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When I was younger, I read hard-core science fiction incessantly, I learned a lot, and this inspired my imagination and helped me to become an engineer. Now I am developing the kind of technology that science fiction writers might be interested in or inspired by.

How do science fiction writers learn about the interesting breakthroughs occurring in science and engineering these days? I can't imagine that they spend their days pouring over the thousands of barely comprehensible articles that scientists publish looking for inspiration.

Is there some more organized or more formalized way that sci-fi-worthy research developments are identified, summarized, and disseminated into the sci-fi writers' community?

For example, are there special journals that are tailored to sci-fi writers seeking inspiration from science?

Or, are there conferences that writers regularly attend that invite speakers from the scientific community?

I have asked a friend and famous sci-fi YouTuber as well as some people that I know in the motion picture industry. However, none of these people had any suggestions for me. I found and signed up for a Norwescon 46 Panel next year. Hopefully, when I'm there, I will learn more. Until then, I hope that this community will have some suggestions.

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2

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FRAME CHALLENGE

Any answer I have would be a frame challenge.

Science does not need to be 'reformatted' for fiction authors – this is not an issue that needs fixing outside of puritanical worldbuilding-syndrome.

Sci-fi isn't in need of 'fixing' because it's entertainment – just as Romance genre is not made 'better' when we interject trigger warnings about toxic relationships and self-help therapy.

Can you imagine an atheist 'The Exorcist'...? Or a scientifically pedantic ghost story where nothing happens because ghosts don't exist?

God, please, no. That's not at all what stories are for.

Suspension of Disbelief

It's up to writers to decide what topics interest their readers, and whether real science has any place in their story. Most stories seem to do just fine with the tried and true writing technology called suspension of disbelief.

I'm sure if you look back at the childhood stories that inspired you, the ratio of science to fiction is nowhere near as high as you remember. Yet it still sparked your imagination -- or more likely: you always had an imagination and this was the type of story you found entertaining as a kid.

Why would you want to kill that joy for everyone else?

The problem with worldbuilding syndrome is there's no story there.

That's why I say this is not a problem that needs fixing. It's just an opinion from (usually) sci-fi snobs who want to separate their spacehelmet & rockets fantasy genre from knights & dragons fantasy genre.

As I already pointed out, where is the atheist outrage for a more realistic 'The Exorcist'? And the college women's studies critique against having a vampire boyfriend – oh wait, that exists. I leave it to you to decide how silly that is, and whether authors are taking heed.

'Science' in real life?

If you choose to start a science for writers blog yourself, I will applaud the effort. A search for 'worldbuilding blog' should turn up many examples.

And more luck to you because we live in a society where string theory, LK-99, and Alcubierre drives are lauded as 'science', rather than attention seeking hoaxes and outright frauds (or being generous: fiction).

Meanwhile, non-science authors can start with wikipedia and learn about actual science the same way everyone else does, not through simplified recaps but by thorough research from multiple accredited sources. Textbooks exist on a great many subjects and require credible sources. Online blogs are where misinformation breeds.

'Science' in Fiction

Science Fiction has plenty of un-scientific tropes that persist because that's what readers enjoy – often because they are a conceit that allows the story to take place in a more dynamic and interesting story-universe.

Transporters were invented because of TV budgets (time and money) and an eye-catching visual effect. No one cares about riding everywhere in a 'space winnabago', it's boring and lacks the wonder that is the whole purpose of the genre in the first place. Sometimes you just have to make stuff up to capture the feeling that a technology is really 'out there'.

However, what sci-fi authors appear to ACTUALLY need are some lessons in writing realistic characters that act like actual human beings. When they reach this basic storytelling milestone we can start working on the pedantic science details which will become obsolete in a decade.

Junk science tends to make more fantastical stories, which is usually the goal. There's not a whiff of science in Star Wars, and yet it moves.

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    Interesting perspective. I think I like science fiction because it explores lots of cool and interesting ideas. If the characters and the story were of primary importance to me, I would probably read lots of different kinds of fiction, but I read hard-core sci-fi almost exclusively. The better and more mind-blowing the futuristic ideas are, the more I like it! So, thanks for helping to widen my perspective.
    – phil1008
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 22:34
  • You may be right, but there is also the aspect of science fiction where writers take current developments in science and bring them to their logical extremes, or try to consider what life will be like when this new fangled thing is developed into the future. To do that, it would be useful to know what the new fangled inventions are. - e.g. someone in the 60s wanting to write about trekking through the stars might have liked to know about the science used in getting to the Moon. It's more about being inspired by science than restricted by it.
    – komodosp
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 15:11
  • And... readers like to think of Sci-Fi as being semi-realistic (as opposed to, say, Fantasy) or one day being possible, so if when writing Sci-Fi, you can tie your story to real science as much as possible (as long as you can do so without damaging the story itself), then it helps with this aspect. Not everyone's favourite Sci-Fi is Star Wars!
    – komodosp
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 15:13
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Much of science fiction isn't scientific, as @wetcircuit has already pointed out in her answer, and most writers – in science fiction and other genres – don't lack ideas. What they lack is the time to write all the ideas they already have – without additional input from you.

And those writers that base their stories on current scientific findings usually have quite specific interests and read publications in that field. They don't need someone to explain science to them, because they have an academic education and are able to do their own research.

Those few that actually want to keep up to date with research across a wide variety of fields will probably read general popular science magazines like Scientific American.

As a science fiction writer myself, for me there is no information gap that you would need to fill.

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  • Interesting, I appreciate your help here giving me more insight into the sci-fi writer's perspective. It seems like there might be some tension and misunderstanding between scientists and sci-fi writers which I was not aware of. You might have saved me from putting my foot in my mouth at Norwescom. Thanks!
    – phil1008
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 22:11
  • @phil1008 What in my answer makes you think that "there might be some tension and misunderstanding between scientists and sci-fi writers"? I have said no such thing and there certainly isn't.
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 1:48
  • Phrases like "without additional input from you" and "They don't need someone to explain science to them," gave me that impression.
    – phil1008
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 3:07
  • @phil1008 A concise summary of my answer would be: "SF writers already get all the information they want from the science community and don't need any additional publications, print, online, or otherwise." How you turn that into tension and misunderstanding between SF writers and scientists, I have no idea.
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 8:06
  • I stand corrected!
    – phil1008
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 0:39

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