Science for Sci-Fi

Alec Merta Science Fiction, Writing Leave a Comment

I hate to sound repetitive, but I am going to repeat myself. Writing science fiction is tough work.

Among the many hurdles facing genre authors is the issue of inspiration. Every author needs inspiration, to be sure.  There is, however, a particular species of muse that needs to speak with authors working in science fiction. Her name is, predictably, science.

Science can be the very heart of a story (viz. Neuromancer or Snow Crash) or it can be the framework around which a story is constructed (viz. the Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey). Reading any of these works means delving into a world of science lovingly researched and expertly crafted by the author. Fans of the genre know and understand this, and budding authors want to get in on the act. Trust me, I know that last part from experience.Neuromancer by William Gibson

In my own case, I spent a long time wishing I had pursued a degree in cosmology or engineering. To make up for this personal failing (one of many, I admit), I spent years boot-strapping myself into assorted fields of study. I never intended to become an expert, which is good because I am certainly still the layman.  I have, however, developed a lasting and profound love of science in [nearly] all of its many disciplines. I also learned that the value of scientific study for the literary-minded is to build a network of scientific concepts that can be called upon when trying to conceive or execute a sci-fi writing project.     

In other words, knowledge of science is valuable to the author because that knowledge will lead to inspiration. Perhaps you will read a story about nanotechnology or faster-than-light travel and experience an epiphany. On a lesser scale, maybe you will read a story about the future of personal electronics and begin to see your characters’ interaction with their surroundings in sharper detail. In any case, the author will benefit from knowledge of (or at least exposure to) scientific news.

In an effort to drive up my Twitter follower numbers assist authors in this noble quest, I am going to start posting blog posts and tweets concerning scientific news that may benefit sci-fi authors. These will typically take the form of new developments in theoretical or applied science. Here is an example:

But, since we are dealing with the world of fiction, you may need scientific inspiration from less conventional sources. Thus, I am also going to take liberties and post stories from pseudo-scientific sources if I think they will be helpful. Bear in mind that I am not passing such stories along because I believe them. Far from it. Rather, I find them interesting because they exist in a world not unrelated to science fiction. Please do not send me a message pointing out that mermaids aren’t real. I already know that. Anyway, here is an example:

These posts will appear on as well as on Twitter via @alecmerta. Any such tweets will be accompanied by the hashtag #scienceforscifi.  

If you would like to suggest a story, please send me a Twitter direct message or drop an email to [email protected].