Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Giveaway and Keeping Up with the Science Behind Sci Fi

A Change In Offerings

I got so tired of waiting for Amazon to reflect the reduced price for the hardcopy of Fool's Illusion that I decided to change the 2nd Anniversary offer to an ebook giveaway. So between now and 11:59 PM Tuesday the 3rd of October you can download a free digital copy of The Fool'sIllusion. You do not need a Kindle device to download or read. If you click on the link that says “Read On Any Device” at the book’s Amazon page, you can download a free app that allows you to read the book on your desktop, laptop or any handheld device the app supports.

 A Change In Topics: Sci Fact In Sci Fi

Diagram of a table holding a meter device at each end with a disk tethered to each.
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Last week I said that I might discuss my options for publishing my upcoming book, The Hidden. However, I decided to switch topics and discuss science fact in science fiction, which I kind of went over last time, particularly in relation to the story I'm presently working on. But I thought I would go into a little more detail about it because I came across a neat article on The Washington Post's website that talks about fact-checking in light of Ridley Scott’s new movie that just premiered in theatres yesterday--The Martian. The movie is based on author Andy Weir’s book of the same name.

The article, “Fact-Checking the Science of ‘The Martian’”, discusses the accuracies as well as inaccuracies of the science in the movie. The article's author, Rachel Feltman, presents a trailer that points out these hits and misses. This is very clever and helpful. The only problem is you can’t judge a movie’s level of factual accuracy by just a few scenes shown in a trailer. A critic would have to see the whole movie to do that . . .  uhem . . . accurately enough. But what can a person do when they’re writing about the movie before it's in theatres which I believe might’ve been Feltman’s case?

Aside from that, she gives a good analysis of those scenes shown in the trailer. While she says that “a lot of the science . . . in the film is accurate”, she discusses a few flaws. This includes the reason that the protagonist (played by Matt Damon), who is stranded on the red planet, creates his own water from a “chemical reaction” he produces. She says that, while the method is realistically done, the purpose is not since, as the world discovered only earlier this week, there is liquid water on Mars that can more easily be extracted. However, this inaccuracy that is in the implication that liquid water is inaccessible in Martian geography, was inevitable because of the timing of producing the film. Therefore it can't be blamed on the writers or producers.

This improbability of a tedious method of creating water, however, is an example of how quickly science fiction can become “outdated”. I put “outdated” in quotes because, as I talked about in an earlier post, science fiction in certain respects doesn’t really become outdated. However, with technology advancing faster each day and enabling science to come up with more efficient methods of research and study, we sci fi writers have to keep up with the trends more than we did two or three decades ago.

Keeping Up With the Trends

So how can we science fiction writers do this? Harlan Ellison once said he keeps up with the trends by reading Scientific American which I've read myself both in print and digital. This was as much as 10 years ago though, when the trends did not move as quickly as they do now (and they're going to move even faster yet!). As much as I prefer print material over digital, my suggestion is to keep up with them online since many of these magazines and journals on the web post new stories every day. Here's a few of the ones I read:

· (The name tells you how fast the news in science comes in this one!)

And a great source that I just found out about today is science fiction writer/genetic research scientist Dan Koboldt's Science In Sci Fi, Fact In Fantasy.  This is a fantastic one to read over even if you just want to learn which stories contain accurate science. I strongly suggest you check it out.

Preview of Coming Attractions

We're now in the Halloween season, one of my favourite seasons of the year! So starting next week, I plan to discuss horror authors, one in particular whose stories are inspired by her experiences as a victim of childhood bullies. Also I'll talk a little about the upcoming horror con, a premiere here in Sacramento, Sinister Con.

So until then . . .

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