Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres

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Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres edited by Dan KoboldtPutting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres edited by Dan KoboldtPutting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres
edited by Dan Koboldt

Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres is a collection of brief essays from experts in various fields that originally appeared as part of editor Dan Koboldt’s blog, which he describes in this way:

“Each week, we discuss elements of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in a relevant topic area. We debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.”

Anyone who has started yelling at a book or the TV due to some glaring scientific error (we know who we are) will recognize the problem Koboldt’s blog, and now this book, is trying to solve, and more power to him. Putting the Science in Fiction runs through a gamut of topics (nearly 40), with broad topics and a few representative, but not completely specific, examples listed below:

  • Research and medicine (lab technique, medical misconceptions, toxins and poisons)
  • Genome (heredity, genetic engineering, viruses and pathogens)
  • Mental health and neuroscience (memory, schizophrenia)
  • Biology (wolves, insects, polar animals)
  • Technology (cyborgs, AI, the internet)
  • Planetary information (earthquakes, climate change, habitable atmospheres)
  • Space (astronomy, relativity, space flight, FTL)

As is often the case with collections, the articles vary in effectiveness and also, obviously, will be dependent on one’s own areas of expertise or, if not expertise, familiarity. All of them are written with a welcome level of clarity, many are full of useful information, and some I’d call just too basic to be of much use. The best ones not only tell us what we should know but also debunk common myths, while others amongst the most effective ones enliven the information with a wry sense of humor, bringing the authors’ personal experiences (and personality) into the mix.

A few of my favorites were the medical misconceptions by Karyne Norton, the chapter on poisons by Megan Cartwright Chaudhuri (which came with an excellent list of additional resources), a particularly lucid chapter explaining plague by Lee A. Everett, two particularly strong chapters on dementia by Anne M. Lipton (probably my most highlighted chapters), and an interesting chapter on gender in the animal kingdom. Some of those that were not particularly full of new information to me either offered up a tidbit or two of something fresh, or it was just nice to have all the familiar information in a concise, all-in-one-place format, as with one chapter that listed various types of tech jobs.

The basic information is presented here as jumping off points, some delve into much more detail, and many offer up other resources to dig into the topics more deeply. If it wasn’t quite as much new information in Putting the Science in Fiction as I’d have hoped, I’d still call it a useful, well-written resource. And for those with less familiarity with some of the topics, that would be only more true. Recommended.

Published in October 2018. 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.


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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2 comments

  1. Great resource!This sounds like a great resource for anyone working in genre fiction. Many of the ideas are naturally ingrained into our consciousness, but it's great to sharpen the senses every now and again. Thanks for the review. i definitely want to check this out!
  2. Marion /

    And on my Christmas list it goes!

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