Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for...Science by John Steiner

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There's a biologist hidden somewhere under my guise of mother and writer, so today's post strikes a lovely chord with me. Within my pages of fantasy and romance, you'll see references to life science as it occurs on Tallenmere. John Steiner leans heavily on the sciences in his work and delves deeper into the subject of how science influences fiction and vise versa. Read on, Trekkies, and do leave a comment!

S is for...SCIENCE! By John Steiner

“She blinded me with science!” –Thomas Dolby

One of the cornerstones in my writing has always been to get the science to be as accurate as possible. Even if I draw on mythological creatures like vampires I look at what natural phenomena might lead up to such conditions occurring in people. It’s possible to write science fiction and skip the science part entirely, and I’ve read works where that was done rather well. It is possible to employ science inaccurately, and still have a work that has wide appeal. However, with accurate details a writer can slow-walk a reader though established scientific information into where fiction begins without them being aware until after the fact. Those familiar with the work of Michael Crichton’s or Isaac Asimov have experienced the technique of suspending disbelief rather easily.

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My first written novels were centered around spaceflight and interactions with alien civilizations. Offshoots of that series are included in my collection of short stories, Tampered Tales. I wanted my aliens to seem absolutely plausible, and that meant working out a real pathway of planetary formation, biological evolution, the nature of invention, discovery and historical trends. If the alien peoples have a mythology, I ask how it is that would’ve come about. Why did they get a head start in some fields of knowledge and what shortcomings would hinder their ascension that aren’t to be found in human civilization? What is their psychology, and how did interpersonal relationships forge their societies?

Such details risk losing a reader’s interest, and it’s not always a good idea to flood them with historical background or run an audience through an entire field of science. However, if the inclusion of science is done well, the writer’s dreams become those of their readers. Because of Star Trek, just about everyone carries a communicator, though we call them cell phones. Even now there is the Tricorder Project; the goal of Peter Jansen, PhD, that is now in its second generation of working models. The pop-culture physicist Michio Kaku once pondered how to design a plasma torch to make a real lightsaber, the preferred weapon of the Jedi Order.

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The direction of inspiration isn’t one way, though. The ignition of crewed spaceflight lit the imagination of several generations of authors, screenwriters and producers, and gave us a golden age of science fiction novels, movies and television series. To see real men and women boldly breaching new frontiers gave the rest of us earthbound observers a fantastic future to reach for. Chuck Yeager’s breaking the sound barrier and Uri Gagarin's escaping the atmosphere to touch the heavens let us see that even the sky was no longer the limit.

True life adventures as great as anything we science fiction writers committed to paper. Science and science fiction are a fledgling brotherhood fathered by the likes of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, from which a family grew rapidly both in numbers and diversity of visions. It’s through science that we talking apes mustered the powers of gods.

We Are Prometheus!

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.


  1. Great Post! Too often science gets short shrift in this world, even though we love our science fiction.

  2. I read somewhere that just imagining something makes it possible. Hence there is so much science fact that was yesterday's science fiction. For me the science has to plausible or I have real problems suspending disbelief. Nice post, John

  3. I tell people that Star Trek is rather bad science fiction but excellent story telling. If you want an excellent metaphor of the cold war the original television series does a fantastic job. The post-cold war era is pretty much what the Next Generation is, and Deep Space Nine was a way to tell the story of the Serb-Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts.

    Star Wars was George Lucas' way of reworking the grail stories, and was something he called science fantasy. As cult classics, they're also rather Shakespearian in complexity.

    Though the science fiction movies that really ignited my imagination as a kid where "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the much delayed sequel "2010" along with the "Alien" and "Aliens" movies. the combination of these two pretty much laid the groundwork for my concepts of future exploration. The first aspect of that is spaceflight is hard work. You can't just zap yourself from ship to surface and hope the air's fine or that gravity isn't kicking your behind. Having the space and planetary environments be that hostile intensifies the story for me, especially when that's laid atop an intelligent aggressor.

  4. I think I would enjoy your books based on your dedication to being personally knowledgeable about the fiction world you're creating so that I, the reader, can suspend belief. When an author doesn't have that grasp, it often shows in disconnects during the story.

    You've certainly presented a compelling reason why science fiction can become immensely intriguing.

  5. You have some really great pointers in this post. You have also intrigued me to read more of your work.

  6. The book "Fire Alive!" is coming out probably early fall of this year, which is about firefighters in 2026 and the concept of fire as a living organism.

    I'm also working on the first of a short story series around air force characters crewing a spaceship. Some of the character introductions are hilarious.

  7. Great post, John and everyone!

  8. Thanks for reviewing John's work. Science is so important in SciFi which I love.
    #187 following

  9. Really interesting post! I love science fiction, and can't get enough of the science part of it. I need to live a thousand years, I guess, to see what science fiction becomes science fact.


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