and Science Fiction
Hello and, once again, welcome to the corner of the universe we call Beyond the Words. This time, we're going to the writer's desk to see what kind of mind cooks up these tales. It is an imaginative brain of course, and often highly intelligent. But it is not usually the mind of a scientist, or even someone interested in science. In my case, science is an interest, but not with all science fiction writers.
"You don't need to know science to write good science fiction." While this tenet has held true since the beginning of the genre, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support. Today's science fiction reader is better educated than readers of the past. We who write science fiction today are painfully aware that much of the early science fiction is quite laughable in the light of today's knowledge. Readers will not hesitate to let a writer know if the science the writer uses is not up to date.
So, how do we cope with the rapidly advancing discoveries? The library is a good way, but many libraries do not contain the knowledge we need to keep up. Personally, I find the Internet the best source of information. No one can top NASA for keeping up to date with space exploration. I receive regular emails from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory about all NASA is doing in space and even discoveries here on the ground. JPL manages most of NASA's space projects, so I can find out about the latest Hubble finds. There are even links to all the pictures.
Many other research agencies provide regular updates in all the fields of science. Though space travel is the thing most associated with science fiction, many other fields can be involved. Medicine is one of the chief sciences we lean on in science fiction, as is engineering. Keeping up with physics is almost a must. Biology can be important as well. Still, the Internet can provide as much useful misinformation as it does fact. The researching writer must be wary and double check all information, making sure the new information comes from a reliable source. One can write a good yarn only if it is believable and bad science can sink many a good tale.
There are times, though, when the use of "bad science" is overlooked. One such instance is the use of faster-than-light space travel. Science fiction would be much diminished without it. No one wants the hero to set off on a trip and die before he arrives at his destination. The idea of having to let his grandson or great grandson complete the mission just isn't appealing. So, though physicists have maintained that FTL travel is impossible, it remains a staple in the science fiction writer's arsenal. Besides, now that we have learned that water can slow the speed of light and that it is not constant as Einstein maintained, there is a glimmer of hope that we may be able to travel faster than the current light speed as measured in Earth's gravity well. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a way to defeat the distance problem after all. We can only wait and see.
For all space activities, here are my favorite websites: