Op-Eds For September 2019

Hello SCP Wiki and welcome to the SCP Zine Editorials where we ask you your opinion on something within the community, be it in-universe or meta, and publicize your thoughts for all to see! A new topic is issued monthly, and users can weigh in with their opinion by directly PM'ing Uncle NicoliniUncle Nicolini with their thoughts on the topic. Discussion in the comments is always welcome. This is, after all, a forum!

This month's topic is:

Where do you draw the line on suspension of disbelief in an SCP article?

Let's get to your thoughts.

From: A Random Day

While I'd like to say I stopped drawing a line of suspension of disbelief, that's inaccurate. Rather, I stopped caring about the mechanics of the anomaly and more about the mechanics of the characters. The site blew past its days as a 'secretive fictional creepypasta' five or six years ago. How do you argue suspension of disbelief for something like "End of Death"? Simple: you can't. Nobody does. They're just along for the ride.

The secret, then, is to not explain how your anomalous MacGuffin works. The more you explain, the more you force people to think about your explanation's plausibility. Worse, you run the risk of blatantly detaching your article from the real world by accidentally saying something like "tracing a firewall hack by making a GUI in VIsual Basic". When people talk about how much they love Parawatch because the site sprains their suspension of disbelief, what they really mean is that it's easy for them to pretend it's real because Parawatch articles don't waste five hundred works explaining how the monster works — they just talk about how spooky it was to encounter the monster.

Don't worry too hard about how your anomalous MacGuffin works. It's a MacGuffin. Just make sure that what you build around the MacGuffin is fun to read. It's worked for comic books for more than seventy years, it worked for X-Files and Twin Peaks and Twilight Zone, and it works for the site. When in doubt… keep it simple, stupid.

From: Askedforit

Suspension of disbelief is integral to enjoying not only the content of the Foundation, but to enjoying most media as a whole. Things will come up that defy our perceptions of the world, or our understanding of how things are to operate, and whilst that may break immersion for some people, it is also what makes the Foundation so compelling—its mystery, and its abnormality.

When I read an article, I often try to become immersed in it and its narrative, but things can get out of hand. Take, for example, SCP-2000; Deus Ex Machina. It exists solely to alleviate any tension or risk that might come about with operations, and whilst there is no canon, quite a few readers look at 2000 and see something that makes whatever XK-Class We're All Dead Scenario they write have no impact; that is the problem. The power scaling. 2000 is really a cop-out; a plot device, and a somewhat blatant one. I mean, look at its name. You can suspend your disbelief up until Goku reaches his fifteenth final form. My immersion is mostly broken when infinite cosmic powers are thrown about like toys for children. It is a 'one death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic' sort of deal.

Oh; clinical tone and grammar are really big for me, too. I would hope that whoever is tasked with writing up documents at the Foundation would know the difference between their and there. Be sure to proofread, kids.

From: Leveritas

When something is described as ''unknown'' e.g. ''unknown material'' or ''unknown substance''. In order for your material to be ''unknown'', it literally has to be composed of atoms that aren't on the periodic table. That is usually more interesting than the actual SCP if that is true.

From: Veiedhimaedhr

To preface, I don’t believe the line of disbelief lies right between ‘is formatted like an actual government/scientific document’ and ‘is not.’ It’s not fair to the imagination and creativity of the wiki contributors (and the wiki as a whole) to draw the line there since, as a federal contractor irl, practically everything on the wiki fails to actually hold up to classified documentation standards. This is not a bad thing; actual government documents are about as fun to read as eating shredded yard-stick cereal, and getting through the preface/header/introduction alone would dry up any interest. Unless the article extremely diverges from would appear on a government document, drawing the line there is unhealthy for the SCP experience.

That being said, while the creation of a totally legitimate-looking government document that still does the job of an engaging story is not a good place to draw the line, competency and rationality on the part of the in-universe article writers and characters is a fair line. What I mean by this is: it is not unreasonable to have your suspension of disbelief shattered by characters in the story doing things they shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t. This is a standard that exists in contemporary fiction writing in general but it holds especially true for the wiki because a vast majority of the characters presented here are supposed to be professionals. Thus, the most common errors that breaks suspension of disbelief in the SCP Wiki are divergences from professional competency (DPCs). This manifests in different ways. The most obvious, and likely the first to spring to mind are, unnecessary containment procedures. There are plenty of essays on the topic so I wont go into why this is a divergence from professional competency. However, there are more tricky and insidious DPCs out there. There’s switching from scientific to legal prose (using the ‘number (#)’ form), there’s providing information in such a way that no information is provided at all (attempts to force abstract writing into a document we’re expected to believe is intended for professional reference), narrative dialogue in interviews (“the subject enthusiastically exposited”) and there are more.

Now, where exactly this line lies when it comes to DPCs is ultimately part of the ongoing struggle as to what prevails most in our works here. Does the scientific/governmental imitation prevail over the fiction writing? Or vice versa? If the former circumstance is true, then we would expect the above examples of DPCs to sound somewhat normal. If the latter is true, however, what I said makes no sense. This struggle is not standardized in the wiki. Everyone knows that part of the charm of writing here is marrying official documentation to creative storytelling. However everyone also has their own feelings about which takes precedence. A scientist written by someone more focused on the fiction elements than the documentation elements may be more prone to casual, unprofessional behaviors and dialogue in order to better serve the story. Meanwhile a scientist written by someone more focused on the documentation elements than the fiction elements may be utterly rigid and concise in order to better serve the story. Yes, both types of writers write to better serve the story. However, everyone’s qualifications for what an acceptable DPC is may be different.

To personally, and more concisely answer the query: I draw my line of where suspension of disbelief breaks on most DPCs, but never on how well an article imitates real life clandestine documentation.

Want to be featured in next month's op-ed? Take a look at the topic and formulate some thoughts.

The topic for October is…

Horror. What kind of horror do you prefer in an article and why?

Remember to keep it under 250 words and send a pm to Uncle NicoliniUncle Nicolini to submit your thoughts, and don't forget to discuss in the comments if you'd like.

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