CanCon 2015 day 2: Writing fiction and fact for Analog


Panellists: Derek Kunsken, Eric Choi, Trevor Quachri, Andrew Barton

AnalogPanel

TQ: With respect to hard science fiction, there’s a soft creep to fantasy, and a hard creep to the uber technical. I care most about character and plot, but the story must make sense scientifically as well.

DK: Eric, since you’ve been published in Analog several times, what is an Analog story to you?

EC: Trevor’s covered it really. I edited an anthology with Ben Bova called Carbide Tip Pens, which has been described as Analog in hard cover.

DK: Is there a quantifiable difference between Asimov’s and Analog?

EC: Both have published my Mars-focused fiction.

DK: I have a track record of stories Stan (editor for Analog) rejected, but Sheila (editor for Asimov’s) bought.

EC: Editorial personalities and preferences do play a role.

DK: Andrew, you’re not a scientist, but you’ve had stories published in Analog.

AB: All of them have been science oriented. I’m not a scientist, but I try to make as few demands on the reader with respect to the science, except for the one big lie that is the basis for the story. I try to be rigorous, but I also try to write an entertaining story.

TQ: I commend Andrew for the material he’s submitted. There’s a misunderstanding out there about how rigorous the science has to be, though. Stan was a physics professor. He’d fact-check. You have to be science literate. You have to do the leg work.

DK: Andrew and Eric, what would be the difference between writing a physics-based story, and writing a chemistry-based story or a biology-based story?

EC: My most recent one was on baseball statistics.

AB: Everything I know about orbital mechanics, I’ve learned from playing Kerbal Space Program.

DK: I tend to write on the biological side of things. One response I received was that I was just showing off what I knew. What I really needed to focus on was the how.

TQ: You have to know how things work.

EC: Don’t limit yourself to a particular type of story. Smash the stereotypes. For “Crimson Sky,” I talked to a pilot and an ER trauma surgeon. Don’t be afraid.

TQ: Culture and biology may be a match. Stan was also into linguistics. Look at Dune. It’s science fiction with fantastic elements. Cultural prediction is interesting is done well. Sometimes it’s about the approach to story rather than the nature of the science involved.

Q: Can you have different physics?

TQ: It could work if you’re rigorous in your created universe.

DK: Let’s turn to non-fiction science articles.

TQ: I never get tired of those. Give me more. They have a popular focus. The information has to be accessible. Balance is key. We also have scientists who read Analog. Science fiction relative is also good, the deconstruction of tropes, idea generation, interesting research. How can a writer use this information? It has to be entertaining.

Q: Should I query first, or just go ahead and write?

TQ: If you’re adamant, go ahead and write, but we also take queries.

Q: Any formatting tips?

TQ: We’re not to picky.

Q: Can we use figures as long as they’re cited?

TQ: That’s no problem as long as they’re right.

DK: Your readers seem to be hungry for everything.

TQ: There needs to be diversity. Don’t be too complacent. Curve balls are important.

DK: What’s the ultimate fate of these stories and articles?

TQ: It falls to the individual authors what happens to the piece after publication. Sometimes there are tie-in “science behind the story” articles, audio versions, etc..

There was then some promotion regarding subscriptions to Analog, as well as where to get sample stories and articles online. It’s all available on the web site. Start there and you won’t go wrong.

Next week: We’re talking magic and magical systems.

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