Don't Pick at That Nit, It'll Only Get Worse
In the SF RPG 2300 A.D., there are pages and pages of tables that have things like the atomic weights of various gases, cross-referenced such that you can tell that if you have a planet of thus-and-such size, with a composition of this-that-and-the-other, then you will have an atmosphere composed of yadda-yadda-yadda. These are supposed to be very helpful in creating fictional worlds, but they were so friggin' dense that I couldn't even begin to crack them.
I just pictured a room full of nerdy planetology geeks with calculators and bad hair, reading through my stuff and snerking arrogantly about how that world couldn't possibly exist, because the concentration of cobalt in the atmosphere would be toxic to breathe, or some such -- and getting snooty e-mails to that effect. And I thought, "I don't care if I impress these people! I don't care to have anything to do with them!" But SF editors, from what I've gathered, do want to impress them -- and many of them are such people.
Case in point, I wrote a little bit for a SF RPG I was running, just a piece of flavor text, that talked about the concept of a "system buoy." It's basically a large computer with a radio transmitter, that plots the locations and trajectories of all known objects in a system at a "universal" time. Thus, if you know how far away from the buoy you are and what your own time is relative to it, you can make an educated guess about where everything is, and if you're in danger of getting caught in a gravity well or colliding with an asteroid or something.
Hardly a revolutionary concept, I know. :) However, in the flavor text, I described this buoy as being fixed at a position 1 AU over the northern "pole" of a star, in reaction to which, HantaMouse wrote in the margin, "...thus violating all known laws of physics by resisting the star's gravitational pull."
Okay, you caught me, but on the other hand, who the hell cares? It doesn't matter to the story! If people can travel through hyperspace and generate artifical gravity fields, surely they can find a way to fix an object in space relative to another object without too much difficulty.
This is the kind of thing I don't feel like dealing with, but it's the sort of thing that SF writers get all the time. And worse, it's the kind of thing that SF readers take great glee in -- an absurd fascination with inconsequential minutiae.
Hey, That Planet Wasn't There When I Wrote This!
I have tried a few times to build an interstellar setting using the Gleise astronomical data ... placing relatively friendly aliens at Tau Ceti, using 3d models built by HantaMouse to figure out colonization routes and civilization trends, etc. But the problem is, the Gleise data is rather incomplete, not entirely coherent, and keeps being updated! Anything I write now, could very well be invalidated by this time next year. And with real, honest-to-goodness extraterrestrial planets being found by astronomers, if I put a planet at Tau Ceti, it's more or less a guarantee that in five years it will be announced that there is no such thing. But I don't have the patience to keep up with that stuff.
But ... Westerns In Space Are So Damn COOL!
And this, of course, is the biggie.
Hard SF bores me to tears.
I want sleek fighters zooming through meteor showers, zapping away at aliens while making bank turns. I want cat-headed aliens who come from an angry volcanic planet, conquering the galaxy. I want to read about Han and Chewie tooling around the Corporate Sector in the Millineum Falcon.
I emphatically don't want arguments over funding for the new radio telescope, detailed calculations of whether five people can survive on 30 cubic feet of oxygen or only four, or groundbreaking insights on what the structure of carbon nitrate becomes in a methane atmosphere. In the words of the MST3K guys, "Can the prune juice and death-ray something!"
A lot of the people who like hard SF, hate me for liking schlock, and would hate me even more if I tried to publish it. This was made famous by a prominent SF editor complaining about the "space westerns" he hated so much; others have talked about how they'll automatically reject any story that has cat-headed aliens in it.
So fine, I'll keep my schlock to myself and enjoy it immensely. Or I'll publish it in comics, where schlock has a happy home. I'm not going to try to write the SF that editors want, because I wouldn't want to read it. If the editors change their mind, well, then we'll see. :)
PS: Okay, well maybe not bank turns. But you get the point.