Good fiction writing depends on good facts. Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say since the subject is fiction writing. But I firmly believe this.
In fiction writing, the characters have to evoke strong images and emotions, and the dialogue has to be natural. For some genres the plot is more important. In others the description of the surroundings takes precedence. The characters, plot, and location are often products of the writer’s imagination.
However, one thing that grounds fiction genres in my opinion are good facts. If the facts in fiction are not believable then they cast shade on the important fictional components. For example, if in a detective novel the main character pulled out his .38 snub nose revolver and downed a stealth bomber approaching New York City at seventy thousand feet, you’d go, “Hey, what the hell?” You’d toss that book in the trash no matter how good the rest of it was.
This same principle applies to science fiction, though you’ve got more leeway. But even science fiction “facts” have to have some grounding in reality. They also need to be consistent and understandable.
So, we’re finally at the reason for this little article. I’m an engineer. I like to research subjects. And I try real hard to make the non-fiction part of my science fiction accurate. I also try to have some actual scientific basis from which the science fiction is extrapolated. Let me give some examples.
(1) I have a foot thick stack of books and a plethora of reports and articles on quantum physics and accelerators. There are even a few scientists trying to rigorously prove the more science fiction concept of sub-Planck or sub-quantum space. I don’t understand all this stuff, just enough to extrapolate it to a semi-rational endpoint. Admittedly, my “rational” was only good enough for two mainstream quantum physicists to listen, harrumph, and then politely decline to be further involved.
(2) I read book after book on Pliocene climate around the world, Homo Sapiens migration patterns, and Neanderthals. I would have read this stuff whether I was writing a book or not just because it interested me.
(3) I do shoot handguns myself, interviewed a qualified marksman and calculated the ballistics for the long range shots in this book.
(4) Movies notoriously depict elevators dropping, well, at the drop of the hat. Given all of today’s safety mechanisms, it is actually reeeealy hard to do that or do it and survive at the same time.
(5) A really nifty report was written in 1996 by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It summarized the subsurface geological effects of all the underground nuclear testing that was ever been done. Well, it was a nifty report for an engineer to read, and it came in handy.
I could go on, but I suspect this may be getting tedious by now. So let me simply summarize.
I think getting the facts correct in fiction are important to support the framework of the fun fiction stuff. And, when it comes to the science fiction, similar groundwork has to be done or both the reader and the author will go astray.