1. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    Do I need to brush up on my science before writing a sciience fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by LuminousTyto, Aug 4, 2012.

    Whatever I learned about science when I was younger, especially the sciences having to do with space and all that, I've forgotten most of it. It's kind of disappointing because how in the word am I going to be able to write a science fiction if my science fiction knowledge is so rusty?

    Should I brush up on science or just stop in the middle of my writing every time I need to describe something accurately and just do the research on it?

    I want to write stories that are at least realistic without a bunch of bogus made up crap.

    So?
     
  2. EldritchDwarf
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    EldritchDwarf New Member

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    It all depends on how you want to go through the writing process.

    I prefer researching after the first draft, so that I have a completed draft that I can edit to match the research. I only do research before then if a particular detail is bothering me. This is only for a brief time, because research often distracts me from writing.
     
  3. GoldBat18661
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    GoldBat18661 New Member

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    Maybe both. I find that sometimes, I write what I thought was correct, and then find out I was a bit mistaken. It's fresher in your mind after you've just read it, but it's easier to memorize if you've read it before.
     
  4. Corgz
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    Corgz Senior Member

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    zno, you wouldn't need to. Just always double check when you do something sciency... A number of movies have made mistakes of not researching stuff.

    Star wars for example, huge explosion in space, its a loud roaring noise, one problem, Sound doesn't travel through space,

    Avatar, there helicopter things, yeah, when loaded with weapons the laws of physics says they can't fly due to aerodynamic issues... Yeah :p Don't make mistakes like these.
     
  5. Bell City Fires
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    Bell City Fires Member

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    Quantum Mechanics are head spinning. Physics is at the point right now where we can conceive of just about anything - just that we do not have the technology to make these ideas real. Think of da Vinci; he dreamed up these great ideas, but didn't realise many of them. They were added upon by future minds, and then realised. Time travel right now involves smashing atoms together at super high speed to momentarily open worm holes. Teleportation is a function of spooky action at a distance; make two particles that will interact, then move them vast distances, change the one particle making it mimic another particle and its partner will then take on the properties of the mimic. Creatures exist on this earth that do not require sun light or oxygen that are called extremophiles, let them be your basis of weird life out in the cosmos. Weaponry is the easiest jump to make, because humans seem to have a natural tendency to make great killing devices.

    Was there any particular thing you wanted to know about?
     
  6. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    You'll probably want to research items that are critical to your plot fairly early. It might be hard to fix a misunderstanding in such material if it impacts the core of your story.

    For example I sketched an opening scene for a new story where a 65 million year old nuclear reactor core is discovered while digging out the basement of a new building. I had this vision of workers getting burned and suffering radiation sickness... rumors starting about secret government testing, etc. Then I did some reading about how nuclear reactors actually work and found out that after 65 million years there wouldn't be any scary radiation left. So much for my dramatic first chapter!

    You certainly don't need to be an expert in the science, however. In fact I think you should avoid explaining too much about how the science works. Such explanations tend to be boring, distracting, and quickly go out of date as new real-life science is discovered.
     
  7. Bell City Fires
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    Bell City Fires Member

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    See any Advanced Physics books sold at your nearest University campus.
     
  8. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Write what you want to and have a nerdy friend look it over for the scientific details. I think most people who read science fiction only expect things to be probable, so don't stress it too much. However, knowledge is always power, so it won't hurt to brush up if you go that route.
     
  9. Quinn T. Senchel
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    Quinn T. Senchel Member

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    I think the important part is to make sure a lay person wouldn't know the difference.
    It also helps if one doesn't go into the nitty gritty details. Details may just bore readers anyway.
    If it's a core aspect of your story you should research details early on so you don't have an irreversible mistake after completing your first draft, as PeterC stated. And as Bell stated, some life forms can live in the absence of sunlight and some can survive the vacuum of space (Tardigrades for instance). You can be loose with science, that's why it's called science fiction and not science fact.
     
  10. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    Couldn't agree more, Information & Technology i.e. Software development textbooks are no better.

    It depends on the audience your writing too, if your novel is intended to be a hardcore, well grounded, science based fictional piece, you need to do in depth research. If your appealing to the "star wars" audience, i wouldn't bother too much.

    An example would be a scientist in your novel, who is working on gravitational field generation and manipulation using a newly discovered element 0(i.e. the plot of mass effect). There is no need to intricately describe the physics involved behind gravitational fields and how they are specifically manipulated unless your using a very specific effect(e.g. gravitational lensing) in your story. A simple "this engine does x, y and z to create a gravitational field, thus moving the spacecraft" is sufficient for most "star wars" readers.

    Even with a specific effect such as gravitational lensing all you'd say is that the effect causes light to warp around large gravitational fields thus distorting what the viewer sees and as a result, the spacecraft becomes invisible and undetectable.
     
  11. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    Firstly...remember you are writing science FICTION, not a science research paper for peer review. So...with that said, You want plausible explanations. Perhaps you could find a beta reader that is fairly knowledgeable in science? I would definitely have someone check your
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It all depends on how much science in in your science fiction. If it's a political piece with some futuristic elements, like The Hunger Games, you won't need much science knowledge. On the other hand, if your story is set in planetary orbit, you had better have decent knowledge of orbital mechanics, for example.

    At least a solid knowledge of high school level science is a practical prerequisite for writing plausible science fiction.
     
  13. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    My advice would be to dream up a good, solid scifi plot, and write it out. Scifi is all about having a good imagination anyway...

    Then, when you are ready to edit the 1st draft, do some real world research on the techologies in your novel, and adjust their description to make them more "real" or "genuine".

    You can generally get away with a lot in science fiction.

    For example: in the Hunger Games there are forcefields that stop people/objects from going through them. But nowhere does Suzanne Collins describe what kind of technology or physics law makes these forcefields work. She just calls them "Forcefields" and that's it.

    To be honest, if you research everything properly while/before you write, you will likely wind up with a more believable novel, and maybe a better novel.

    But it doesn't have to be that way. You can describe what something does briefly, and leave it to the reader to imagine what kind of technology makes it happen.

    Good luck!
     
  14. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    Thanks, but I'm not actually writing yet, but will soon. To tell the truth, I'm torn between science fiction and fantasy. I won't to focus more on one of those.
     
  15. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Not necessary to have to have huge science knowledge to write SCI FI. A lot of it its making things up anyway. The only masters in sci fi I'm sure had science degrees of some type were Asimov and Clarke.
     
  16. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    Alestair Reynolds is one of my favorite sci fi authors and I'm pretty sure he has some degrees in astronomy. His sci fi can get a little hard though.

    Ender's Game was pretty good, and I don't remember any science being explained in that book.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is a LOT of science in Ender's Game, especially about the unique elements of combat in free fall. Ender also makes specific deductions about the gravity in the combat simulator rooms (lack of Coriolis effect, no transition involving rotation) and thne technology the military possesses.
     
  18. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    Guess I forgot. It's been a while.
     
  19. BBBurke
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    BBBurke Member

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    When it comes to writing, I think science and magic are similar. What the reader wants is consistency and plausibility. If the details aren't important to the story, you can normally hand wave your way past them. But it all needs to work together. If you create a world where faster than light travel is possible, but people still use iPads, it doesn't seem consistent. Or if you go into great detail about how the star drive works and then nothing about the teleporter, again it doesn't seem consistent. Describe things as much as the story needs and as much as you can competently explain. Don't try to go beyond that or it will fall apart.

    Most the science in most science fiction is about as realistic as most of the magic in fantasy. I have a degree in physics and I enjoy reading SF, I don't worry about the science being accurate (it almost never is) as long as the story is good and details consistent. When readers read, they want to suspend their disbelief and go with you. You just have to make sure not to jar them out of that disbelief with incredibly inaccurate details or ridiculous theories. The worst books are the one written by people who don't know physics but did 'some research' and want to prove how much they learned (Angels & Demons).
     
  20. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    Thanks for the post. I really like what you said. I read in a how to book on writing fiction that your story world doesn't need to be completely realistic as long as it's not so far fetched where the reader is going to laugh. Although the author said it only works unless the writer stays true to whatever rules you set within the world you create and that you stay consistent.
     
  21. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Whenever I need to research something I try to find something I'm interested in
    so that I'll remember it. Rather than trying to slog through a text book you
    might want to check out Science magazines or Science articles on the web.
    Whether or not you use the information will probably depend on your
    interest on the subject. I've found, though, that magazines , new and old
    can spark off some good ideas and depending on how dated the
    information is, can be invaluable.
     

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