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  1. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo

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    Depths of Research

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by EFMingo, Mar 5, 2019.

    When it comes to the levels of research a science fiction author, aspiring or established, how far down the rabbit hole do you all go?

    I ask this question because I kept digging farther down then I ever really imagined, and found myself on a career path I never dreamed I would be involved in. Initially, I found myself as an aspiring science fiction writer, locked in an English major, and not really having a solid ground in science. So I left the major, dropped out, joined the US Marine Corps, and became a F-18 electrician. After slaving away at that and learning a lot about military structure and aircraft systems and structures, I felt I needed more, so now I'm a field service engineer on transmission electron microscopes. The job satisfies the need for a continual more, but I think my figurative rabbit hole has started consuming more time and becoming my entire life. I feel like I'm losing direction when it comes to writing.

    I've tried diving into research on certain individual subjects, but I would take dives off the deep end on them time and time again. So, my question after all that nonsense, is to the science fiction crowd. How do you really determine where to stop and just get an idea on paper. To what depths do you go?
     
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  2. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Always write the story first, even actually put markers where the techno babble would be, "[tech blah]". It will probably change how far you go to tell the story. It may keep you away from the rabbit-hole. You can write the story without living it. Set your priorities. Enjoy what you discover. :)
     
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  3. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned Supporter

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    It depends on how important the science is to the plot.
    If the plot hinges on a the science (it rarely does) I makes sure I thoroughly understand it.
    If the science is just for color or context, I just understand it enough to describe the effects it produces in the story.
    If I'm making the science up (electrogravitic propulsion, meta-isotopic power cells) I just make sure that my description of it and what it can do doesn't violate any well-accepted theories (like conservation of energy/momentum or the second law of thermodynamics).

    But that's because I write relatively "hard" SF. Much of what's called SF is really Space Fantasy with Technobabble, and people just accept that that the magic (e.g., teleportation, FTL communication, hackers who can crack a high-grade cryptosecurity system in 30 seconds) happens.
     
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  4. blurred-lines

    blurred-lines New Member

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    There is no right or wrong answer. I've been writing about a book based in an underwater city. You end up researching as much as is necessary to create the world you want to design and then leave the rest to the imagination.
     
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  5. Radrook

    Radrook Banned Contributor

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    Providing a detailed scientific or techical explanation can be worked into dialogogues. The danger is slowing down the story's pace to a veritable crawl and boring the reader.
     
  6. Cephus

    Cephus Active Member

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    It depends on how hard your sci-fi is. I purposely don't write hard sci-fi. I try not to read it. I've read some books that come off more like tech manuals than stories. No thanks. I just make sure that the science I use sounds reasonable and because I have a background in science anyhow, I don't have to do a ton of deep research when I write, at least not unless I come up with something I have no clue about and have to see what the latest thinking happens to be.

    Ultimately, none of this is real. If it is, it wouldn't be fiction. Just make it sound good and all of the rest falls into place.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    I have done a fair amount, but I write in about the soft-middle section. The complicated bits
    are too complicated for me ( I am not so good with the maths). :p

    So I stick to where I am kinda comfortable, so I don't look like I am talking out my backside. :D
     
  8. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    The best approach to SF is to imagine something off the wall, and come up with a solution that might exist in the real universe. Vernor Vinge does this a lot, and is inspiring reading because of how he unpacks the ramifications of something like a device that stops time.

    If you want to write fiction, think fictionally, not factually.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2019
  9. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    I always have the goal of my story in mind. My story is about something I was completely ignorant of at the time the idea popped into my head. I can't write if I have no background, so I started research. It took me about two years to marginally have an idea of the border parameters of my story. And boy, this stuff is fascinating! I could learn and learn and... but you discovered your rabbit hole the same way.

    That said, my story still is my driving force. I still want to get it out there, despite being fascinated with research in its own right. So what I do to satisfy both cravings, I research a particular sub-topic as I need for the part of my story I write, and then I write. And then the next sub-topic comes up.

    For me it would be completely impossible to 'make stuff up' or to leave unfilled holes till the end, because the whole story needs a convincing framework and events need to feed off each other, and for that I need to know at least something about what I'm writing.
     
  10. Radrook

    Radrook Banned Contributor

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    The difficulty is making such explanations seem absolutely necessary by working them into the story in some seemless way without boring or frustrating the reader. Another danger is falling into a stylistic predictable pattern. For example, a reader might notice that dialogues are being planned just to work extended explanations in. This can be very frustrating, especially when a previous chapter had promised dramatic action. The reader gradually becomes suspiscious as soon as he sees dialogue starting. Under such a frustration barrage, the reader might decide that knowing the details isn't worth the reading time.
     

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