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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Atomic Rockets: Hard Sci Fi Writing, Reading and Atompunk Resource

I hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving. Mine was groovy. I just spent it with the family, which is good enough for me. I was sure to look out for giant man-eating turkeys and I hope everybody else did too. It was a super day of giving thanks for the many good things we have, which is often a lot more than we think. So many people think too much about what they don’t have. Some think they don’t have enough money, enough friends, enough recognition . . . The list can go on. But you can add to that list that some feel there’s not enough high quality science fiction literature out there. That may be true to some extent. One person who feels that sci fi literature for the past two decades has been poor, in the science part particularly, has a website out that addresses the problem. That website is called Atomic Rockets which you can check out at It is a resource for both science fiction writers as well as readers who want accurate science in the genre. And because the website emphasizes plausible sci fi like that of the atomic era’s classic authors, such as Heinlein and Asimov, it also serves as a good resource for atompunk lovers.

The rocket "Polaris" orbits a planet with mathematical equations in the foreground.
Photo Credit: Winchell Chung/Atomic Rockets

Origin and Mission

Atomic Rockets’ mission is to go scientifically accurate where no science fiction writer seems to have been going the last two decades. At least web administrator and site founder, Winchell Chung, says it’s been that long. Disappointed about today’s science fiction literature lacking scientific plausibility and accuracy, he created the site hoping to draw more authors to use it as a resource. “I have been quite disappointed in the SF novels that have come out in the last couple of decades,” he says on the site’s homepage. “In particular, the scientific accuracy was abysmal. So this website is part of my master plan, to give a resource to SF authors that will assist them in getting the science correct.” He feels that good science fiction gets its science right like Robert Heinlein did with his stories. So his site consists of pages of scientific and technological facts that explain how works of science fiction reflect or lack reflecting these facts. He writes his articles in a manner of testing scientific theories on the stories. In fact, his site started off as one that specialised in the equations of rocket science but then grew “to encompass other topics of interest to SF authors and game designers.” 

An Atompunk Resource

But Atomic Rockets is not just a textbook for people who want to make their sci fi plausible. Chung is a big atompunk fan (only he calls it “rocketpunk”) and so features several articles about the sci fi of the 1940s through ‘60s. Within these are images of paperback book and pulp magazine covers with colourful art depicting space-suited heroes encountering both humanoid and inhuman-looking aliens and deadly robots. There is even a page dedicated to atompunk, entitled “Rocketpunk andMacgruffinite”, that consists of a good sized article about the subgenre so I highly recommend you check it out.

Atomic Rocket Approved Reading

Because Chung takes high quality science fiction seriously, most of the books his site discusses are the harder sci fi. He rates these with a seal called the “Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval”. He has two main book lists for these works: one is a page dedicated to books by authors who have told him that his website helped them produce scientifically accurate work; the other is a section of a separate page that lists books approved with the seals but whose authors have not claimed using the site to produce their work but who still get the science right. So if you’re looking for high quality science fiction to read, like yours truly always does, then consider the books on these two lists for building your own to-read lists.

Atomic Rockets is a must resource for both writers of science fiction who want to make their stories as believable as possible and for readers looking for recommended high quality sci fi  reading. It’s also a great resource for lovers of atompunk, a subgenre that seems to lack coverage on the internet. So atompunkers, bookmark this one in your Favorites list too. I did!

I’ll try to explain more in-depth about Atomic Rockets next time. But for now, think about this question: Do you think today’s science fiction literature has become more scientifically accurate or less? Please fill free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. Did you check out the site yet (Atomic Rockets)? There's a lot of neat stuff there.