January 07, 2009

Science and Fiction--Writers Respond #2

Continuing from Monday's post, I'm summarizing the responses of science fiction writers to the questions Peggy Kolm and I asked about the relationship between science and science fiction to help us prepare for our session at ScienceOnline09. Peggy has started with the scientists' answers.

Links to all the responses are listed on the wiki page for the session (if we screwed up and missed you, please tell us). The quotes below are excerpts. You can follow the links to each writer's full answer.

Today's question:

What is your relationship to science? Have you studied or worked in it, or do you just find it cool? Do you have a favorite field?

A number of the respondents have no "official" background in science but have studied on their own.

I consider myself a science enthusiast...

...I have studied bits and pieces of science. I think I know a bit more about biology and evolution than I do about, say, complex subjects such as the eleven dimensions or string theory or quantum theory. I have a lot of sociology-type experience in college primarily because I wanted to be an evolutionary biologist before I decided literature and writing was more up my alley. I really find myself fascinated by primates and how close they are to us (and if you researched you'd be absolutely astonished at how intelligent and "human" they really are).
--Shaun Duke @ The World in the Satin Bag

I just find it all cool as #$#, but I have no professional standing in it whatsoever. I was trained as a historian, and I’m a recovering management consultant. So when it comes to science, I’m a generalist, and probably a dangerous one at that.
--David J. Williams @ The Mirrored Heavens

At this point in time my wife is the chair of a physics department. When we met, she was a senior in high school planning on becoming a physics professor and I was a theater major in college who had always had an interest in science. We are very close and in many ways I shadowed her through grad school, helping to write papers, design research studies, and work on curricula.

My involvement was strong enough that I developed a close friendship and intellectual bond with her adviser that led to my own work in science education, writing and editing various curriculum projects in physical science. I have a broad field interest in science though my work in science education is most deeply rooted in basic physical science.
--Kelly McCullough @ Wyrdsmiths

I know enough to be able to get myself into trouble. I come off as knowing more than I actually do. I can talk to scientists -- and I can get way, way over my head. (As an aside, I thought creative writing and art classes were stocked with weirdos until I took some science classes intended for non-science students...)

While I try and keep an eye on things in general, I do have a strong bias for paleontology and evolutionary science. And if I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living with my writing and art, I'd like to stay in school and give the sciences another serious shot. I may never do real research but I do want to be able to write popular science works at some point in my life -- we need to improve the level of scientific knowledge in the general population and this is the only way I can contribute to that.
--Sean Craven @ Renaissance Oaf

I almost got a minor in computer science but didn't quite complete it. I'm researching some things on my own at the moment - neuropsychology, mind control, and absolutely everything that involves the impact of chemicals on the body... for one thing, as the people around me age, it gets a little more personal.
--JesterJoker @ Sa Souvraya Niende Misain Ye

There were also quite a few writers with backgrounds in biology.

I'm a limnologist. No, that isn't someone who studies limbs. It comes from a Greek word limnos, which means fresh water. I study fresh water (e.g., lakes, rivers, ponds), and everything that's in it and around it. Heck, I even received a masters of science degree in it. I worked for a while in several universities and colleges, teaching biology courses, then decided to get out into the "real world" and became an environmental consultant. It means that I get to zoom around in speed boats, take water and sediment samples then analyse them and write reports for clients that teach them how to be good environmental citizens....
--Nina Munteanu @ The Alien Next Door

I'm a marine biologist in a former life; I tried to revisit molecular genetics in the current one, but sucked at it.

It's all cool until you actually have to learn the nuts and bolts, at which point it becomes drudgery. While my field of (former) expertise is the behavioral ecophysics of marine mammals, my current favorite field is neuroscience— partly because it really puts that arrogant little homunculus in its place, and partly because it's easy to pan for sf gold in that stream without actually knowing very much.
--Peter Watts

I am a PhD in fish genetics from the Oxford of the East –Alahabad university ,India –so have a penchant for scientific contents especially genetics ,behavior and so on.
--Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India

And of course, we have the golden age SF standard, the writer with a background in physics, engineering or computers.

My masters was in electrical engineering and my Ph D was in astrophysics. I have also published papers in psychology and evolutionary biology.
--David Brin

I am a working scientist, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Wyoming. I’ve worked at National Laboratories and Observatories as well, and get to play with all the best toys like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Array in New Mexico. It’s a science fiction lifestyle at times, and when I’m not in a faculty meeting or similar activity, I love the job. It pays better than the fiction gig, too.
--Mike Brotherton

My background is in business, computer and electronics. I do have a Bachelor of Science degree, and I have worked in the electric transmission and distribution field for many years and have a strong understanding of electrical engineering.

...My favorite fields in science are related to propulsion systems and space elevators.
--Robert Evans @ SciFiWriter

I have a computer science degree, and I've been working as a self-employed programmer for two decades now. And yes, it's cool. I don't bury my fiction with excessive detail about computers or programming, but I do like my robots: after all, they're the ultimate in mobile computing ...

Humanoid robots and self-aware computers please!
--Simon Haynes @ Spacejock News

As for me, my degree is in psychology. If you look at my interests on my Facebook profile, it will tell you that I'm specifically interested in "Perception, persuasion, subversion, irrationality and identity." As if that weren't enough, I've also studied physics at a fairly basic level, am working at correcting a deficiency in my biology education, and corner any specialist I can get my hands on to make them explain what they do.

So, answers to the next question will be posted on Friday. Find out what everybody said.

How important is it to you that the science be right? What kind of resources do you use for accuracy?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for the mention and the link! Peggy did a cool thing with that whole "meme" or whatever you want to call it.