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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing Science Fiction, part 2 Science

I do science, and you can't take the science out of science fiction.  If you do, you no longer have science fiction.  You might ask, can't I write about the future without worrying about science.  The simple answer is no.  Recently, I wrote that you have to immerse your readers into the world of your writing.  The world of the future is a world defined by technology.  If you can predict technology, you can predict the future.  You can tell what the world will look like.  The biggest problem is that most science fiction writers never got the future very right.  A few, like John Brunner, predicted what the world might look like, but most weren't even close.  Asimov, Clark, and Heinlein still had their galaxy roaming characters using slide rules when computers were a reality.  Talk about missing the point of computers, but when computers fill a room, I guess it is hard to see what they might become.  I mentioned yesterday, you have to extrapolate to write science fiction.  You have to be able to predict what future technology will look like and build a world based on that future technology.  You can't write science fiction without the science, and you can't begin to think about the future without thinking about technology.  So, to be a good science fiction writer, you need to know a lot about science.  Did you hear me.  It does no good to be ignorant about advanced science and try to write science fiction.  You will fail every time.  No one expects a science fiction writer to get the nuances of future science perfectly right, but don't you see, knowledge of science is the basis for science fiction--you can't extrapolate from a position of ignorance.  This means that if you want to write science fiction, you better start studying.  That's the rub, by the way.  I meet all kinds of people who think they want to write historical fiction, but they haven't and they will not spend the years of study required to know the world they want to write about.  On the other hand, many who want to write science fiction, think they can simply pick up a pen and write any old piece about the future and magically, that is science fiction.  No pain.  No work.  Just a story about the future and it is magically science fiction.  I would like to let you know, there is more work involved in studying to develop the world of a science fiction novel than any piece of historical fiction.  You have to build enough knowledge to extrapolate the future.  To do that requires you to know a lot about science in the the past.  Your extrapolation is only as good as the data that makes up your basis.  The line you build your extrapolation from must be well grounded.  The grounding is in the past--the science of the past.  If you can understand how the technology got to the point it is today, then and only then can you begin to extrapolate a future world.  Tomorrow, the how in building a basis for extrapolation.

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