Science in fiction (1)

One of the more depressing aspects for someone who writes what he calls “science in fiction” is that when the time comes to start seeking an agent, so many potential agents have warnings: “anything but science fiction”. Then I get reminded that there are a large number of readers who say they refuse to read science fiction. I should write something else! Actually, I tried writing “something else”, but somehow or other it morphed into the type of story I seem to always end up with. Worse, when I compare what I write with other SF, I am forced to conclude I am already writing something else. What to do?

As a scientist, the logical approach is to first try to work out why SF is a turn-off for some, what it is that turns them off, and to do this I intend to write a small series of blogs in which I shall try to illustrate what I think the problems are, and I invite comments from anyone who is interested in commenting. What I write in these blogs is simply my opinion, and it may or may not be right, although it includes what I feel has moulded my writing. Maybe I am on a totally wrong track. Maybe there is not even a track on which to be. I need more opinions, so anyone out there: help me!

The first problem is to define what I mean by “science in fiction”. I certainly do not mean that people sit down and carry out convoluted mathematics. Science is a discipline that tries to establish what is by the application of logic to observation. In fiction, “what is” is usually some device that does something unusual, and while in reality “it is not”, that does not matter. I should add that I think that is somewhat too restrictive. I call the Sherlock Holmes stories “science in fiction”; in this case the science is forensic science. In my opinion, Holmes’ use of logic and analysis has not put off his audience; indeed it is almost certainly the key factor that will make Sherlock Holmes immortal. Yes, he has character, as does Watson, but those character drawings are by themselves far from sufficient to explain his success.

So, why is it that Conan Doyle’s writings may well be immortal, while only too much of SF is scorned? I have my own ideas on this, some of which shall appear in further blogs, but have you (assuming there are any “you” actually reading this) have any ideas?