Where Science Fact Meets Science Fiction

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that the Silly Robot has a special place in his memory banks and emotion chip for the Hard Sci Fi genre. Authors such as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and John Scalzi permeate the way I think about science fiction and how it is written.

Lately I have ben frequenting io9.com, reading all sorts of interesting articles about all sorts of interesting things. The thing I love about io9 is their blending of science articles with a genuine love for science fiction. They intertwine sci fi into most of their articles about science, and do so in very informative and entertaining ways. I have gleaned several ideas for stories on their site, and I hope they continue to churn out content for years to come.

Creating Hard Science Fiction

Hard science fiction is special to me because science is a major part of the storyline. I have a degree in Agriculture, which basically means i have a degree in biology with a concentration on production, so being scientifically accurate is sort of ingrained into my being. I have scoured countless scientific journals for research facts, and doing so for fiction i write is commonplace. Weaving these facts into a work of fiction is accomplished in many different ways.

I love Arthur C. Clarke because of his use of science in his stories. They aren’t always the strongest plots, but the science is fascinating. I just have to keep reading and reading to find out what all of the gadgets do.

Heinlein tends to use science as a sociopolitical device in his stories. Artificial Intelligence running revolutions, exo suits driving a conquest, and Martian colonies causing a dramatic social revolution on Earth are a few ways he accomplishes this. Ideals are achieved through the use of technology and scientific proficiency.

Elements of Hard Science Fiction

HSF is usually associated with long paragraphs explaining tech and how it is used. John Scalzi has a fascinating few pages on his ‘skip’ drive in the novel Old Man’s War. And it actually adds a weird element to the story as he does it. It’s quite fascinating. And OMW is a really good book on top of it.

Most HSF stories take place in space, utilizing FTL propulsion and other theoretical technologies. The desire of the authors to stay scientifically relevant drives the universes their stories take place in. Some of them, Isaac Asimov comes to mind, even start a separate writing career in the non-fiction section of the bookstore. Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were even brought into the newsroom for the Moon Landing in 1969. Science permeated these mens’ lives, driving them to write the fiction they are so renowned for.

How To Do It

So what if you just like writing about some guy who galavants around the galaxy with a laser gun saving pretty girls?

Then HSF probably isn’t for you.

But if you want to write it, remember a few of these things:

Science

It’s all based on a desire to stick to facts and accepted theories. Find a theme and go with it.

Speculation

Sticking to facts doesn’t mean you can’t draw conclusions based on them. Does your FTL drive move the ship or the space around it? How does time factor into your story? Are there sentient species on other planets? All of these, and more, can shape your story.

Silliness

Have fun. Reading some of the guys that are dead then switching to guys that came after them is sometimes disheartening. They think HSF means that everyone is totally and completely serious about everything and nobody laughs. Heinlein makes all sorts of jokes in his writing, and Arthur C. Clarke has an entire story about two British freight pilots sneaking the prince aboard their vessel without the captain finding out.

That’s why I like John Scalzi. He’s a throwback to those guys without being a copy. Go read his books.

To Infinity and Beyond

If you want to write HSF, become a researcher. A true student who learns and adapts. Have fun in the facts. And most of all, write good stories.

What Moves You?

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I’m having somewhat of a weird week.

I was supposed to go to New Mexico and hang out with my bros for a week. But I gave in to my wife’s begging and stayed home. (In her defense, and possibly my demise, she’s real pregnant. Not due for over a month, but still.)

So I’m stuck at home doing yard work and various other chores that are lame. I’ve also been doing some rewrites and lots of other personal things over the past few weeks.

But I really wanted to go on this trip.

Let me tell you why:

I Love Mountains

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Mountains speak to me. I don’t know why, they just give me a sense of awe and wonder. I always feel refreshed after visiting mountains. It’s probably because I live in a desert with no mountains that’s also so close to the ocean that the humidity is awful. Worse than that run on sentence.

But I digress.

Everyone has someplace that they love to be. Many people live where they love to be, others like to visit those places to keep the magic. As a writer, we often talk about muses. I don’t know if we actually have things that spark our creative juices, but I definitely feel more relaxed after a trip to the mountains. I took a trip last year to Colorado Springs to see this guy, and had a blast. This is me at the Garden of the Gods park:

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I spent a week bumming around Colorado with my wife, and it was really fun. When we got home, I wrote quite a few stories because I was refreshed and ready to get back to reality. Not quite a muse, but definitely a relaxing vacation. Kind of like going fishing.

I Like Trips With Nerdy Stuff

Have you ever seen the movie ‘Contact‘ with Jodie Foster? If you haven’t you should. There’s lots of science talk and giant radio telescope dishes. LIKE THESE:

VLA

This is the Very Large Array near Socorro, NM. It is a radio telescope used by NASA and other research groups. If you look closely at the base of the structure, you can see my wife with her arms stretched wide. Those things are big. They’re also full of technical components and have a visitor’s center that explains a lot of their technology and achievements. Lots of fodder for stories. On this particular trip we also visited Roswell, which is ripe with aliens of all kinds. We also visited the Space Museum in Alamogordo. Every one of those places was really fun to visit, and jam packed with material.

Have You Been On A Sci Fi Inspired Trip Yet?

The mountains and valleys of New Mexico are where I like to go to get my sci fi trip on. But there are many more places to visit. Why don’t you find one near you and take a trip? A little inspiration can go a long way.

But anyway, that’s me sulking about not getting to go on my trip…