1. Scorpius1988
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    Scorpius1988 New Member

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    Science Fiction (I Need More Knowledge)!!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Scorpius1988, Aug 12, 2011.

    Hi, I'm an aspiring writer and I really like the science fiction genre, but I really don't know much when it comes to writing such things, so I need to read books that can increase my knowledge in related fields! Below I'll list the sorts of books I'd like to read and why, and if you can give me any suggestions for what titles I should get, let me know. Also if you have other suggestions of any kind let me know as well, thanks.

    Anyways I plan on writing in the Sci Fi genre with futuristic themes, so I think astronomy books are kind of a must, you know anything that can teach me more about this universe and it's celestial bodies, etc.

    Astrobiology books, since I plan on writing about interplanetary space travel and EXPLORATION. I want to know more about mineral elements, etc.

    Xenobilogy books would be good as well I think.

    Books on physics, everyone says that good sci fi writers need to know some physics.

    Botany books and any other books on animal life, as I plan on describing the nature of the worlds my characters will explore.

    Anatomy books, I need to know more about human anatomy and physiology as I plan on writing scenes involving people getting hurt/attacked and I'd like to be able to write believable scenes in this area.

    Anyways I know that's a lot of books on a lot of subjects! But I want to boost up my knowledge so I can write about many things. if you have any disagreements or further and or better suggestions to the list of subjects I think I should improve upon, please don't hesitate to tell me. Remember I'm an ASPIRING writer, and I have lots to learn! So drop me a post!

    Thanks ;)
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds as if you are trying to write "hard" science fiction. Most people who write that sort of stuff are very knowledgeable indeed on the subject; one I know personally (who doesn't limit himself to hard sci-fi) has a degree in astrophysics. And a lot of experts tend to scrutinise hard sci-fi for the slightest scientific anomaly, so to make it in that field you have to know the subject well.

    Don't let that put you off, but I think you would do better to start by writing "soft" sci-fi, where the science is actually glossed over (the Doctor Who sort of thing, where time travel is described as "Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff") and the focus is on the story. Then by all means improve your knowledge of science, so you can start introducing more and more credible explanations -- read anything on the popular science shelves at your library/bookstore that looks interesting, whatever the subject. That way you should end up where you want to be without having to study science for ten years before you set pen to paper. The UK science magazine New Scientist has a lot of material written at a level that is accessible to the non-specialist (more so than Scientific American, although I hear that is becoming more accessible too) and does good reviews of popular science books -- have a look at their website. It might also be worth looking at Ben Goldacre's Bad Science book and website, to get a clearer view of what all too often passes for science but isn't. Not that being bad science in the real world need make it bad science in your fictional world!
     
  3. Scorpius1988
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    Scorpius1988 New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I'll be sure to check out that book you mentioned too!
     
  4. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    For a beginers guide Micho Kaku - Parrallel Worlds. Fantastic introduction to physics and the universe aimed at not scientists. Although I'm told is difficult to grasp for a complete novice.

    I'd start by researching what you're interested in, and becoming well versed in that. Always perhaps, keep an actual expert up yoursleve. Someone you can quiz on the subject.
     
  5. Amsterdamatt
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    Amsterdamatt Member

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    You could always take the alternative approach of just writing a great story, and then find a friendly scientist to help you with identifying and fixing up any impossibilities you happen to have written? Bear in mind as well that the "laws of physics" are only specific to our universe; there's no rule that says your particular sci-fi universe has to respect absolutely all of them. :)
     
  6. Scorpius1988
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    Scorpius1988 New Member

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    I don't know any scientists lol. I'll probably start out with super soft sci fi, not really going into the details of how the science in my story actually works. I wonder if that would make a bad sci fi though? maybe not, since I can focus more on actual story. I've also considered starting out writing pure fantasy, but with a kind of medieval theme. You know, swords and magic, etc. Can't figure what to go with though ,: \

    The good thing about fantasy is that it's fantasy! Don't have to worry to much about realistic plausibility unlike most other genres...
     
  7. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I'd read some sci fi books to get a feel for them. Asimov's Foundation series would probably be best. If you're not going to start out with hard sci-fi, maybe read something by Vonnegut.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I'd agree with the others. If you're not from a science background of some sort and you want to write hard sci fi then I'd recommend finding a person or two who is. Student friends perhaps.

    Among the hard Sci Fi authors Isaac Asimov is absolutely the founding father, but there are many others who come from that sort of back ground. Arthur C Clarke designed the communications satellite for a start. The Hoyles, Fred and Geoffrey are astrophysicists etc.

    The other option you have is to start joining other fora relating to your writing's science. Run your ideas, not necessarily the story but the science background to it past a few people and they could help steer you in the right direction.

    Cheers.
     
  9. Scorpius1988
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    Scorpius1988 New Member

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    I'm not entirely sure I actually want to write hard sci fi. I've read some hard sci fi and it seems to lose me a bit. I think somewhere in between hard and soft sci fi might be my mark. I've read hard and soft sci fi and that's why I think I like somewhere in the middle.

    Btw, I have the entire collection of Asimov hehehe! :D
     
  10. nchahine
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    nchahine Member

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    Technically, I guess Asimov is considered hard SF, but I never thought of him as such. Kim Stanley Robinson, Ben Bova, Greg Bear, some C.J. Cherryh; I consider those authors to be hard SF, but maybe I'm mistaken.

    In either case, a good number of SF novels out there are what you would call space operas (Peter Hamilton, Timothy Zahn, Vernor Vinge etc). You may want to look into something like that, as you don't need to know much science at all. I always like a good space opera just for pure enjoyment.

    Also, the online science magazines like Astronomy, NewScientist, Discover, may all give you ideas, and they're interesting to read besides.

    Good luck!
     
  11. Sketching Girl
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    Sketching Girl Member

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    In my opinion, science-fiction can be made up pretty well too. As has already been said, Doctor Who glosses over the science, we know Time Travel is possible in the series, and he has a Tardis that does this. But how does it work, how do they travel through time? Who Cares! We have Daleks and alien threats to fight against! You don't have to know the science, just that it is possible. If you want futuristic themes, have futuristic technology. If you look over the history of technology, it goes from large and bulky, to smaller and sleeker over the years. E.g. mobile phones, portable music players (think of Ghetto Blasters in the 1980s, to cassette walkmans, and now tiny MP3 players).

    You can invent anything you want, and just gloss over the science. Your characters aren't necessarily going to stand there and give a lecture to your readers on in-depth science. Any science you need to know you could probably pick up from searching an online encyclopedia (e.g. Wikipedia), or any of those popular science magazines listed above. I don't believe you need to be an Einstein to write science-fiction, just an appreciation of good science-fiction, and a glossy knowledge of evolving science and technology!
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's not science fiction, then. And a lot of savvy readers of science fiction will be right to throw your book in the trash. At least, if you're trying to market it as science fiction. The name of the genre has the word "science" in it for a reason.
     
  13. Sketching Girl
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    Hi Steerpike,

    In my opinion, science fiction is based on technology and science that hasn't been invented yet. It's pushing beyond the technology and knowledge we have now. So for me, you don't have to have a science degree to be able to write it, you are inventing what could be possible. For example, if you're writing a space opera, similar to Star Wars, you can say the spaceship is flying in space, but you don't have to explain all the science and tech as to how it actually flies in space. Sure, if you want to include space phenomena that currently exists, i.e. Black Holes, Asteroids, etc, it definitely helps to read up about them and understand what you're writing about, and if you want to invent your own space phenomena, it would help to know what's already out there to help it fit in better.

    Another example is in Resident Evil, the zombies are brought about by a genetically engineered virus that brings dead cells back to life. That is all the scientific explanation we need. If I read pages and pages of scientific explanation in a book, it would bore me and distract me from the story. Maybe I like more "soft sci-fi" than "hard sci-fi", but that's just what I want to read in science fiction. Just my opinion!
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Hello Sketching Girl. Nice to meet you.

    I agree generally about not having to explain everything, like how space ships fly. I think that hold true so long as you remain within the realm of what we now know about science or logical extrapolations from what we know (or, if you deviate from these, a good explanation as to why). So you can have space opera with space ships and that sort of thing without explanation and be within the realm of science fiction in my view.

    I don't think Star Wars stays within that realm, though, because there you have things behaving contrary to what we know of science. The ships they fly around in behave exactly as they would in an atmosphere, even though they're in space. It isn't surprising, as footage of airplane dogfights were used as part of the basis for the space ship fights in Star Wars. But to me when you violate our current understanding of science, then the burden is there to explain how or why or else you're outside of science fiction.

    Similarly, with Resident Evil it would depend on the explanation because reanimation of dead cells, whether by a virus or otherwise, conflicts with what we currently know of science, and raises a number of problems when one considers the damage that occurs to the body after death.

    But reasonable minds can differ in the extent to which they'd hold an author to such things. One genre I enjoy is so-called "hard" science fiction, where it is expected by the reader that the author will adhere to the above rather strictly :)
     
  15. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    You don't need a degree in science, I agree, but you do need a degree of understanding as to how it works. For me, that's the difference between fantasy and science fiction: SF is vaguely plausible (it could happen, potentially), whereas fantasy is pure fiction. (I know that's an incredibly simplistic approach, but I'm using it to illustrate a point).

    In as far as it works in practice, some subgenres of SF are "softer" than others, and with some things you'll be able to get away with what you're writing about making no cohesive sense. But there are some subgenres, some groups, where it will make people put your book/story down. Knowing what you're talking about, and understanding the science to at least a certain degree, will never hurt you.
     
  16. Sketching Girl
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    Hello Steerpike, nice to meet you too! :)

    For me, I've always thought of Star Wars as very sci-fi - aliens, spaceships, strange new planets, really cool, loved it! But as for going against what we know already of science, yes we could do with explaining that! When Star Wars was first made, did they know about space travel and how spaceships move in space? I.e. did they know at that time that spaceships wouldn't be able to fly in space the same way as airplane dogfights in Earth's atmosphere? If they didn't know, then I guess we could forgive them! But perhaps they have advanced means of manoeuvrability that hasn't been invented yet? At the moment we pretty much just use rockets / shuttles to get up into space, not very sophisticated but it does the job! I personally wouldn't worry if that wasn't explained.

    But I guess if we said we were on planet Earth and had almost zero gravity, we would definitely have to explain why. And if we flew to the planet Venus, and described a deep blue sky with not a cloud in sight, we would have a lot of explaining to do, as we know that isn't the case. So yes, we do need to know some science, and briefly mention terraforming perhaps! Although if we were setting a character on a planet currently being terraformed, then we would need to understand and describe it better, and if we were basing our story on the terraforming going wrong, we would need to be able to explain it well. So perhaps if you have an idea for a story around some science you need to centre your whole story on, then you definitely need to get a book on that subject and read it in depth. But I wouldn't recommend getting a book on Astrophysics, and Biology, and lots of different in-depth science books and knowing all of them inside out to write a science fiction piece - only if your particular story hinges on that particular knowledge. That would be my opinion.

    I think Zombies are pretty well known and accepted as they have been in numerous movies and books, they are like the spaceship in space, people are familiar with them and believe in them in a science fiction story or movie. I think you have to suspend disbelief a little when watching or reading science fiction, or you would forever be picking through the science. Though I can appreciate if you are reading a book for the "hard" sci-fi, then you would be highly disappointed if the science wasn't correct or well explained. Me, I'm more for the thrill of the ride - give me Han Solo hurtling through space, firing lasers at the bad guys any day, and I'm happy! :)
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    You don't need a degree in science, I agree, but you do need a degree of understanding as to how it works. For me, that's the difference between fantasy and science fiction: SF is vaguely plausible (it could happen, potentially), whereas fantasy is pure fiction. (I know that's an incredibly simplistic approach, but I'm using it to illustrate a point).

    In as far as it works in practice, some subgenres of SF are "softer" than others, and with some things you'll be able to get away with what you're writing about making no cohesive sense. But there are some subgenres, some groups, where it will make people put your book/story down. Knowing what you're talking about, and understanding the science to at least a certain degree, will never hurt you.
     
  18. Sketching Girl
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    Hi Banzai, I agree completely! But the next part I hadn't thought of before:

    People don't generally expect you to explain the science behind fantasy - perhaps because there is none? But sometimes science fiction and fantasy overlap. In the movie Daybreakers, there are Vampires. People accept that there are vampires without them needing to be explained. They use science to explain what happens to the vampire when starved, and in attempting to create a serum/fake blood the vampires can live on without human blood (without much success). Although the science isn't real, it gives the illusion that it is and we believe it. In an older Vampire movie, Blade, we have the same sci-fi elements, trying to create a serum for the vampire, and high-tech gadgets (weapons) and biological weaponry that makes vampires explode. Generally fantasy needs no explanation, though we do expect it to adhere to what we assume to be true - i.e. vampires need blood, and if they don't, then we need an explanation as to why. In a sense, folklore and myth has been set up, and we have to still research them to a degree to make sure we are doing it right, or make a deliberate choice to go against tradition and change something about them, and explain it. I think fantasy needs some explaining, but perhaps fantasy readers are more easily led with 'fake' science, than science fiction readers?

    I can't disagree with that. Making sure you have the science you're writing about is correct will please more readers, and having more readers is definitely a good thing!
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very definitely. The first moon landing was in 1969, the first Star Wars film was 1977. Space flight was well understood. But I'd guess that the film makers decided that it was irrelevant to the story they were telling. I think a bigger problem was in the film Saturn 5 -- there's a shootout on the outside of the spacecraft: zero-G, vacuum of space. One character hears the other one shoot and throws himself down onto the ground -- er -- the surface of the spaceship. Now, that was just silly on so many counts.
     
  20. Quorum1
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    There is a book called "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card, I've found it a really good guide as to what you need to know to write successful speculative fiction. It won't teach you the science, but will give you an idea of what science is relevant to your story.

    My best suggestion is this - if you want to use science, make sure you know the science before you start to write or plan your story. One scientific fact can change the whole premise of your plot, it's much easier to make your plot fit the science than the other way around.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. You can find science fiction from the 30s or 40s dealing with travel through space and lack of an atmosphere. Writers were handling it properly long before Star Wars. It's not like the makers of Star Wars didn't know about it, they just wanted to make airplane-like dogfights, and that is what they did.
     
  22. CSwolery
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    And yet, it doesn't. From a marketing point of view you have a point, but interstellar travel is pretty well established to be impossible. However, the point needs to be made such a statement is at our CURRENT understanding of things, understandings that could undergo RAPID change. Don't let the 20th century spaceflight be driven by Victorian notions of ether. The wise man is the one who knows he really knows nothing.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree that it has been established to be impossible.
     
  24. CSwolery
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    Possible, but not in any way that really matters. To do that one needs a reliable and relatively cheap FTL. But again, this is current understanding, and it could be absolutely wrong.
     
  25. Sketching Girl
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    Thanks digitig, I'm afraid I wasn't born until 1982, so it was all a little bit before my time! :redface:
    I haven't seen Saturn 5, maybe they ought to create a whole new genre for fiction/films like that, maybe Science Fantasy? But it still has the word science in it... Aha! Space Fantasy! Maybe that would work? LOL! :p

    Thanks Quorum1, I will check out the book you mentioned. I think what you said here makes great sense:

     

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