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

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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 reader 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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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 reader 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

    As a writer whom sometimes likes to delve into science and speculative fiction, this book peaked my interest. It ended up being an interesting read and an invaluable resource for my writing. There were many nuggets of good advice sprinkled throughout the book which served to spark my writing creativity and produce some scifi inspiration. Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Koboldt

    Disclosure: I'm the editor of (and a contributing author to) this book. Putting the Science in Fiction is a reference for genre fiction writers that was developed from my "Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy" blog series. Each week, I invite engineers, scientists, doctors, and other experts to discuss common misconceptions about their field and to offer advice for writers who want to get the details right. Now we've collected much of that knowledge into a book with Writers Digest. This book contai Disclosure: I'm the editor of (and a contributing author to) this book. Putting the Science in Fiction is a reference for genre fiction writers that was developed from my "Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy" blog series. Each week, I invite engineers, scientists, doctors, and other experts to discuss common misconceptions about their field and to offer advice for writers who want to get the details right. Now we've collected much of that knowledge into a book with Writers Digest. This book contains 59 chapters, including several never-before-published entries. There's also a foreword by bestselling author Chuck Wendig that, in my opinion, is worth the price of the book by itself. The 40 or so expert contributors to this book have collectively endured more than 200 years of graduate study in their chosen fields. They know what they're talking about. But don't worry, we've kept the mansplaining to a minimum (in fact, two thirds of our contributors identify as female). We can't teach you everything there is to know about these highly technical subjects, but we can show you enough to be dangerous. Armed with this book, you'll be able to avoid common pitfalls and create more realistic, more compelling stories.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received a galley of this book from the editor. Dan Koboldt's Science in Sci-fi blog series has a fantastic online resource for years. This book, published by Writer's Digest, collects some forty of those pieces to create a fantastic print and ebook resource for writers or inquisitive readers. The diversity of material is absolutely fascinating. From proper lab technique to touring the human genome to correctly depicting mental illness to computer hacking to building spaceships--this has it all I received a galley of this book from the editor. Dan Koboldt's Science in Sci-fi blog series has a fantastic online resource for years. This book, published by Writer's Digest, collects some forty of those pieces to create a fantastic print and ebook resource for writers or inquisitive readers. The diversity of material is absolutely fascinating. From proper lab technique to touring the human genome to correctly depicting mental illness to computer hacking to building spaceships--this has it all. Each piece is fairly short, too, just a few pages. That makes it easy to read in snippets while on the go. While the target audience is fantasy and science fiction writers, the subject matter is relevant to anyone since the writers often cite popular movies, TV shows, and books as they discuss what is done right and wrong. I sincerely hope this continues as a book series. I learned a lot as I read, and I'd love to keep learning. As I wait and hope for the next book, this one is definitely staying on my reference shelf.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angie Thompson

    Wow, this book covered a lot of ground! There's no way to cover all of scientific knowledge in a manageable portion size, but these essays provided a nice cross-section of certain issues that tend to crop up in fiction, particularly (though not exclusively) in science fiction. Of course, as is the case with any book of this type, I found some of the sections more useful and interesting than others. Some gave me useful nudges, some gave me sparks of inspiration, and others made me argue, "yes, but Wow, this book covered a lot of ground! There's no way to cover all of scientific knowledge in a manageable portion size, but these essays provided a nice cross-section of certain issues that tend to crop up in fiction, particularly (though not exclusively) in science fiction. Of course, as is the case with any book of this type, I found some of the sections more useful and interesting than others. Some gave me useful nudges, some gave me sparks of inspiration, and others made me argue, "yes, but what if..." when a certain sci-fi trope was debunked. (I mean, "what-if"s are the stuff science fiction is made of, yes?) Some of them (relativity?) were a bit deep for me to follow the science itself, but I think I generally came away with the most important points. :) Overall, rather than being a comprehensive science reference, this serves as a good reminder that you may not know what you don't know, and the more you want to incorporate a subject into your fiction that you're not an expert in, be it mental health or rocket science, the more important it is to find an expert and check your facts. (At least, if you don't want to end up an example in a book like this...) On a personal note, I was amazed at some of the in-depth glimpses into the incredible design evidenced in our world. The fact that you can't just throw out random laws of physics without consequences or situate a habitable planet anywhere you feel like it or create superhumans by randomly mutating genes all point to how beautifully designed and constructed this universe is--even if some authors did throw in evolutionary talking points that, if you were listening, sort of blatantly contradicted what we had already established would be utterly absurd if an author tried to do. :) A few chapters also got a bit dogmatic on certain environmental issues--like the one complaining about how wolves have been so badly portrayed in fiction throughout history, before admitting that, well, yes, they did threaten people and steal sheep--but we humans just haven't taken the time to understand them! :P Overall, if you're at all interested in writing science fiction, or fiction that incorporates any kind of science topic, this is a great resource. If it doesn't give you the specific answers you need, at least it may give you a sense of what kinds of questions you need to ask. ;) Content--two profanities; some mild language; some talk of evolution, millions of years, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    A valuable resource for writers who incorporate science into their work. Drawn from the author’s popular blog, “Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy,” with scientists, medical professionals, engineers, and others weighing in on an array of scientific subjects often written about inaccurately in fiction. Highly recommended! Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine. Pub Date 16 Oct 2018. #PuttingTheScienceInFiction #NetGalley

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren James

    This was so useful, both as a writer and a reader of science fiction. I spend a lot of time researching science for my books, and this really put the topic into perspective. I loved the mix of subjects addressed here too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Abby Goldsmith

    Full disclosure: I am one of the author contributors of this book. The editor, Dan Koboldt, put together an excellent, top-notch collection of articles about a variety of science and tech fields that are commonly misused or misrepresented in popular sci-fi. These misuses drive actual scientists and tech people in audiences batty, because the whole suspension-of-disbelief crashes when you know the process or underlying science just doesn't work that way. It drives me batty, too, which is why I wr Full disclosure: I am one of the author contributors of this book. The editor, Dan Koboldt, put together an excellent, top-notch collection of articles about a variety of science and tech fields that are commonly misused or misrepresented in popular sci-fi. These misuses drive actual scientists and tech people in audiences batty, because the whole suspension-of-disbelief crashes when you know the process or underlying science just doesn't work that way. It drives me batty, too, which is why I wrote the article "CGI is Not Made By Computers." I found most of these articles to be illuminating and well-put. Proud to be part of it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Westen

    While the book has 'fantasy' in the subtitle, it wasn't touched on too much, a lot of this is more sci-fi. But it's fun anyway. I can feel for the authors of each of these articles, explaining how sci-fi novels/movies/comics/tv get it agonizingly wrong. I do the same thing with historical fiction movies (I was a history major in college), and now my Mom is the only one who'll watch history movies with me, because I consistently point out everything that is historically inaccurate until my Mom sa While the book has 'fantasy' in the subtitle, it wasn't touched on too much, a lot of this is more sci-fi. But it's fun anyway. I can feel for the authors of each of these articles, explaining how sci-fi novels/movies/comics/tv get it agonizingly wrong. I do the same thing with historical fiction movies (I was a history major in college), and now my Mom is the only one who'll watch history movies with me, because I consistently point out everything that is historically inaccurate until my Mom says 'Shut up it's a movie, it's make believe!' Anyway, this was a fascinating read, and I'd suggest anyone interested in sci-fi to pick it up whether they're a writer or not. I learned so many fascinating things and it really gave me some great ideas. The one draw back for me is some of the articles got a little too into the 'this is scientifically impossible'. I mean, it's called science FICTION for a reason. Yes, the thing might be impossible NOW, but in the year 3020, hell even 2120, who knows? If you went back in time today to the 50's with a fully functioning cell phone, scientists would sh*t themselves. You can use this small block to access infinite information, find a restaurant near you, find out what food they have and how much it costs, order your food, pay for your food, and then have the food delivered to you! A portable phone in the 1950's involved a backpack, and a computer filled the size of a room. I'm pretty sure in a century or two, we could find a work around for whatever problem we're having now. I did like one article about pathogens and diseases and stuff. The author pointed out 'this is how this works, and why this is wrong in these movies. Don't do this. Unless it's aliens or magic, then f*ck it, it's magic. Go nuts'. I loved that one because at least magic was acknowledged, and got into the idea that aliens won't be constrained by the same problems humans are.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

    Originally published at Reading Reality I have served on various book judging committees over the years. Recently I was part of a group picking the best science fiction for the year. I’m not going to say where or when, but it’s a list where the jury is still out. But it made me think about what makes good science fiction – and conversely what doesn’t. Which led me to not one but two books in the virtually towering TBR pile, Putting the Science in Fiction and The Science of Science Fiction, both of Originally published at Reading Reality I have served on various book judging committees over the years. Recently I was part of a group picking the best science fiction for the year. I’m not going to say where or when, but it’s a list where the jury is still out. But it made me think about what makes good science fiction – and conversely what doesn’t. Which led me to not one but two books in the virtually towering TBR pile, Putting the Science in Fiction and The Science of Science Fiction, both of which have been released this month. It seemed like a golden opportunity to do a compare and contrast instead of a more traditional review. I thought that these books would work together well. Putting the Science in Fiction was all about the inputs. It is exactly what I expected it to be. Much fiction, both written and filmed, includes some science in some form. Police dramas and mysteries deal with forensic science. Medical dramas – and not a few mysteries – deal with medical science. Science fiction, of course, is all about taking science out to the nth degree and then playing with it. But lay people often get things wrong. There are lots of things about science that get shortchanged or simplified in order to make better drama. Anyone who is an expert in whatever has just gotten completely screwed up will cringe at just how far off-base the writer or director has just taken the science in their story. We all do it for our own fields. And when it happens it throws the knowledgeable reader out of the story – no matter how good the rest of it might be. Putting the Science in Fiction turns out to be a surprisingly readable collection of essays by science and engineering experts explaining the very, very basics of their fields to those of us whose expertise is somewhere else. It serves as a terrific guide for any writer who wants to follow the dictum of “write what you know” by learning more so they know more so they have more to write about. On my other hand, The Science of Science Fiction is not what I expected it to be. I was kind of expecting it to be about SF that did well – not necessarily in the science aspect at the time so much as in the way that it captured the imagination – even to the point where the SF created the science it postulated. There is a famous story about Star Trek: The Original Series and the invention of the cell phone that comes to mind. But that’s not where this book went. Although that would be a great book and I hope someone writes it. Instead, The Science of Science Fiction reads more like a history of SF written thematically rather than chronologically. It takes some of the basic tenets and tropes of SF and lays out where they began – sometimes surprisingly long ago – to where they are now. It’s an interesting approach but it didn’t quite gel for this reader. By way of comparison, both books talk about the science and the influences of Michael Crichton’s classic work of SF, Jurassic Park. Putting the Science in Fiction does two things, and it does them really well. First, it conveys that “sensawunder” that SF does when it is at its best. The author of the essay is a microbiologist, who puts the science of the book in context – both the context of what was known at the time it was written (OMG 1990!) and what has been discovered since, and comes to the conclusion that he didn’t do too badly based on what was known at the time. Discoveries since have made his science fictional extrapolation less likely than it originally seemed. It’s hard to fault the author for that. But what the author of the essay also does is to show how the book not only grabbed his interest and attention but continues to hold it to the present day, even though he knows the science isn’t remotely feasible. The book does a great job of taking just enough of the science in a direction that we want to believe is possible. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a real live dinosaur? Under very controlled conditions. Much more controlled conditions than occur in the book, of course. The Science of Science Fiction also discusses Jurassic Park. (A classic is a classic, after all) But instead of talking about the science of cloning the author goes into a couple of other directions. First he sets Jurassic Park within the context of other “lost world” works of science fiction. That’s a tradition that goes back to Jules Verne and even further. But it feels like the fit of Jurassic Park as part of that lost world tradition doesn’t quite fit. The other part of this Jurassic Park discussion has to do with the way that scientists are portrayed in SF. Science makes the story possible. Scientists in fiction tend to work toward proving they can do something – in this particular case proving they can clone dinosaurs from preserved DNA. It takes a different kind of scientist, someone dealing in chaos theory, to posit that just because it CAN be done doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done. That’s a discussion I would love to see expanded. And I’d have liked this book more if it had been expanded here. Reality Ratings: These two books struck me completely differently. Putting the Science in Fiction is both readable and does what it sets out to do – excellent points for a work designed to help writers do a more informed job of including science in their fiction. I therefore give Putting the Science in Fiction a B+. Howsomever, The Science of Science Fiction doesn’t work nearly as well. It reads much more like a history of SF than it treats with the science of SF. That it breaks that history up into themes rather than treat it chronologically makes it jump around a bit. As SF history, it’s not nearly as readable as Astounding or An Informal History of the Hugos or What Makes This Book So Great?. While I will be tempted to dip back into Putting the Science in Fiction again when I need some explanatory material on a particular science in SF, I won’t be inclined to go back to The Science of Science Fiction. I give The Science of Science Fiction a C+ One final recommendation. Do not read the chapter in Putting the Science in Fiction about plausible methods for kicking off the Zombie Apocalypse at breakfast. Or any other meal!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Quirkybookworm

    When I first read the excerpt of this book, I was expecting this to be boring, dull, monotone. I was wrong! I was quite suprised! Pleasantly surprised which I wanted to read more, so I signed up for the drawing of this book and I won! Thank you, Bookish First! By the way, while I read the first couple of chapter, Sheldon and Penny from The Big Bang Theory television series popped in my head. I can actually see Sheldon handing Penny this book for her to learn about science and writing! I had to c When I first read the excerpt of this book, I was expecting this to be boring, dull, monotone. I was wrong! I was quite suprised! Pleasantly surprised which I wanted to read more, so I signed up for the drawing of this book and I won! Thank you, Bookish First! By the way, while I read the first couple of chapter, Sheldon and Penny from The Big Bang Theory television series popped in my head. I can actually see Sheldon handing Penny this book for her to learn about science and writing! I had to chuckle at my visualization. When the book arrived, I was pleased to see a beautiful big big book with 260 or so pages. It easy to read. Very enjoyable and entertaining. I even laughed out couple of times. I'm really tempted to write a sci fi novel myself! If you're truly interested in writing a good science fiction novel and need help in some or all aspect of ideas, this is the book for you. It basically covers everything from hospitals, labs, microbiology, brains, earth, Skynet, computers, researches, ocean, planets, astronomy, space, and much, much more. This book would be an excellent tool to add to your other tools for writing your own science fiction novel. Take advantage of it. You won't regret it. I won this excellent entertaining ARC from Writers' Digest Books though Bookish First. Thanks you!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Adamson Stars in Her Eye

    Putting the Science in Fiction is an engaging look into how to write science fiction realistically. I learned things, questions things and even had a laugh. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone writing science fiction. The book is comprised of essays by different experts telling of things in pop culture that makes them cringe. The majority of the essays then tell you how to fix that in your own writing. Many of these have a sense of humor making education fun without having the feelin Putting the Science in Fiction is an engaging look into how to write science fiction realistically. I learned things, questions things and even had a laugh. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone writing science fiction. The book is comprised of essays by different experts telling of things in pop culture that makes them cringe. The majority of the essays then tell you how to fix that in your own writing. Many of these have a sense of humor making education fun without having the feeling that people are yelling at you. I thought some of the essays were too short; I wanted to know more! But each writer was given a certain amount of space to explain a variety of topics including FTL speed, contained ecosystems, lab work and how to grow organs. The majority of the essays are easy to understand and if they weren't to begin with, the authors made the ideas clear to use amateurs. There was only one or two that I truly didn't understand. This collection is a fun and educational experience into the world of science and how it can enrich your fiction. I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Are you an aspiring author of Science Fiction? Want to sound like you know what you are talking about when your character launches into an explanation of the psychology of the alien squid-like beings they discovered on that distant planet they arrived on after just a four week trip, thanks to an advanced engineering break-through? Then read Dan Koboldt's book. It's packed with great insights from a host of experts. Their knowledge and tips are informative and digestible for the layperson. Nothing Are you an aspiring author of Science Fiction? Want to sound like you know what you are talking about when your character launches into an explanation of the psychology of the alien squid-like beings they discovered on that distant planet they arrived on after just a four week trip, thanks to an advanced engineering break-through? Then read Dan Koboldt's book. It's packed with great insights from a host of experts. Their knowledge and tips are informative and digestible for the layperson. Nothing ruins the suspension of disbelief necessary in the author-reader relationship faster than plot or characterization that reads as phony or unbelievable. Putting the Science in Fiction can give you a big head start towards avoiding many of the pitfalls writer's can find themselves being guilty of. As this is a real area of interest for me, I did a Q&A with Dan regarding the book and the issues it raises. Give it a read

  13. 5 out of 5

    A.R. Davis

    This collection of essays about the current state of science is a well written assortment of warnings about factual errors that you might otherwise insert into your Sci-Fi. Space ships should not have windows. Bugs can’t be too big or gravity will squish them for you. Aliens likely see the world differently than humans, literally. So how would their x-ray vision affect their society? Many of the articles encourage the reader to ask the experts about details, and give contacts and sources. Of cou This collection of essays about the current state of science is a well written assortment of warnings about factual errors that you might otherwise insert into your Sci-Fi. Space ships should not have windows. Bugs can’t be too big or gravity will squish them for you. Aliens likely see the world differently than humans, literally. So how would their x-ray vision affect their society? Many of the articles encourage the reader to ask the experts about details, and give contacts and sources. Of course, you can’t throw out all the good stuff like faster than light travel, or you would have a very different genre, but be selective. The most disturbing truth I noticed was that most, if not all, the high-tech breakthroughs and advanced technology are group efforts. Victor Frankenstein may have worked alone, but it’s not done that way anymore. Heroes probably have to be cogs in the machine rather than Captains of their own Nautilus.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    I absolutely loved this book and found it a great factual resource for people who might be writing science fiction or even just realistic fiction that involves medical science. It had a great, conversational tone, and the science was very much in layman's terms so that any level of scientific knowledge could understand. The only complaint I had, to be honest, were that the explanations were a bit brief. If someone has done a little bit of research, they may have already hit all the 'do not do's I absolutely loved this book and found it a great factual resource for people who might be writing science fiction or even just realistic fiction that involves medical science. It had a great, conversational tone, and the science was very much in layman's terms so that any level of scientific knowledge could understand. The only complaint I had, to be honest, were that the explanations were a bit brief. If someone has done a little bit of research, they may have already hit all the 'do not do's in some of these and want even more detail on exactly how things operate. It'd be great to have an even more expansive version of this that goes over even more specific details that crop up in different genres or interesting facts of medical science that authors could use.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. As someone with forensic psychology experience, I am often annoyed when fiction writers get psychology wrong and clearly have done littleness to no reaesarch in an area that their book has a large focus. This resource has 59 chapters written by science experts in the field aimed at educating writers, busting common myths, and with some ideas of how to get the writing to be as accurate as possible even in a fictional or fantasy worl I was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. As someone with forensic psychology experience, I am often annoyed when fiction writers get psychology wrong and clearly have done littleness to no reaesarch in an area that their book has a large focus. This resource has 59 chapters written by science experts in the field aimed at educating writers, busting common myths, and with some ideas of how to get the writing to be as accurate as possible even in a fictional or fantasy world. I would like to note that this book can also be read by young aspiring writers as my middle grade son (reads and comprehends at a high school level) was able to read it for application to his own creative writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn McBride

    I have been following Dan Koboldt's blog for some time and learning a lot. So I was excited to see this book and hopeful at the same time. I'm pleased to report that I learned even more from the book! No matter if you write with a lot of sci-fi in your work or even just a little, there's bound to be something in here you'll find yourself using. Much of it is written in a conversational style, very easy to read. (Although I confess to reading the genetics section twice in order to understand part I have been following Dan Koboldt's blog for some time and learning a lot. So I was excited to see this book and hopeful at the same time. I'm pleased to report that I learned even more from the book! No matter if you write with a lot of sci-fi in your work or even just a little, there's bound to be something in here you'll find yourself using. Much of it is written in a conversational style, very easy to read. (Although I confess to reading the genetics section twice in order to understand parts of it) If you write sci-fi of any stripe, you need this book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wil C. Fry

    My spouse found this at the local public library and brought it home for me, knowing I’ve been trying to write science fiction. I’m glad she did. Not only is there plenty of useful information, but the chapters are short and the writers are each experts in their fields.Much of this information is available on Dan Koboldt’s blog site, which I’ve bookmarked for future reference as I continue to write sci-fi. Personally, I think filmmakers need this more than book authors — I’m far more likely to s My spouse found this at the local public library and brought it home for me, knowing I’ve been trying to write science fiction. I’m glad she did. Not only is there plenty of useful information, but the chapters are short and the writers are each experts in their fields.Much of this information is available on Dan Koboldt’s blog site, which I’ve bookmarked for future reference as I continue to write sci-fi. Personally, I think filmmakers need this more than book authors — I’m far more likely to spot farcical “science” in movies than in books — but all of us could probably do a little better.(I have published a longer review on my website.)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    I really wanted to love this book but honestly I felt like most of this was just experts in STEM related fields complaining about how fictional settings or places aren’t actually reflective of reality. To which I reply “well, duh.” Granted many of the experts within this reference book do in fact provide really excellent constructive feedback and give you good tips into extending your writing into the realm of some believability. The one about portraying mental illnesses I found particular useful I really wanted to love this book but honestly I felt like most of this was just experts in STEM related fields complaining about how fictional settings or places aren’t actually reflective of reality. To which I reply “well, duh.” Granted many of the experts within this reference book do in fact provide really excellent constructive feedback and give you good tips into extending your writing into the realm of some believability. The one about portraying mental illnesses I found particular useful because despite a story being fictional those can and do have real world implications and matter in regards to accurate representation of a struggling minority. At the same time one must remind themselves that they are likely not in fact writing for the .01% of STEM specialists who may or may not pick up a piece of your written material. I’m all for dismantling and branching out from tropes but there does come a line where “lazy writing” simply becomes a means of practicality. Many accomplished and famous *writers* will tell you that often parts you’ve spend a lot of time researching need to be cut and simplified because the layman is only going to skim over it anyway because they’re there for a story, not a textbook, let alone scientifically accurate explanation of your fictional story. Sure, you can spend 20 hours researching and writing how your fictional space craft is able to move through space and time but besides the 2 specialists who *might* read your book and *might* decide to agree with the plausibility of the explanation, it’s really not worth the effort. In addition, I don’t recommend reading this book from start to finish. It was a slog for me and would have likely been more enjoyable if I had read it in smaller bits.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Gold

    I can't even count the number of times I've referred authors to Dan Koboldt's blog, The Science in Sci-Fi, where he has specialists talk about how to make the science, technology and medicine in sci-fi more realistic. This book takes the best parts of that blog and expands upon it. It's a great starting point for research. (I just wish that the few sections where experts rant about how books and movies got it wrong had been revisited. It's so much more helpful to tell writers how to get it right I can't even count the number of times I've referred authors to Dan Koboldt's blog, The Science in Sci-Fi, where he has specialists talk about how to make the science, technology and medicine in sci-fi more realistic. This book takes the best parts of that blog and expands upon it. It's a great starting point for research. (I just wish that the few sections where experts rant about how books and movies got it wrong had been revisited. It's so much more helpful to tell writers how to get it right.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eva-Joy

    What an utterly fascinating book! I love reading 'the truth behind the fiction' and this book was perfect for that. I did skim a few - very few - chapters that got a little too technical for me, but overall, this book was easily understood and extremely interesting. HIGHLY recommended for sci-fi writers. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. What an utterly fascinating book! I love reading 'the truth behind the fiction' and this book was perfect for that. I did skim a few - very few - chapters that got a little too technical for me, but overall, this book was easily understood and extremely interesting. HIGHLY recommended for sci-fi writers. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wesley

    As a writer who occasionally dabbles in sci-fi and ended up with plenty of questionable "science" in my latest project, I had high hopes for this one. Some chapters were quite interesting, but overall I was disappointed - the book covers so many topics that each one is fairly surface level, and the organization just left a lot to be desired. As a writer who occasionally dabbles in sci-fi and ended up with plenty of questionable "science" in my latest project, I had high hopes for this one. Some chapters were quite interesting, but overall I was disappointed - the book covers so many topics that each one is fairly surface level, and the organization just left a lot to be desired.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stoney deGeyter

    Great primer for anyone writing science into their novels. The book covers a lot of ground quickly so it won't replace your research, but it's a good starting point to know what to dig into. Plus, it's extremely interesting. Worth reading on that alone. Great primer for anyone writing science into their novels. The book covers a lot of ground quickly so it won't replace your research, but it's a good starting point to know what to dig into. Plus, it's extremely interesting. Worth reading on that alone.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Tyson

    I enjoyed the book. I learned a bit, too.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

    As an aspiring author myself, I’m always interested in titles that might help me develop my craft. I predominantly write crime fiction, but my reading tastes are a little more eclectic – encompassing horror, some science fiction, dystopia and the burgeoning new genre that is Cli-Fi - so I can well envisage writing something along those lines someday. Readers have always sought a certain realism, even in horror and fantasy they expect some consistency in the world the author creates, and this is As an aspiring author myself, I’m always interested in titles that might help me develop my craft. I predominantly write crime fiction, but my reading tastes are a little more eclectic – encompassing horror, some science fiction, dystopia and the burgeoning new genre that is Cli-Fi - so I can well envisage writing something along those lines someday. Readers have always sought a certain realism, even in horror and fantasy they expect some consistency in the world the author creates, and this is especially so since the dawn of the internet age, when facts are so easily checkable. Obviously, the online world is the writer’s friend, enabling as it does swifter and more efficient research, but it can also be a foe, swamping them with facts of dubious veracity and luring with distraction. Putting the Science in Fiction aims to act as an easily accessible resource for writers of any genre whose plots might touch on scientific matters. It is important to note here that “science” is broadly interpreted so as to include all the disciplines from physics through medicine and biological science to engineering. The text addresses cutting edge scientific debates and phenomena, topical debates, as well as the science that routinely reoccurs in fiction. So, we have everything from the human genome and genetic manipulation, through zombies, to the science behind Star Wars weapons. While this book is listed as by Dan Koboldt, in actual fact he is the editor. Each chapter is in actual fact written by an expert in their field. So, we have a chapter on the human genome by Koboldt (who is a geneticist), one on portaying mental health accurately by Kathleen S. Allen, a psychiatric nurse, and another on cyborgs and cybernetics by Benjamin Kinney, a neuroscientist. Other topics I might list are writing convincing death scenes by Bianca Nogrady, a science reporter, and realistic space flight, by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, a pilot and aviation engineer. As noted, some of the chapters deal with more speculative topics, the chapter on zombies for example tried to answer scientifically how a zombie could theoretically come to pass, while the chapter on Star Wars weapons and space flight is clearly aimed at helping science fiction writers base their fiction in theoretical hard science. Other chapters, such that on the science behind Jurassic Park, aim to answer the question as to the realism of scenarios portrayed in film and firmly embedded in the public’s psyche. This is a really good book with essays penned by an eclectic range of authors on a broad range of subjects. Each has suggestions at the end for resources the reader might want to look at if they want to research the topic in more depth, but on their own they stand as informative summaries, the authors successfully straddling the divide between sufficient detail and brevity. I found this book very helpful and think that as a resource I will be referring to it for a long time to come.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Sauvinet

    Disclaimer: I am one of the contributors for this book. This book is a great resource for writers, particularly SF writers. We cannot possibly be knowledgeable in ALL fields of science in order to write SF and this book is the perfect answer. It covers an array of scientific topics and gives you the skinny on the science behind them. It allows for someone unfamiliar with those scientific topics to understand some basics, and best of all, prevent glaring mistakes. It debunks a lot of the myths fic Disclaimer: I am one of the contributors for this book. This book is a great resource for writers, particularly SF writers. We cannot possibly be knowledgeable in ALL fields of science in order to write SF and this book is the perfect answer. It covers an array of scientific topics and gives you the skinny on the science behind them. It allows for someone unfamiliar with those scientific topics to understand some basics, and best of all, prevent glaring mistakes. It debunks a lot of the myths fiction has built over the years and sets the record straight, allowing authors to write believable, science-based novels.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robin Blankenship

    I loved this book. It was interesting and fun. It really explained so much of the science I have been wondering about. It was not stuff and boring like some technical books can be. I would definitely recommend this resource to anyone looking to write a novel or who just loves the science behind it all. It was well composed and well written from top experts in the field. I very much enjoyed this and think this is a handy guide for writers of science fiction to keep handy. I also keep thinking my I loved this book. It was interesting and fun. It really explained so much of the science I have been wondering about. It was not stuff and boring like some technical books can be. I would definitely recommend this resource to anyone looking to write a novel or who just loves the science behind it all. It was well composed and well written from top experts in the field. I very much enjoyed this and think this is a handy guide for writers of science fiction to keep handy. I also keep thinking my brother would love this. He loves science fiction and we often has conversations back and forth about if something would work or arguing when we think that it wont. I also like that it has a medical section. Medical stuff often loses me cause it seems so unreal.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Riversue

    Good but very brief explanations of various things that are often portrayed incorrectly in science fiction. I will be using this regularly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Although aimed at writers of science fiction and fantasy, this handy anthology of essays into how to accurately portray STEM fields and their array of characters will fascinate and inform anyone with an interest in how science works. The book is chock full of easily grasped explanations of a variety of scientific, psychological, medical, and technological principles that will help writers build believable worlds, convincing characters, and spellbinding plots. And each section is carefully catego Although aimed at writers of science fiction and fantasy, this handy anthology of essays into how to accurately portray STEM fields and their array of characters will fascinate and inform anyone with an interest in how science works. The book is chock full of easily grasped explanations of a variety of scientific, psychological, medical, and technological principles that will help writers build believable worlds, convincing characters, and spellbinding plots. And each section is carefully categorized for fast referencing. Writers Digest Books excels at publishing very useful how-to books on specific writing topics, and this book is no exception. Putting the Science in Science Fiction expands blog posts into 60 articles from science-related experts, each with a short biography included preceding the book’s index. Here’s a sampling of topics: How the Ocean Will Kill You; Writing Mental Health in Fiction (ex: bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, personality quirks); The Many Faces of Death (and really bad ways to die!); The Zombie Apocalypse (i.e., how to depict authentic-sounding causes); Habitable Atmospheres; What’s Possible with Cyborgs and Cybernetics; Misconceptions About Space; Cryopreservation; The Science of Toxins and Poisons; Tentacles: From Octopus to Alien; and dozens more. As readers will note, these topics in and of themselves are utterly fascinating, and even non-writers will be entertained and enlightened by the explanations offered here. The book is like a college survey course in general science, but more focused and efficient. For writers, the information forms a starting point, with the editor aiming to “teach you how to get started, and how to ask questions, and how to seek out even more information on the topic at hand.” So while actual writing advice is limited, the facts behind the writing—the bedrock of these genres—abound. A true one-of-a-kind writers' resource! This review is based on an advance copy provided by the publisher.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    If I ever doubted that I am not a hard science fiction reader/writer, this book definitely convinced me. On the science fiction/fantasy spectrum, I definitely lean more toward the fantasy end. As long as the science is "close enough" (even for things I KNOW are wrong), the story is more important to me. I'm okay with some hand waving and "comic book science" as long as the characters and integrity of the plot carry the story. Overall, this book definitely served that end. It provided just enough If I ever doubted that I am not a hard science fiction reader/writer, this book definitely convinced me. On the science fiction/fantasy spectrum, I definitely lean more toward the fantasy end. As long as the science is "close enough" (even for things I KNOW are wrong), the story is more important to me. I'm okay with some hand waving and "comic book science" as long as the characters and integrity of the plot carry the story. Overall, this book definitely served that end. It provided just enough information on the various scientific topics for an author to sound like they know what they're talking about or to spark some creative ideas for incorporating science realism into their books without needing a PhD in a dozen different specialties. The best chapters were the ones where the contributor acknowledged that a good story with fantastical "science" is still a good story, but showed some simple ways to tweak that science to make it even more realistic. Where the book fell apart for me is the small handful of chapters where the contributors were downright condescending. Those contributors, including the one on pregnancy/delivery and nanotechnology, seemed to forget that no matter how important the science is, the "fiction" part will still what readers are looking for. Otherwise, they'd just go read a textbook. The popularity of entertainment like Jurassic Park, the Bourne series or Marvel movies show that as long as it "looks good on paper," most readers/viewers don't really care that the science is suspect. Insulting those readers or the writers who did the hand waving doesn't really make me give a crap about your science. And telling me that just because my delivery went a certain way doesn't mean I should write it that way in a book because it isn't the norm makes me think you forgot that this is f-i-c-t-i-o-n. Speculative or otherwise, fiction is limited only by the author's (and reader's) imagination.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Whether you write mysteries, fantasy or science fiction, Putting the Science in Fiction is an exceptional way to avoid factual errors. But it is also just a great way to catch up with current technology trends. When your spaceship dramatically explodes into a fiery cataclysm, scientists everywhere are screaming (with laughter). Of course, in space no one can hear you scream. However, you should also know that without oxygen, you know like in outer space, fiery explosions can’t occur. To avoid gig Whether you write mysteries, fantasy or science fiction, Putting the Science in Fiction is an exceptional way to avoid factual errors. But it is also just a great way to catch up with current technology trends. When your spaceship dramatically explodes into a fiery cataclysm, scientists everywhere are screaming (with laughter). Of course, in space no one can hear you scream. However, you should also know that without oxygen, you know like in outer space, fiery explosions can’t occur. To avoid giggling scientists, read this book. The range of subject matter within Putting the Science in Fiction is impressive. From simple lab protocols to poisons, genetic engineering, mental health issues, disasters, rocket science, biology, computer science and more, this book has something for everyone. Each story is written by an expert in their field. Most are less than ten pages long. Even for non-writers, some of the misconceptions exposed are fascinating. Walt Disney probably wasted his money freezing his head. Most of the Terminator series is impossible. However, the storm trooper’s pulse (really an intermittent laser) cannon has already been tested successfully by the US Navy. Unfortunately, Luke’s lightsaber is a non-starter as are all of the rebel’s ships. I guess we know who really would have won the (star) war. Okay, I admit it: I am a total nerd. I absolutely loved this book. I am planning to use it at parties to debunk (okay, maybe ruin) popular movies. However, even as a non-writer, Putting the Science in Fiction gave me at least five great plots for a future bestselling novel. Unfortunately, it won’t be written by me. Perhaps you will write it so I can have the pleasure of seeing my idea in print. 5 stars! Thanks to the publisher, Writer’s Digest, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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