A cornucopia of hard science fiction ideas

Paul Raven @ 18-01-2008

Old-school typewriter Here’s one for the writers among our readers. The excellent Jim Van Pelt* has an article at The Fix Online wherein he lists a number of potential sources for the kernel ideas of hard science fiction stories.

“So, do you need a degree in science or math to write hard science fiction? Nope. Numerous hard science fiction authors write their stories without that background. […] Admittedly, though, the non-science or math authors will have to work a little harder to not write laughable hard science fiction. They need to cheat a bit. They may need help coming up with ideas, and they certainly will need help for the science that is not at their fingertips. Fortunately, the help is no farther away than the nearest bookstore.”

Or your local library, I’d add to that statement (use ’em or lose ’em, folks). [Image from Image*After]

And, of course, the internet has its value for the same sort of process, once you know where to look. Jeremy Tolbert thinks it would be good if that process were easier, though:

“Someone with access to the big primary biological sciences literature should post reviews/summaries in laymen’s terms of each issue. Nature, Science, and more. People could volunteer and write in summaries for any primary literature they want. Group blog the literature. Get it out there in the web, in a format that science-interested people can understand.

Because I think there’s a barrier still between that level of academic knowledge and the web population. I’d like to see a gateway giving me a glimpse at what’s going on. I don’t know where the local university’s science library is, and I can’t afford to subscribe to those magazines (who can?).”

Well, we do a sort of low-calorie version of that here at Futurismic, but we’d be happy to run more beefy material. Any volunteers? 🙂

[ *I’ve linked to Jim Van Pelt’s writing advice numerous times, both here and on my own blog, and I feel sure I will do so again. The web is full of writing advice, much of it sincere and well-meant, but I have yet to discover a regular source of clear and honest advice that’s as reliable and fun to read. Being subscribed to Jim’s LJ feed is like having an avuncular writing tutor all of your own. This is not a paid plug, nor is it ass-kissing – I just think the guy deserves recognition and respect. ]

[tags]writing, science fiction, hardware, ideas, science[/tags]
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3 Responses to “A cornucopia of hard science fiction ideas”

  1. Peggy says:

    There are already people who blog about science breakthroughs – ScienceBlogs and Nature network being a good placed to start. Also, both Science and Nature have news sections that summarize the latest research in relatively non-technical terms.

    Nature and Science are published every week, but the peer-reviewed science they publish is really just the tip of the iceberg, since they try to have articles in a wide range of fields and only publish relatively short reports. To really be up on the biological sciences, you have to keep tabs on the more specialized journals too – PNAS, Cell, Neuron, Genes & Development, EMBO Journal, Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Nucleic Acids Research, Journal of Molecular Biology , are a few of the big ones that come to mind. It would be a full time job to summarize every paper that came out in layman’s terms – and a bit of wasted effort, since most articles wouldn’t be of general interest anyway. The good news is that Science and Nature cover the hottest findings in their news sections, and the blogs usually pick up that info too. So the information is already out there for the reading if you are interested.

  2. Corey says:

    Try this scienceblog site. You must realize that science is slow, incremental, tedious, and boring to most of the general public. In scientific work, there are few breakthroughs that can be attributed to a singular moment in time, like most everything else in the news. Cancer research, for example, spans decades with 1000’s of studies, each contributing a small piece to the overall puzzle. A nice spectra or an unexpected result is what scientists find titillating on a daily basis.

  3. Denni says:

    How did this get picked up again 😉

    To be honest, for a quick pop-science overview I regularly resort to ScienceDaily and New Scientist. If something catches my eye, the original papers and follow-up blogs can often be found on the quoted researchers’ websites.

    As always, it’s best if you start out with an idea of what you want to write about, and once you have it, do some digging. It’s amazing how much stuff is no longer science fiction…