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In my view (and I believe some disagree with me about this), good fiction, including good science fiction, should be about people.

The way I'd put it is "Good science fiction is about how people react to fictional science and technology".

A neat new breakthrough in the field of [whatever] might be interesting in its own right -- if you're reading Scientific American. To become interesting, as fiction, it really needs characters that people can identify with.

Aldiss's Helliconia series suffered from poor characterization in a lot of ways, but it was still an incredibly interesting faux documentary. But as fiction, it was rather bleh.

To your typical reader, the interest lies in how a society, an individual or a group of people react to and handle this new data. They often project themselves, their peer group and their society into a situation, subconsciously, and part of their empathy and acceptance arises from how they would react in similar circumstances.

Of course, Stephen King has a lot to say about this, and makes a very strong case that "people read about people" (yes, anyone who has NOT read On Writing and fancies themselves a writer should be feeling ashamed by now =) ).

(NOTE: I have no idea about the characterizations in Mark's manuscript, I'm just rambling about characterization in general)

Somewhat related to this, I'm on a mailing list for role-playing game developers (people who like to make their own paper and pencil RPGs), and one of the questions was about "the social effects of magic". The thread is long and varied, but it really did make me stop and think about how poorly so much fantasy has handled this subject.

If magic was provably potent and existed, the fact is that it would radically affect a society to its core, depending on the nature of the magic, its potency, and ubiquity. Wizards would be reviled, worshipped, deified, killed, etc. depending on the circumstances.

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