Book review of Putting the Science in Fiction

Another overdue review.

What Amazon says:

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 (http://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.

PuttingTheScienceInFiction

My thoughts:

I subscribe to Dan Koboldt’s newsletter and refer to his site as a resource for research. When I learned that he was putting some of the essays from his site into a book, I had to buy it. Now I have a great reference on my shelf which is a starting point for research.

The book is divided into sections that cover biomedical topics, including death, genetics (Koboldt’s specialization), neuroscience, wildlife biology, artificial intelligence and other computer-based technology, Earth and the planets of our solar system, astronomy and space flight, and, finally, the future of space travel and exoplanets.

Chuck Wendig writes the foreword, on the advice to write what you know and what it really means (do your research). In his signature playful tone, Wendig clarifies the advice and demonstrates how he’s applied it in his own writing life, finishing by calling Putting the Science in Fiction a great launching pad for essential research.

The contributors themselves write with humour—find out why, as a woman working in a lab, you should never wear thong underwear—and draw on their personal expertise for an enjoyable read. In the chapters addressing space travel, they reveal their geek roots, honouring the books, television shows, and movies that inspired them while at the same time pointing out the technical misconceptions such media promote.

Putting the Science in Fiction is a great reference for any writer’s shelf.

My rating:

Four stars out of five.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 14-20, 2018

Another lovely week filled with informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland explores why writers cherish language. Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy stops by Writers in the Storm: plot backward to move forward with your novel.

Lisa Hall-Wilson offers five tips on writing a trauma backstory. Writers in the Storm

Roz Morris explains how to outline your novel without killing the fun of writing it. Nail Your Novel

Lisa Cron tells you how to nail your first three pages. Writers Helping Writers

Barbara Poelle answers another funny you should ask question: how fast-paced should a thriller be? Writer’s Digest

Janice Hardy tells you what you need to know about internalization. Fiction University

Rachael Stephen: how to write when you don’t want to. #preptober

 

Sara Letourneau helps you let go of perfectionism the DIY MFA way. DIY MFA

Dan Koboldt stops by Jane Friedman’s blog to explain how to research your writing to ensure technical accuracy. Also, check out Dan’s new book: Putting the Science in Fiction. I’m a fan 🙂

Kathleen McCleary: it takes a village. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson wonders, but how much are you reading? Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle presents six wordcraft questions writers fight over. Then, Oren Ashkenazi points out seven common problems with speculative fiction technology. Mythcreants

Cold Crash Pictures debunks the four most annoying scientific inaccuracies in film.

 

Jenna Moreci lists her worst sci-fi tropes ever.

 

And Cold Crash Pictures tackles four more sexist tropes.

 

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something helpful in this curation.

Be well until thoughty Thursday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 22-28, 2018

Happy Beltane, y’all. It’s May Day!

Never worry, never fear, Underdog your informal writerly learnings are here!

K.M. Weiland continues her ultimate first chapter checklist series with part three: introducing the story. Helping Writers Become Authors

Kathryn Craft wonders if you’re emotionally ready for a developmental edit? Writers in the Storm

Catherine McKenzie: theft by finding. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal posts about the importance of a private writing habit. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb is considering good advice, bad advice, and figuring out how to write through the “shoulds.” Writer Unboxed

Erika Liodice helps you find your way back to writing. Writer Unboxed

Dan Koboldt explains how you can level up as a writer with peer critique. Writer’s Digest

Sara Letourneau: how themes are presented in short fiction. DIY MFA

In my latest column for DIY MFA, I delve into the possibilities for future space travel.

Joanna Penn discusses comparisonitis, or “everyone else is better than me” syndrome. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford tells you everything you need to know about novel word counts. Later in the week, he explains why writers should perfect their first thirty pages.

Cyndy Etler drops by Jane Friedman’s blog to explain how to become a bestseller through money, luck, or work (mostly work).

Chris Winkle helps you distinguish between structured and unstructured advice. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb offers some perspective on self-editing your dialogue and characters.

Chris Yogerst explores how Stan Lee became the man behind Marvel. Los Angeles Review of Books

Sarah Laskow invites you to go medieval by attaching a book to your belt. Atlas Obscura

Be well until Thoughty Thursday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 1-7, 2018

Were you looking for these? Your informal writerly learnings are here!

K.M. Weiland helps you decide between plain prose and beautiful prose. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jane Friedman returns to Writer Unboxed: a smarter author platform for the digital era of publishing.

Nathan Bransford offers a guide to social media for authors. Later in the week he offers tips on how to regain your concentration.

Emily Wenstrom explains how to use Twitter hashtags for writers. DIY MFA

Porter Anderson delves into author pay and publishing profits. And then, he looks at the success of Canada Reads as PBS announces a similar competition.

Valerie Francis joins Joanna Penn on The Creative Penn to discuss how to write a scene the Story Grid way.

Donald Maass takes a non-linear approach to middle scenes. Writer Unboxed

Sonja Yeorg is resurrecting a shelved manuscript. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt talks art and social change. It’s a ripping awesome post. Writer Unboxed

Tamar Sloan is deepening character complexity with the help of psychology. Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman examines the destructive power of the lie your character believes. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold offers some suggestions to help you create a compelling, but quiet, black moment.

Heather Webb shares a writer’s lessons in failure. Writers in the Storm

Do the thing? Chuck Wendig offers a helpful (and hilarious) FAQ. Terribleminds

Kristen Lamb brings the LOLZ with her post on diagnosing the real writer.

Dheolos and Worldbuilding Magazine are creating a mountain setting. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu explores how the women of The Expanse are changing our worldview.

Dan Koboldt is putting the science in your fiction. Writer’s Digest

And some writerly news from the north:

My friend and vice-president of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild Vera Constantineau is interviewed for The Northern Life about her new short story collection Daisy Chained.

Another friend and SWG member Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli announces pre-orders for her first novel, La Brigantessa, forthcoming from Inanna Publications this September.

And that was Tipsday.

Be well until Thoughty Thursday comes around to herald the weekend 🙂

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 18-24, 2018

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week:

Elissa Field dissects Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Writer Unboxed

Vaughn Roycroft explores the power of writing with the intent of giving your readers the feels: on writing and crying. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb: they put your book down, but don’t take it personally. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: mapping your story’s setting.

Angela Ackerman says, if you want memorable characters, you should focus on the little things. Writers Helping Writers

Dan Koboldt visits Writer’s Digest: essential tips for crafting a three-book series.

Leanne Sowul asks, do your commitments reflect your priorities? DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson wants you to build rigor into your writing process. DIY MFA

Danielle Boccelli directs you to five unlikely places to find inspiration. DIY MFA

Margie Lawson helps you get emotion right on the page. Writers in the Storm

Peter Selgin guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog. How to make the best of routine events in your fiction.

Jami Gold fills in the blanks of our writing knowledge.

Chris Winkle explains why you should avoid bigoted heroes who learn better. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi lists six stories with contrived conflict (and tips on how to avoid the same mistakes). Mythcreants

Jenna Moreci: how to write while working full time/going to school/being a mother

 

Emily Temple presents the opinions of 31 authors on the topic of writing what you know. Literary Hub

Jenna Moreci: diversity in fiction.

 

Lila Shapiro shares the story of how author Keira Drake revised her YA novel after it was criticized for its racism. Was she successful? We’ll have to wait until the revised version is released in March … The Vulture

Sarah Churchwell says, it’s time for women to rewrite the story. The Guardian

David M. Perry: how will publishing deal with Lemony Snicket amid #metoo? Pacific Standard

Just because I still miss her (and probably will for the rest of my life): Ursula K. Le Guin on ageing and what beauty really means. Brain Pickings

Angela Watercutter: how Ava DuVernay became a creator of worlds. Wired

Maeve lists 21 beautiful Irish words that everyone needs in their lives. Buzzfeed

And that was Tipsday.

Be well until Thursday, when you can return for your weekly dose of thoughty 🙂

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 3-9, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the first full week of September (!)

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes with part 62: head-hopping POV. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story explains how your time personality influences your writing productivity. Writers in the Storm

Susan Spann explains the law (and ethics) of conference blogging. Writers in the Storm

James Scott Bell stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaches’ corner: using the novel journal to make writing breakthroughs.

Vaughn Roycroft is fortified by gratitude. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass muses on what makes a journey. Writer Unboxed

Here’s the second part of my exploration of The Hero’s Journey on DIY MFA.

Crash Course Mythology – The Hero’s Journey and the Monomyth. They do a really good job of illustrating how some of the stages of The Hero’s Journey are optional, or can be shifted 🙂

 

Leanne Sowul: it’s back to school time at DIY MFA—what do you want to learn?

Kristen Lamb explains why suffering is essential for great fiction.

Jeff Lyons returns to Jami Gold’s blog to bust the rest of the top ten writing myths.

Rachel Chaney is Dan Koboldt’s equine expert for this article: matching horses to use, climate, and characters in fiction.

And then, Judith Tarr contributed in praise of the hard-working fantasy horse to the Tor.com blog. What do these ladies have against Friesians, anyway?

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man. The Guardian

Isabella Biedenharn: Libba Bray has some thoughts on this all-female Lord of the Flies remake. Entertainment Weekly

What growing up in the sulphur city taught me about beauty. Christine Schrum on the Latitude 46 blog.

Cat Rambo announces that games writers will be eligible for an award in the 2018 Nebulas. Geekwire podcast.

Tor.com presents Ursula K. Le Guin’s introduction to the Library of America’s The Hainish Novels & Stories, volume one.

OMG. Droughtlander’s almost over! Actually, the first ep will have aired by the time I post this. Still. OUTLANDER!

 

Ever think Gandalf was a dick? Well, so does Emily Asher-Perrin: five things Gandalf should have admitted instead of being a jerk. (ROFL-hilarious) Tor.com

So I went to WorldCon in August, eh? This happened. The Tea & Jeopardy live podcast taping with George R.R. (Really Really) Martin!

 

Enjoy, and be well until Thoughty Thursday!

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The next chapter: August 2016 update

Let me tell you a story 🙂

Dark season

Over the last couple of years, August has been a bad month for me, emotionally speaking.

I’ve been down. Living with depression, if you do it consciously, means that you can see the signs and take action, or not, whatever is most appropriate for your mental health at the time. Trying to barge through rarely works. For me, anyway.

Last year, I was away from home, delivering training, for two and a half weeks in August. I thought London was a lovely city, and I did enjoy myself to the extent I could—I even went shopping (!) and if you know me, you know I hate shopping of any kind with a passion—but it was too far away for me to go home on the weekends, and I had discovered earlier in the year how much more difficult it was for me to write or blog while travelling. So except for curation, I gave over.

Writing on the road isn’t undoable, and I have put on my big girl panties and done it since (I started NaNoWriMo while travelling last year), but, at the time, I was at a low ebb, and sometimes you have to be kind to yourself.

This year, I went to Kansas City for WorldCon and stayed an extra day or so to visit with a friend who’d moved down there several years ago. More on WorldCon in a bit. The bottom line is that health issues and my introvert nature (exacerbated by my emotional low) conspired to rob the trip of some of its joy.

Remembering what had happened last year, I had even planned for the dog-day doldrums. I figured I’d have the first run-through of all my drafted novels done by August (and I did) and that I would need a little break (and I did).

My plan to turn to other projects, though, didn’t work out as well as I’d thought. I worked on some short fiction, made a few submissions (a rejection from one of which was returned within a week), but I never touched the poetry collection or the non-speculative short fiction collection. I just didn’t have the heart.

I journalled, trying to work out what my plan for the rest of the year would look like and trying to find my way back to what is, for me, normal. I also participated in a Nelson Literary Agency workshop on first pages with Angie Hodapp.

Though the initial review of my first five pages wasn’t horrible, I wanted to try something completely different for the revision, see if the advice of the readers would work. It was a spectacular failure, but I learned a lot from the experience.

You really do have to fail to learn, even if it’s painful 🙂

I’m now delving back into Initiate of Stone, working long hand in a notebook. Sometimes you just have to write it out. I find that writing long hand helps give me the time to examine the words and sentences, and get a fresh perspective.

I can now also disclose that I did not succeed with my application to #PitchWars. Reality Bomb was the project I chose for that experience. I didn’t expect to get in this first year of applying, but one pair of mentors, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt, was very supportive. They asked for additional materials, a synopsis and first 50 pages.

Our email exchanges in that first week or so were productive and illuminating for me. I now have some great ideas to return to that manuscript with. So, ultimately, #PitchWars was a win.

This brings me to another realization of why this year has been a difficult one for me.

Last year was the year of almost. I got on several long and short lists in contests, had my work set aside for second readings for anthologies, and while it didn’t result in any publications, the nature of the responses was reassuring. I also had a couple of stories accepted into the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which should be coming out this fall.

This year, with the exception of #PitchWars, has been the year of no. Form rejections all around, whether from querying or from short fiction submissions. Though I have, to some extent, found a way to turn rejection into a positive, when so many pile up, it becomes disheartening.

You begin to question your worth and skill as a writer, to doubt the kind things that have been said about your work (because there are so few of them, relatively speaking, that they must be the flukes, you reason). You begin to look for those opportunities to confirm your negative bias, blow small faux pas into huge incidents. Reasonable lapses in communication become the occasion for self-blame and recrimination.

Fortunately, since my return from Kansas City, I’ve been coming across the most wonderful articles and posts that have given me the encouragement I’ve needed, some of which you’ll see in this week’s curation. Between that, and the long hand work I’ve been doing on IoS, I’m making my way back to the page.

WorldCon

I’d left with the best of intentions and wanted to practice Gabriela Pereira’s method of networking with a number of authors I’d only ever seen online. In the moment, though, I was so nervous, I basically blathered.

I did get to meet and have a couple of nice, brief chats with Mary Robinette Kowal, met Cat Cambo and Foz Meadows at their Literary Beer sessions (informal chats), but otherwise, I just did my usual and took notes in panel discussions.

I was within three feet of George R.R. Martin, but as he was just coming out of the second of two autographing sessions in which fans lined up for the better part of an hour to see him, I just couldn’t bring myself to be that fan. Instead, I smiled, nodded, and moved on without harassing the poor man.

I had gone to the Tor Party with the intention of meeting John Scalzi, but several people seemed to be running interference and by the time I was able to politely make my excuses, Mr. Scalzi was monopolized by other Tor authors and friends. After that, he turned his attention to his beautiful wife and, again, I could not bring myself to interrupt just to say “hi, and thank you for writing wonderful books.”

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, or an introvert, or both, but I just couldn’t.

I’m also a total newb and have no clue with regard to what’s appropriate and what’s not in which context.

The Hugo Awards Ceremonies were wonderful, though, and the sad puppies were soundly trounced.

N.K. Jemesin won best novel for The Fifth Season, Nnedi Okorafor won best novella for Binti, Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu (translator) won best novelette for Folding Beijing, and Neil Gaiman (who wasn’t there in person) had a special message for the sad puppies when he won best graphic story for The Sandman: Overture.

Really, you can just go to the Hugo Awards site and check out all the winners. Diversity was the word of the evening.

It was a great event, but at the end, I felt like I needed a vacation to get over my vacation 🙂

I returned home with a whopping case of imposter’s syndrome, though. I’d met and seen and learned from all of these authors, many of whom I read and respect. Who am I, with my two publications in what the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) considers “token” markets, to think that I can get a traditional deal in a market that’s more competitive than ever?

When I confided my doubts to Phil, his response was that print publishing was on its way to extinction and why would I want that, anyway? So not what I needed to hear, but I forgave him instantly. Though he is very supportive of me and my creative calling, he, like most non-writers, will never understand what it’s like to be in my neurotic wee skull.

But, as I said, I’m surfacing now. I have no further conventions I’ve committed to (having used up my budget for such things) and the only challenge I’ve set for myself is to get through another revision of IoS and Apprentice of Wind before I tackle the third novel in the series for NaNoWriMo.

I still want to get back to the poetry collection and the non-speculative short fiction collection, but neither is a big priority for me at the moment.

I’m taking my time with the short fiction. Some of my stories are actually the seeds of novels. I have to set those aside in their own project folders for the future, and then get on with revising and submitting what I have. Who knows? I may even surprise myself and write some more new stories. It has been known to happen.

In the meantime, I’ve applied for my winter leave at work and am crossing my fingers.

Persistent payroll issues may affect my application for another leave with income averaging. Until things are sorted out, the powers that be may recommend against such special considerations. I may have to defer again until next year.

It won’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened, but Phil and I are ready to look for another furry dependent. I need the five weeks for acclimatization and training. We’d rather it be sooner than later, but we’ll be patient if we must.

Having a new puppy in the spring would probably be more convenient (she says, mentally willing leave approval).

And then there are the renovations to consider, but that’s another post. Probably several 😉

The month in writing

August was sparse as far as writing goes. Aside from the blog, from which I took a vacation for WorldCon, the only writing I did was to finish off the one short story I was working on.

AugustProgress

6,451 words on the blog and 901 words on the short story. 7,362 altogether. That’s literally all she wrote.

I didn’t revise a thing. Fortunately, because I met or exceeded my revision goals in every other month so far this year, I’m not that far behind.

I didn’t count the minor revisions I did to the stories I submitted, or any of the journalling or long hand writing I did.

Besides, I wasn’t anticipating (until part way through the year) that I’d return to IoS, so I don’t have a column for that on my spreadsheet. I could make one. I have the skill, but I don’t want to take the time to do it now. Yes. I know. Lazy Mellie.

I’m getting my mojo back. The writing’s the thing.

Science fiction is the literature of ideas. It is the great “what if?” that leads us into the future. Fantasy is the literature of (im)possibility. It longingly wonders “If only . . .” and whispers in our dreams. I write both and I think I’m pretty damned lucky.

And that’s it until next month.

I hope you’re all experiencing great creative breakthroughs and are satisfied with what you’ve done. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Be well!

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 8-14, 2016

All kinds of writerly goodness for you this week!

K.M. Weiland has made no secret of her disappointment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In classic Kate fashion, she gleans writerly goodness from the experience. Planning your story: what George Lucas can teach you (not) to do. Helping writers become authors.

Later in the week, she offered eight tips for writing child characters.

Jessi Rita Hoffman explains how to write a thrilling action scene for Writer Unboxed.

Sophie Masson shares the building blocks of great young adult fiction. Writer Unboxed.

Lisa Cron advises: don’t accidentally give your characters a time out. Writer Unboxed.

Margaret Dilloway explores overcoming impostor syndrome for Writer Unboxed.

Christine Frazier shows you why your hero should eavesdrop and make a bad assumption (in four steps). The Better Novel Project.

Janice Hardy looks at writing a character with a gender not your own. Fiction University.

Dan Koboldt offers some tips for creating fundamentalist religions in fantasy.

Chris Winkle offers strategies for defeating the contrivance boogeyman. Mythcreants.

Jami Gold wonders if your plot obstacles are too easy, too difficult, or just right?

Jennie Nash studies great opening lines. The Book Designer.

Chuck Wendig advises us to defy reality and become artists. Terribleminds.

Jami Gold explores how to reach your potential through writing feedback.

Angela Ackerman offers six rules that will keep your critique partnerships golden. Writers helping writers.

Gabriela Pereira interviews Charlaine Harris for the DIYMFA podcast.

Annie Neugebauer says, don’t hate the query—master it! Writer Unboxed.

Janet Reid shares a checklist of things you need to be thinking about between offer and acceptance.

Susan Spann offered some advice on royalty clauses in publishing deals and how authors get paid. Writers in the Storm.

Karina Sumner-Smith guest posts on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University: is a quick release schedule right for you and your books?

My friend, Kim, is back on the road. This time, she spends an afternoon with Margaret Atwood.

Micah Solomon offers three books that will help you to radically improve your writing. BookBaby

Cory Doctorow shares his vision of how publishers, libraries, and writers could work together. BoingBoing.

Delilah S. Dawson wrote this beautiful post on writing and grieving: someday this pain will be useful to you.

Natalie Zutter shares Nnedi Okorafor and N.K. Jemesin in conversation: masquerade, initiation, and science fiction and fantasy. Tor.com

Bustle wants you to diversify your reading list with these 23 LGBTQ books with a person of colour as a protagonist.

What Bustle says your to-be-read list says about your personality.

Ferris Jabr revisits the lost gardens of Emily Dickinson. The New York Times.

Kathryn Hughes looks at the dystopian world of Beatrix Potter. The Guardian.

Shakespeare and death:

 

Women swept the Nebulas! i09.

Jo Walton reviews Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning for Tor.com.

A Ken Liu short story will be made into a movie. i09.

John Marcotte reports that Marvel is committing to a Black Widow movie (at some unknown point in the future). Heroic Girls.

And, speaking of Marvel, the next X-Men movie is due out May 27th: X-Men Apocalypse.

Here’s the teaser:

 

And the official trailer:

 

Buzzfeed shared what was a sneak peek of Outlander’s next episode (I saw it Sunday) but I thought I’d post it anyway. “Ovaries explode!” – funnee.

See you Thursday for some thoughty stuff 🙂

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