Issues Unique To Writing Science Fiction

I've been struggling with some elements of a science fiction novel I'm writing, and I thought I would talk about it on this old blog, rather than on my current self publishing blog.

One of the most annoying features of science fiction is when the author does an information dump to get readers up to speed on the facts and rules of the universe. The way that good authors have always avoided that is to allow the worlds to reveal themselves, and when explanations are needed, to let the characters explain them.

But I've run into an annoying problem with units of measure. My universe does not have any ties to modern humanity, at least not for several hundred years, which means no metric system and no British measurements. I'm perfectly happy using light years or light seconds in space, but I don't want to describe a distance as being ten kilometers or ten miles, or a height being 6' 6" or two meters. The people have no way of knowing these measurement units exist and they certainly wouldn't have developed them independently.

I'm currently trying to decide between an arbitrary system that will require full explanation at some point and a system evolved from some physical characteristics, such as cubits and feet once were. But it bothers me that I can't think of any popular science fiction books that have done this. Perhaps that's because many of them are set in the far future and simply adopt the metric system, or maybe I just haven't noticed.