Thursday, 7 February 2019

The importance of Research

I recently spotted someone on twitter bemoaning the fact that people weren’t taking her seriously as a SF writer because she didn’t have a science background. And it got me wondering why that would be.

The wonderful thing about SF is that it explores the possibilities – the “what ifs”. It may involve an element of pseudoscience, it may take real science and technology and extrapolate these to a possible, if frightening, conclusion. It may suggest concepts that haven’t yet been thought about; Solutions to real world problems that for now seem unsolvable.

Having a scientific background isn’t a pre-requisite for writing science fiction. Of course it isn’t. But it can help. Because it’s essential that the science is plausible. Pseudoscience, by its very nature, is of course, pseudoscience, and science fiction is full of it. But even the pseudoscience has to be convincing. Many SF readers are themselves scientists, or potential scientists, as was my own case – reading SF was what first inspired me to follow a career in science!

And this is where research is so vital. Especially for authors writing in the genre who don’t come from a scientific background. There are no shortcuts and lazy assumptions and blatant impossibilities will soon be exposed. The excuse “Well, it’s fiction. I can do what I like” does really work. Never under-estimate your readers.

If I chose to write historical fiction the fact I’m not a historian shouldn’t be an issue – so long as I did my research, immersed myself in the time period, knew it inside and out, and ensured I didn’t make any glaring errors. SF is no different.

So I couldn’t help wondering if this was the problem with the lady on twitter? Had she done her research?