The Science of Science Fiction Writing

Guest Post By Anthony J Melchiorri

Writing science fiction for the first time can be a daunting task. It’s your responsibility to the reader to construct a believable world ripe with cutting edge technology that can almost seem like magic at times. Not to mention, you need to write an entertaining and thought-provoking story that captures your readers’ imaginations. But science fiction offers vast rewards. You’re gifted with the freedom to develop and mold a future (or alternative history) where you are only limited by your own creativity.

Science Fiction Author Anthony MelchiorriOne of the most important aspects of Science Fiction is utilizing real-world concepts. Whether it’s explaining the zombie apocalypse through a mutant virus or discussing the physics of interstellar space travel, having some knowledge of what you’re writing about is crucial to ensuring your readers are immersed and invested in your world. So, read non-fiction books. Read popular science magazines and journals and read more technical ones. If you’re interested in genetic engineering, read about biotechnology. If you’re interested in space travel, read about astronomy. Don’t just read books in the sci-fi genre. It seems simple, but I’ve talked to many aspiring sci-fi writers who love to read books by David Brin, William Gibson, or Michael Crichton but haven’t actually read any books about science. But you know what you’ll find if you interview most successful sci-fi authors? If they aren’t scientists or somehow involved in a field of science themselves, they’ve read about science extensively.

And of course, reading isn’t the only way to learn awesome new scientific concepts that you can apply to your writing. Talking to professionals in the field can be just as (if not more) important. As a researcher myself, I love talking to people about my 3D printing work and my tissue engineering research. Most scientists, teachers, professors, and, even, graduate students across all disciplines (not just the hard sciences, but fields like anthropology, sociology, and political science, too) are more than happy to talk about what they do daily. Shoot an email to a local (or not) professor in astrophysics to pick his or her brain. You’ll be surprised by how many people would be willing to help inform your science in your next book.

While there are a myriad of other topics crucial to writing science fiction, actually doing the legwork for crafting a world based on realistic technology is something I find extremely important. It’s not always possible to accurately forecast future technologies but you owe it to your readers to do the best that you can. After all, you don’t actually want the science of your book to look like complete magic—that’s called Fantasy!

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Excerpt from Human Forged

Once in the cavernous facility, Nick and the captive marched between a dozen bodies strapped onto tables. Clear plastic tubes ran into their nostrils. IV lines protruded from their wrists, pumping blood into and out of the bodies after passing through the silver machines behind them. Bright holograms displayed various graphs, numbers, and shapes. He squinted at the displays until he recognized the zigzag of EKG lines.

His captor elbowed him in the ribs. “Welcome to your new home, American.”

Nick fought against his gag to ask where he was and what this place was, but it only came out as a shrill gurgle. His body erupted into uncontrollable shivers. He pictured Kelsey in his mind, her bright green eyes and button nose. His eyes watered as he prayed that she had noticed he’d gone off grid, for once thankful for her paranoid and prying ways. She would have called the authorities by now, reported him missing, done something.

“We made a special bed for you.” Blue Gloves sneered. “Five star hotel.” He grabbed Nick and slammed him against one of the silver machines. The man strapped Nick’s wrists in and forced the tubes up his nostrils.

Nick choked and repressed the violent urge to sneeze the tubes out as his captor jabbed a needle into his forearm.

“You and your friends will make good soldiers, American. You were a good soldier before, no?” He grinned. “Very good specimen.” With one thick finger, the man prodded Nick’s chest. “Very nice genes, too.”

His captor ripped the gag from Nick’s mouth. “What the hell are you doing to us?”

Blue Gloves laughed. “Good night, American.” He made a couple of gestures over the holodisplay next to the machine. It buzzed on.

Already, his eyelids grew heavy. He fought against their weight, unwilling to let these men imprison him in that dark void of induced and indeterminate slumber.

He failed.

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