Where have all the scientist science fiction writers gone?

Science fiction by its very definition is based on at least one science principle being used in the story. One is the absolute minimum. Many readers would want much than just one. For this the SF writer has to have sufficient knowledge about the science they introduce to the story.

What is sufficient knowledge? GCSE? A-Level? Undergraduate? Postgraduate? Who really knows?

When it comes to GCSE and A-Level the taught science is so well tried and tested that the writer really ought not to change it. But also other writers will have published stories that are about the application of any of those science principles.In other words the writer will be treading in the footsteps of other authors who’ve gone before. The same is probably true for a large proportion of the undergraduate courses and even some of the postgrad work.

If the SF writer does use such a tried and tested principle, then most likely their writing has to be exceptional for it to get noticed in the genre.

Otherwise the SF writer has to use something in the undergrad final year or postgrad for the story. In these circumstances you would expect the SF writer to have a degree in some sort of science.

And who are these writers with these degrees? Few and far between. In the UK I can think of Stephen Baxter, Simon Morden, Tade Thompson, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Alastair Reynolds. I’m sure there must be others… I hope there is at least one female UK science fiction author of note with a science degree.

This is not looking good, folks, of the inventiveness of science in science fiction published stories.

The next question is how do you invent science in science fiction?

There is a very long answer to that one and is dependent on the type of personality a writer has as to which is the writer’s preferred mechanism. But experience has shown me that the writer needs to mentally surf the science to even begin to be able to come up with something new and interesting.

In order to encourage new science-degreed science fiction writers to the genre, it would be nice if there was a Roll of Honour for those science fiction that came up with significant science ideas based on their expertise. But that Roll of Honour could be expanded significantly to all science fiction writers. It would start something like this:

  1. Mary Shelley – Man brought to life from bits and pieces put together
  2. Jules Verne – travelling for long distances under the sea
  3. H G Wells – time travel using a time machine

Such a list might highlight some interesting trends in science adaptation.



2 thoughts on “Where have all the scientist science fiction writers gone?

  1. Re: women science fiction writers. I can’t think of any but I sometimes wish Alice Roberts would. She has such a wonderful way with words and passion in her non-fic books that would translate easily translate to fiction.

    1. Hello – thank you for trying. I must admit I’m seriously starting to wonder if we do have top flight female authors who have degrees in science in the UK. But I agree with you about Alice Roberts.

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