Putting the Science in Fiction, edited by Dan Koboldt

Putting the Science in Fiction

I received a free e-ARC of Putting the Science in Fiction, edited by Dan Koboldt, from NetGalley in return for review consideration; receipt of a free copy has not affected my opinion or the contents of this review. Putting the Science in Fiction is a non-fiction book, due to be published by F&W Media in the UK on 16th October 2018.

Below is the Goodreads synopsis of the book:

Science and technology have starring roles in a wide range of genres–science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and more. Unfortunately, many depictions of technical subjects in literature, film, and television are pure fiction. A basic understanding of biology, physics, engineering, and medicine will help you create more realistic stories that satisfy discerning readers.

This book brings together scientists, physicians, engineers, and other experts to help you:
Understand the basic principles of science, technology, and medicine that are frequently featured in fiction.
Avoid common pitfalls and misconceptions to ensure technical accuracy.
Write realistic and compelling scientific elements that will captivate readers.
Brainstorm and develop new science- and technology-based story ideas.
Whether writing about mutant monsters, rogue viruses, giant spaceships, or even murders and espionage, Putting the Science in Fiction will have something to help every writer craft better fiction.

Putting the Science in Fiction collects articles from “Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy,” Dan Koboldt’s popular blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction (dankoboldt.com/science-in-scifi). Each article discusses an element of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in that field. Scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and others share their insights in order to debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.

As someone who aspires to writing decent genre fiction, one of the most terrifying things is always the amount of things you can get wrong. Obviously, this is true in non-genre fiction, but it’s genre fiction that seems to attract the people who are going to pick apart your words and point out all the things that are wrong. And for sure, if something’s wrong, you want to know so you can fix it. But wouldn’t it be even better to get it right in the first place? And that’s what this book is for.

Divided into a number of chapters, experts in various scientific disciplines talk about the things that frustrate them in media representations of science – inaccuracies, misunderstandings, wilful misrepresentations. They explain why those popular representations are incorrect, with understanding that there are sometimes reasons for the inaccuracies (such as CSI’s instance that any and all tests can be done in a thirty second montage, rather than taking many hours, which simply would not make good TV). And then, with knowledge and humour, they explain the realities of the situation.

As someone who’s always enjoyed learning, this book is great just as a source of knowledge, whether or not you intend to incorporate the information into your writing. I genuinely felt like I learned a huge amount reading this book, on a wide variety of topics. The book covers not just traditional scientific disciplines, but also nanotechnology, CGI, cryotechnology – it’s all here. There are also some sections covering mental health and common misconceptions about mental illnesses. Really, there’s just so much to learn and so much inspiration to take away from this book.

And there’s an overarching message to this book, which is that research is key. Whether you need to understand the details of a current scientific idea or you need to know what an imagined future world would be like if you took away all the power, there’ll be an expert out there who’ll be able to help. And the more thorough your research, the more solid the basis for your writing, and the more life you can bring to your world.

This book is a brilliant resource, both for writers and for those with a more general interest in science. The authors are hugely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subjects, and there’s so much in here to teach you and provide inspiration for writing and further learning. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a starting point for some research and an idea about what misunderstandings they might have acquired from popular culture, and also anyone who just wants to learn some about some awesome science!

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