The Fiction in Science Fiction


by Raymond M. Coulombe

As a writer you can just pull out your artistic license and poof! You have the make believe science your story needs. You want faster than light travel; you’ve got faster than light travel. No need to dress it up. It’s easy but it’s lazy. For goodness sakes, at least try a little. Make up something about worm holes if you have to.

For me, and for a lot of readers, the best S/F pays close attention to the known science of the day. Of course, that requires that you actually know something about science. You don’t have to be a science major, but keeping up with the popular science magazines wouldn’t hurt. Sure, it’s work, but if you don’t want to think too hard, write Fantasy.

You don’t have to stick to known science. This is a work of fiction after all. Just have a good foundation in what’s considered known and accepted. Here’s the beauty of science: so much is unknown and much is up for debate. Fill in the gaps with your own theory and suddenly you have a new framework for your story.

There are often competing theories about how the universe works. Take one of the less popular ones and run with it. Personally, I’ve been rather fond of Multiple Worlds theories, so I use them a lot. Their actual real world likelihood is up for debate, but I don’t let that stop me. You don’t have to either.

You want paranormal abilities? Yep, there are scientific studies that show statistical significance. Sure, it’s tiny, but a good writer can drive a wedge into that tiny gap and build a fictional science to call their own.

Science does a couple of interesting things. The first thing is does is to build up a body of knowledge over time through observation and experimentation. From that a map of the universe is built. The second thing it does is make new observations and experiments that sometimes totally revises what we thought we knew. A good writer can use the scientific process to their own advantage. All you need are new observations or experiments -that you conveniently make up. As long as it’s plausible you are good to go.

Save that artistic license for the really heavy lifting -like proposing a man who truly understands women.

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