From the Archives: Technobabble

Technobabble

A form of prose using jargon, buzzwords and highly esoteric language to give an impression of plausibility through mystification, misdirection, and obfuscation.

startrek_logo_2007I first heard the term in reference to Star Trek. Basically, the script writers would plot out the (always awesome) story line, and where convincing technical information was needed, they would write:

“Insert Technobabble”

The thing was (at least in the case of Star Trek), it didn’t always have to make perfect sense.  But it did have to sound like it made perfect sense. It had to fool the viewer, make them feel smart for hearing familiar terms (like Warp Core), and add to the overall sci-fi effect of the show.

So as writers, especially for kids, how technical must we be? Do our technical definitions need to be precise? Are vague explanations good enough? If our story has a strong technical basis, how much must be conveyed? Do you make up your own technical terms, or rely on those already recognized as convention?

I think of THE EMERALD TABLET (as I often do). It uses well-known terms like:

telekinesis

telepathy

teleportation

even telegnosis (which is a real term though new to most readers)

I find when writing sci-fi and fantasy for kids, I general fall back on terms kids will be comfortable with. Not in all cases, as new terms do get coined and learned this way. But the majority or the technical jargon provides a sci-fi/fantasy comfort zone for the readers.

What are your thoughts on technobabble? Make up new? Use stand by old? And what books for kids excel is the use of technobabble?

P. J. Hoover

Originally published 3/2/09
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2 Comments

Filed under P. J. Hoover

2 responses to “From the Archives: Technobabble

  1. Jan

    I think technobabble is just the sci-fi version of a literary convention. Fantasy is full of literary conventions and fantasy elements that we all “understand.”

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