of a simple, relatively inexpensive stardrive which will permit space travel at a ridiculously low cost. Suddenly, the stars are ours—not in thirty or fifty or a hundred years, but now. The powerful social force of this process or device (Harrison never makes that entirely clear) spreads antagonism among world governments, because if any one country


owned the Daleth Effect, it would soon so dominate as to make other nations powerless.

Wilson Tucker's Wild Talent deals with the emergence of ESP abilities in the first of a new breed of human beings and details the fear and doubt such a discovery would cause in today's society.

It is not essential, in the new discovery story, to adequately explain, through present-day science or pseudo-scientific double-talk, how the discovery works. It is always preferable, of course, to ground the device in a bedrock of acceptable scientific theory. But this type of science fiction story is far more concerned with the "how" and the "what" than with the technical-theoretical "why." And, since it usually takes place in the present or the very near future, it is the story type which requires the least amount of extrapolation and research. Indeed, many new discovery science fiction novels are set in such a near future that they are not labeled as science fiction, but as suspense: Michael Crichton's best-selling The Andromeda Strain, and The Tashkent Crisis by William Craig.

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