Welcome to my guide on how to write technobabble! Every post will start with one letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, and cover tips and ideas for all you writers of sci-fi. Whether you’re writing about near-future science fiction, far-flung alien worlds, or historical steampunk adventures filled with advanced technology that never was – these posts are designed to help you write convincing and unique tech for your story!
Z is for Zathras
So what does Zathras mean? Zathras is a character from the TV show Babylon 5. He is an alien who helps to maintain the Great Machine—an ancient and advanced piece of tech on the otherwise-desolate planet that the Babylon 5 space station orbits.
For this particular A to Z Challenge about technobabble, what Zathras represents goes along with the “X” and “Y” posts. He represents something “other” and strange, and he represents the author just plain having fun with worldbuilding. Zathras is a comical yet enigmatic character who is not very good at explaining how his tech works (or explaining anything, really); but he is wise, intelligent in his own way, and masterful at building and fixing advanced tech, even if he can’t explain how it works.
What this means for you as a sci-fi writer is that after all the worldbuilding, researching, science studying, and name creating—sometimes it’s okay to just go with “it was aliens” by way of an explanation. This doesn’t mean that you should get lazy and just say “it’s aliens” whenever you want a quick high-tech fix that you haven’t bothered to invent yet. (Similarly, in fantasy genres it can be tempting to use the “it was magic” explanation to get characters out of a fix, instead of re-crafting the plot).
But it is okay to have a few things in your story that are never explained. It’s okay to leave an element of mystery about how something works or why something exists—whether it’s alien or not. It’s okay to have your characters—and your readers—occasionally have to do like all of the other characters in Babylon 5, who just shrug and scratch their heads, but follow Zathras anyway just because.
After all the science, descriptions, and explanations, it’s okay to sometimes just be Zathras.