To succeed, the Launch Pad program must do more than foster correct science in popular culture. The portrayal of that science must also be accessible and interesting. That's why, besides a pure science track, the program also deals with how to include science in stories.
And that led one day to the roomful of authors discussing the dreaded exposition monster.
Exposition? That's conveying important background information to the reader. SF critics and editors pan exposition mercilessly, deriding it as an "infodump." SF authors have become gun-shy about the technique.
Exposition can, to be sure, be done badly. The exemplar / strawman is the "As you know, Bob ..." digression, wherein one character breaks from the story to tell the reader, in the guise of conversation with another character, what both characters already know. Nearly as cliched is the expert/novice pairing. Here, the expert character lectures an uninformed character (such as a reporter, politician, or a charming but clueless love interest) whose main purpose is to be ignorant -- in the interest of eliciting such lectures.
So yes, exposition can be done badly. That doesn't mean it can't be done well, or that readers universally object.
Some Launch Pad authors (I among them) argued that exposition has its place. The alternatives -- dribbling out the information over the course of a story, or assuming knowledge on the part of the reader, or hinting rather than telling -- aren't necessarily better.
And let's not forget, readers often choose a genre because the underlying subject matter interests -- nay, fascinates -- them. (Umm, don't science-fiction readers like science?) In other genres and for many bestselling authors, exposition is merely a tool of the trade. A few cases in point:
James Michener sold more than a few books, and he could start with, for example, the geological processes that formed Hawaii.
Tom Clancy sells fairly well, too, with his share of digressions on the history and operation of (choose your weapon system).
Westerns paint detailed pictures of the West.
Historical novels delve lovingly into their backdrop time and place: its origins, class structure, the implements used in daily life, the influence of geography, the social mores ... .
Technothrillers unashamedly discuss new and upcoming technologies.
So why does the SF literati like to beat itself up about a few paragraphs of exposition here and there? I really don't know.
What do you think?