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“Researching the Science in Science Fiction” was probably my favorite panel at FenCon this year. The panel was moderated by William Ledbetter and included Science GoH Marianne Dyson, fellow authors Kristi Hudson (not pictured) and Patrice Sarath (not pictured). Photo credit: C. Stuart Hardwick.
While all the panels were great, I really enjoy discussing the craft of writing. For a sci-fi writer, that often means research. Sometimes it means going down the research rabbit-hole and getting lost. We discussed our own experiences, i.e. how we approach it, as well as the best methods.
Doing research may sound easy. Google is your friend, right? Problem is that everything correct is on the internet; along with everything that is incorrect. The search for facts can be as muddied as the search for truth.
As a writer one must know when to stop. Research is a great way to procrastinate and still pretend that you’re “writing.” Research can also be the death-knell for your premise, your idea, and your story. So how do you handle the story-slayer? Do you write around it? Do you pull out your handwavium and unobtainium? Do you just ignore it? (Think about the sounds that spaceships in Star Wars make in the vacuum of space where sound cannot travel).
Lots of factors come into play, depending on what kind of story you’re writing. There is more rigor in a hard SF story than a soft SF one. Consistency becomes a challenge, as well as knowing how much of your research to include. After all, you did all that work. Hours and hours. Weeks and months and years. The longer you spent toiling away in the research salt-mines, the more you want to include. But that’s not necessarily the best thing for your story.
Only about 10% of what I learn via research makes its way into my stories, even the hard SF ones. It has to be absolutely vital to the story, but more importantly, it has to be something that the viewpoint character knows. I think that including things the viewpoint character cannot possibly know is one of the worst mistakes I see consistently across all genres, not just sci-fi.
Number two would be the dreaded, tension-less, “As you know, Bob” exposition via dialogue. Number three is straight up exposition, usually via author voice. We hashed out some of the best strategies for avoiding not just research pitfalls, but best practices when it comes to incorporating that research into our stories.
I’m hoping FenCon will continue to offer this panel at upcoming conventions, and if you’re an aspiring writer, I hope you’ll attend. I certainly learned a lot from my fellow panelists.
Esteemed space lawyer and fellow sci-fi writer, Laura Montgomery, reverse-lawyers (i.e. reverse engineers) the realities and legalities of launching vehicles into space on her blog.
Her excellent review of Promethea Invicta looks at the real world path set up by Congress. A path that, like so many Congressional acts, delegates the actual rule-making and regulation to other entities, such as the Secretary of Transportation. Ultimately, it’s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that issues the needed licenses and permits.
Her Ground Based Space Matters Blog is an excellent resource for anyone that wants to learn more about private space activity, the FAA, NASA, and associated agencies.
The multi-talented Ms. Montgomery also writes excellent sci-fi. Her latest release, called Like A Continental Soldier, (Book 3 of the Waking Late series) just came out. Take a look at her author page and check out her other works.
I’m very excited to announce that my hard sci-fi novella, Promethea Invicta, is out.
The Sovereign Republic of Texas of 2071 is no longer part of what used to be the United States. But it is still bound by the treaties it inherited, including the Outer Space Treaty.
Theia Rhodos is ready to free humanity from the shackles that keep lunar resources out of her reach. She’s done taking “no” for an answer and she’s ready to sacrifice everything.
And her enemies are ready to let her.
Everything in life has a cost. And a price.
Available as from your favorite book seller, as well as through libraries (via Overdrive and Bibliotheca).
Well, it’s official. I’m very excited to announce that I will be attending FenCon XV. Schedule forthcoming, and many thanks to William Ledbetter, the science track director, for the invitation. I’m also working on getting a new publication out in early September just in time for this event.
What is FenCon? Who’ll be there? Why should I go?
Answers below. Hope to see you there!
Join us September 21-23, 2018 at the Westin DFW Airpport. See the hotel link for reservations and directions.
2018 marks 200 years since the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. Join us as we celebrate 200 years of classic and modern SF! Of course, we’ll have panel programming, concerts, hands-on workshops, and more! All the good stuff that makes FenCon theTexas destination convention!
Oh, and did we mention SCIENCE? You can’t put the “S” in “SF” without it! Oh you could try, but would it be as much fun as FenCon?
Advance memberships are on sale now!
FenCon XV Guests of Honor
Check out my first post for the wonderful people at Superversive SF.
Tired of the remakes, the reboots, the “let’s see how much more blood we can squeeze out of this turnip” output of today’s Hollywood? I think you’ll find Passengers a refreshing change.
This is one of those things that everybody knows, right? You’ve known since kindergarten. White sheet of paper. Yellow crayon. No problem.
I know it’s so because I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve read about “Earth’s yellow star.” It’s one of those things we take for granted or that we take on faith. A lot of things are like that today. Everybody says so, therefore it must be so. Especially if they stand up in front of a classroom, or if it’s been published in a book. Or they’re wearing a lab coat. Especially if they’re wearing a lab coat. Pffft!
The Sun is a white star. And yes, it’s the Sun. Just like the Earth is the Earth unless you’re speaking of the soil stuck to your boots, in which case you can go ahead and write “earth.” It’s capitalized if it’s a name just like it’s Mars, not mars. Or Moon, not moon, unless you mean a generic moon. Or a generic sun as in a “million suns.” Or Jupiter’s outer moons. But I digress.
Don’t take my word for it.
If your VPC (viewpoint character) has never seen the Sun except through dust and he thinks it’s orange, that’s fine, but if your VPC is a starship captain or a scientist or an omni narrator, he really ought to know better.