Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy is a blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction. Just as science fiction often has roots in hard sciences — physics, astronomy, genetic engineering, microbiology — fantasy world-building relies on everything from economics to military strategy to animal husbandry.
Each week, we discuss elements of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in a relevant topic area. We debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right. You’ll find most of the experts on this Twitter list.
Science in Sci-fi (#ScienceInSF)
Scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and other experts have shared their insights on a variety of topics. Many of these articles will be part of Putting the Science in Fiction, a writer’s reference coming from Writer’s Digest Books in October 2018. We have so many now that I thought it would be useful to break them down into broad discipline areas:
Biology & Ecology
- The science in Jurassic Park by microbiologist Mike Hays
- Wildlife biology in fiction with Texas biologist Rebecca Mowry
- Writing outside the human box, with biology professor Brie Paddock
- Zombie microbiology 101 with microbiologist Mike Hays
- 8 things authors should know about viruses, with HIV expert E.E. Giorgi
- Plagues in science fiction and fantasy, with microbiologist Gabriel Vidrine
- Insects in fiction: what bugs me, with entomologist Robinne Weiss
- Writing wolves fairly & accurately, with environmentalist William Huggins
- Gender determination in fantasy creatures, with entomologist Robinne Weiss
- Rogue viruses in science fiction, with biomedical researcher Lee A. Everett
- A primer on primates for SFF authors, with biomedical researcher Lee A. Everett
- Space bugs: microbes in outer space, with microbiologist Mike Hays
- The reality of bees, with science reporter and beekeeper Bianca Nogrady
- The science of animal communication, with expert William Huggins
- Debunking myths about hunting, with wildlife biologist Rebecca Mowry
- Writing realistic spiders, with entomologist Robinne Weiss
- Venomous creatures from insects to platypus, with Robinne Weiss
- Entomology and ants in fantasy, with author Clark Carlton and entomologist Wyatt Parker
- Spawning monsters with biology, by biologist Sarah J. Sover
- Novel Coronavirus 2019 Roundtable with four expert scientists
Genetics, Archaeology, and Anthropology
- Genetics myths in fiction writing by genetics researcher Dan Koboldt
- Mutation myths in fiction by geneticist Dan Koboldt
- Editing life in science fiction, with microbiologist Mike Hays.
- Dispeling archaeology myths, with Graeme Talboys
- A whirwind tour of the human genome, by genetics researcher Dan Koboldt
- The linguistics in Arrival, by expert linguist Christina Dalcher
- Realistic translation in fiction, with archaeologist Marie Brennan.
Neurology & Psychology
- Getting mental illness right in fiction with psychiatric NP Kathleen S. Allen
- Misconceptions about memory with neurologist Anne Lipton
- Dementia myths in fiction, part 1 with neurologist Anne Lipton
- Dementia myths in fiction, part 2 with neurologist Anne Lipton.
- Writing children with BESD, with special ed teacher Rachel Heaps-Page.
- Deep character development, with educational psychologist Maria Grace
- It’s not brain surgery, it’s neuroscience, by neuroscientist Paul Regier
- Bipolar disorder: What writers should know, with psychiatrist Jon Peeples.
- Schizophrenia: What writers should know, with psychiatrist Jon Peeples.
- Writing about schizophrenia treatment, by psychiatrist Jonathan Peeples
- Writing distinct characters via psycological development, with educational psychiatrist Maria Grace
- Autism misconceptions in fiction, with pediatrician Josh Michaels.
- Writing characters with ADHD, with pediatrician Josh Michaels
- Writer’s guide to tics and Tourette syndrome, with pediatrician Josh Michael
Chemistry and Radiation
- Chemical fallacies in fiction with chemist Gwen C. Katz (and husband)
- Explosions in science fiction, with chemist Gwen C. Katz (and husband)
- Nuclear radiation for writers, with nuclear chemist Rebecca Enzor
- The science of poisons, with toxicologist Megan Chaudhuri
- Binary poisons in fiction, with emergency/toxicology doctor Jane Prosser.
Physics & Space Travel
- 9 misconceptions about space travel by aerospace engineer Jamie Krakover
- Space flight in science fiction, with aviation expert Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.
- The weapons of Star Wars, with astronomical engineer Judy L. Mohr
- Fiction writing versus physical laws, with chemist Gwen C. Katz
- Cryopreservation in science fiction, with researcher Terry Newman
- Realistic astronomy in science fiction, with astronomer Tom Benedict
- Faster-than-light travel in sci-fi, with physicist Jim Gotaas.
- Imaging over long distances, with astronomical engineer Judy L. Mohr.
- Relativity: Did Einstein kill steampunk? with physicist Dan Allen.
- Practical spaceship design, by Boeing engineer Eric Primm.
- Exoplanets and habitability, by physicist Jim Gotaas.
- Radio waves for sci-fi authors, with atmospheric physicist Candida Spillard.
- Distance and legal systems in sci-fi, with “space lawyer” J.R.H. Lawless.
- Space law: lowering the cost of space travel, with “space lawyer” J.R.H. Lawless.
- Space battles in sci-fi, with veteran U.S. Army officer Michael Mammay
- Interstellar space law: who owns Oumuamua? with lawyer J.R.H. Lawless
- Lunar travel to the moon and back, with astrophysicist Jim Gotaas
- Near-future scenarios for us & our planet, with science reporter Bianca Nogrady
- How the ocean will kill you, with marine biologist Danna Staaf.
- Habitable atmospheres for authors, by atmospheric scientist Lynn Forest.
- Gravity basics for SFF authors, by physicist Dan Allen.
- The future of energy, by geophysicist Karen Lanning.
- Earthquakes: Fact vs fiction, by civil engineer Amy Mills.
- Climate change and cli-fi, by geophysicist Karen Lanning
- Waste management in SF, with expert Gareth Jones.
- Enclosed ecosystems and life support, with biomedical scientist Philip Kramer.
Computers & Technology
- Ability and luck in writing with biostatistician Dustin Fife
- Computer and internet myths, with computer scientist Matt Perkins.
- Your sci-fi cell phone isn’t cool enough, with silicon valley consultant Effie Seiberg.
- CGI is not made by computers, by 3D video game artist Abby Goldsmith.
- Erroneous code in fiction, by programmer KJ Harrowick
- 7 things to know about cybernetics, with neuroscientist Benjamin Kinney.
- Writing believable nanotechnology, with physicist Dan Allen.
- Holograms in sci-fi, with Judy L. Mohr
- State-of-the Art Microscopes with microscopist Terry Newman
- A writer’s guide to cyborgs, by biomedical expert Brie Paddock
- Analog versus digital imaging, by astronomical engineer Judy L. Mohr
- Quantum computing & cryptography I by physicist Dan Allen
- Quantum computing & cryptography II by physicist Dan Allen
- The current state of artificial intelligence by industry expert Dan Rowinski
- Common misconceptions about AI, an interview with expert Ben Taylor
- Machine learning for writers, with software developer Ember Randall
- The future of communications, with expert S.B. Divya
- GPS systems: What authors should know, with engineer Judy L. Mohr
- Big brother is watching: surveillance & privacy, by Google developer Ember Randall.
Research and Medicine
- Medical misconceptions in fiction, with nurse Karyne Norton
- Proper lab technique for SFF writers with nuclear chemist Rebecca Enzor.
- Research in writing: How to ask an expert, with Boeing engineer Eric Primm
- Researchers gone wild, with laboratory manager Gabriel Vidrine.
- How to write convincing death scenes, with science reporter Bianca Nogrady.
- More medical myths in fiction, with nurse Stephanie Sauvinet.
- Organogenesis in 3D, with biomedical researcher Megan Chaudhuri.
- Immortality in science fiction, with clinical researcher Edward Ashton
- The near-future of medical technology, with physician assistant Rachel Berros
- First aid and Field Dressings for Writers with medical expert Stacey Berg.
- How to write about biomedical researchers, with genetics researcher Dan Koboldt
- Nursing myths in fiction, with nurse Stephanie Sauvinet
- Writing realistic research labs, with scientist Jenny Ballif
- Research ethics in science fiction, with scientist Dan Koboldt
- Drug development for writers, with research scientist Bradley Johnson.
- Binary poisons in fiction, with toxicology expert Jane Prosser
- The science of aging and its fictional cures with biomedical scientist Philip A. Kramer
- Sights, sounds, and smells of the lab with scientist Rachel Brick
- Emergency triage: bring out your dead, by ER physician assistant Rachel Berros
- Futuristic first aid: wound care, by ER physician assistant Rachel Berros
- Roundtable on the novel coronavirus, with a panel of four scientists.
- COVID-19 and the American pandemic, by Dan Koboldt
Fact in Fantasy (#FactInFantasy)
Here are articles related to culture, animal husbandry, warfare, and other relevant topics for fantasy authors.
- Developing realistic fantasy cultures with sociologist Hannah Emery
- A quick and dirty guide to feudal nobility, with history buff Jerry Quinn
- France as a fantasy culture, by itinerant francophone Dan Koboldt.
- Female professions of medieval Europe, by Renaissance man Jerry Quinn.
- Religious fundamentalism in fantasy, by Crusades hobbyist Spencer Ellsworth.
- Historically accurate ways to die, by historian Wanda S. Henry
- Women’s voices from Heian Japan, by David and Carol Harr
- Prophets, preachers, and parasites in fantasy, with historian Jay S. Willis
- 10 things authors don’t know about the woods by bowhunter Dan Koboldt
- Worldbuilding: basics of social stratification, with sociologist Hannah Emery
- Languages in fiction, with linguistic expert Christina Dalcher.
- Woodworking myths in fiction, by craftsman Dustin Fife.
- Writing realistic forests, with surveyor Terence Newman
- World building with the Spanish Inquisition with historian Jay S. Willis
- 5 Facts About the American Old West, with historian Hayley Stone.
- Folklore systems in fantasy, with historian Colleen Halverson.
- Money and economics for SF/F writers, with decision scientist Elise Bungo
- Political philosophies for fictional worlds, with political scientist Kate Heartfield
- World building with food and drink in fiction, with culinary expert Crystal King
- Organic world-building through ecology with biologist Sarah J. Sover.
- Spawning monsters with biology, with biologist Sarah J. Sover
- Plants in World-building: Cacao Case Study with expert Amber Royer
- How to name characters in fantasy, with naming consultant Hannah Emery
- Designing realistic magic academies by sociologist Hannah Emery.
- Witchcraft for Writers, with Renaissance historian E.B. Wheeler.
- Superstition for Writers, with Renaissance historian E.B. Wheeler.
- A brief history of real-world magic, with historian Jay S. Willis.
- Horses in fantasy writing by rancher and horse trainer Karlie Hart
- How to describe horses in fiction, with expert equestrian Amy McKenna
- Horse terminology: gaits and anatomy, with expert equestrian Amy McKenna
- Horse terminology: tack and riding, with expert equestrian Amy McKenna
- 3 ways to write a better hike, by outdoors editor Victoria Sandbrook Flynn
- How to write rock climbing wrong, with longtime climber Michelle Hazen.
- Matching horses to use, setting, and character, with expert Rachel A. Chaney.
- How to injure horses realistically with expert Rachel A. Chaney
- 8 ways to write horses wrong with expert Rachel A Chaney
Wilderness, Weapons and Warfare
- Wilderness survival tips, by Montana ranger Rebecca Mowry
- Medieval versus modern archery by bowhunter Dan Koboldt
- A short history of warfare in the western world, with historic actor Jerry Quinn
- Weapons and tactics in fantasy warfare, with veteran/historian Michael Mammay.
- Realistic fighting for SF/F authors, by martial artist Eric Primm.
- Realistic knife fighting, with martial artist Eric Primm
- Building a fantasy army: Leaders, by veteran officer Michael Mammay.
- Building a fantasy army: Soldiers, by veteran officer Michael Mammay.
- 8 tips for writing realistic soldiers, by veteran officer Michael Mammay.
Here are some of the topics that are relevant but for which I haven’t yet lined up an article. Please feel free to send me your suggestions, and I’ll do my best to find a willing expert.
- Forging and metallurgy
- Military strategy, especially pre-gunpowder
- Ancient sailing & navigation
- Asian, Middle Eastern, or European history
This is not a comprehensive list! If you’re an expert in a topic relative to SF/F and would like to contribute, please check out the contributors information page and then contact me by e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook (in that order of preference).
Keep an eye out for these upcoming posts in the series:
- Infrastructure of Ancient Civilizations, with history teacher Eleanor Konik
I’m a genetics researcher with a background in biology and computer science. That qualifies me to talk about some of the science in sci-fi, like genetic engineering, cloning, and mutations. I’m a bowhunter, too, which might be useful. We’ll need many other contributors to make this work.
If you have experience in science, engineering, medicine, or technology, I’d love to have you contribute. The same goes for people who know about martial arts, animal husbandry, history, or other topics. Please see my Information for Contributors page, and then contact me to discuss.
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