Last Week’s WW: Line Edits (nominate my book, please!)
It is my belief that good science fiction must be based in good science. It’s easy to come up with some crazy, or innovative concept, only to find it fall apart when someone knowledgeable comes along and pokes holes in it.
Some things are easier to get a good base on. The book The Martian, for example, has a lot of great science in it. According to Wikipedia: “Andy Weir has a background in computer science. He began writing the book in 2009, researching the book to be as realistic as possible based on existing technology. Weir studied orbital mechanics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight.” (see that, I just did research). The book Cyber Storm is written by an author who is a leading member of the world’s cybersecurity community. And Wikipedia says that Ramez Naam, author of Nexus and Crux: “was the CEO of Apex Nanotechnologies, a company involved in developing nanotechnology research software before returning to Microsoft. Naam currently holds a seat on the advisory board of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, is a member of the World Future Society, a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute, and a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.“
Now, you don’t have to be a scientist with a lifetime of work in a particular field to write good science fiction. It’d help, sure, but it’s not a prerequisite.
But you do have to learn as much about your topic as you can. Even if it feels like no science exists, look for the roots. I’m sure you’ll find something. A person writing a story about parallel universes might think that there aren’t any applicable principals that they could use to explain it. But there are. You can’t just say that your car flies with magnets. You can’t say that your space ship does what it does just because it can.
Good science will lend to the believably of your story and help it hold up to scrutiny.
There are other benefits, too.
If you root your science fiction in good science, it can come back around, and spawn science again.
I had some issues with some of Interstellar. (and here’s an article about the science they got wrong. And here’s another (with SPOILERS from Hunting Post and Neil deGrasse Tyson. See? People pay attention.) But, there actually was a lot of sound science in it. So much, in fact, that using some of their budget to model a black hole actually gave science a great look at something they weren’t able to do before.
That’s the great thing about being a writer and a futurist. We have the creativity to take science, to really understand, and to project it into any and all of its possibilities. We may be able to see applications not thought of. We might be able to see generations and generations later, see where the technology will evolve, how it will affect society, and how that, in turn, will affect the technology further, and so on.
But it takes good science. It takes research and making ourselves experts. It gives a story credibility. It makes it real. And, it could even change our world.