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Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Science and technology have starring roles in a wide range of genres--science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and more. Unfortunately, many depictions of technical subjects in literature, film, and television are pure fiction. A basic understanding of biology, physics, engineering, and medicine will help you create more realistic stories that satisfy discerning reader ...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Writer's Digest Books
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Robin Bonne
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a writer whom sometimes likes to delve into science and speculative fiction, this book peaked my interest. It ended up being an interesting read and an invaluable resource for my writing. There were many nuggets of good advice sprinkled throughout the book which served to spark my writing creativity and produce some scifi inspiration.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Dan Koboldt
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Disclosure: I'm the editor of (and a contributing author to) this book.

Putting the Science in Fiction is a reference for genre fiction writers that was developed from my "Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy" blog series. Each week, I invite engineers, scientists, doctors, and other experts to discuss common misconceptions about their field and to offer advice for writers who want to get the details right. Now we've collected much of that knowledge into a book with Writers Digest.

This book contai
Beth Cato
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018, writing
I received a galley of this book from the editor.

Dan Koboldt's Science in Sci-fi blog series has a fantastic online resource for years. This book, published by Writer's Digest, collects some forty of those pieces to create a fantastic print and ebook resource for writers or inquisitive readers. The diversity of material is absolutely fascinating. From proper lab technique to touring the human genome to correctly depicting mental illness to computer hacking to building spaceships--this has it all
Angie Thompson
Wow, this book covered a lot of ground! There's no way to cover all of scientific knowledge in a manageable portion size, but these essays provided a nice cross-section of certain issues that tend to crop up in fiction, particularly (though not exclusively) in science fiction.

Of course, as is the case with any book of this type, I found some of the sections more useful and interesting than others. Some gave me useful nudges, some gave me sparks of inspiration, and others made me argue, "yes, but
Literary Redhead
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A valuable resource for writers who incorporate science into their work. Drawn from the author’s popular blog, “Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy,” with scientists, medical professionals, engineers, and others weighing in on an array of scientific subjects often written about inaccurately in fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine. Pub Date 16 Oct 2018. #PuttingTheScienceInFiction #NetGalley
Lauren James
Jan 25, 2019 added it
Shelves: research
This was so useful, both as a writer and a reader of science fiction. I spend a lot of time researching science for my books, and this really put the topic into perspective. I loved the mix of subjects addressed here too.
Abby Goldsmith
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Full disclosure: I am one of the author contributors of this book.

The editor, Dan Koboldt, put together an excellent, top-notch collection of articles about a variety of science and tech fields that are commonly misused or misrepresented in popular sci-fi. These misuses drive actual scientists and tech people in audiences batty, because the whole suspension-of-disbelief crashes when you know the process or underlying science just doesn't work that way. It drives me batty, too, which is why I wr
Nicole Westen
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While the book has 'fantasy' in the subtitle, it wasn't touched on too much, a lot of this is more sci-fi. But it's fun anyway. I can feel for the authors of each of these articles, explaining how sci-fi novels/movies/comics/tv get it agonizingly wrong. I do the same thing with historical fiction movies (I was a history major in college), and now my Mom is the only one who'll watch history movies with me, because I consistently point out everything that is historically inaccurate until my Mom sa ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Originally published at Reading Reality

I have served on various book judging committees over the years. Recently I was part of a group picking the best science fiction for the year. I’m not going to say where or when, but it’s a list where the jury is still out.

But it made me think about what makes good science fiction – and conversely what doesn’t. Which led me to not one but two books in the virtually towering TBR pile, Putting the Science in Fiction and The Science of Science Fiction, both of
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookishfirst
When I first read the excerpt of this book, I was expecting this to be boring, dull, monotone. I was wrong! I was quite suprised! Pleasantly surprised which I wanted to read more, so I signed up for the drawing of this book and I won! Thank you, Bookish First!

By the way, while I read the first couple of chapter, Sheldon and Penny from The Big Bang Theory television series popped in my head. I can actually see Sheldon handing Penny this book for her to learn about science and writing! I had to c
Audrey  Adamson Stars in Her Eye
Putting the Science in Fiction is an engaging look into how to write science fiction realistically. I learned things, questions things and even had a laugh. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone writing science fiction.
The book is comprised of essays by different experts telling of things in pop culture that makes them cringe. The majority of the essays then tell you how to fix that in your own writing. Many of these have a sense of humor making education fun without having the feelin
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Are you an aspiring author of Science Fiction? Want to sound like you know what you are talking about when your character launches into an explanation of the psychology of the alien squid-like beings they discovered on that distant planet they arrived on after just a four week trip, thanks to an advanced engineering break-through? Then read Dan Koboldt's book. It's packed with great insights from a host of experts. Their knowledge and tips are informative and digestible for the layperson.

A.R. Davis
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays about the current state of science is a well written assortment of warnings about factual errors that you might otherwise insert into your Sci-Fi. Space ships should not have windows. Bugs can’t be too big or gravity will squish them for you. Aliens likely see the world differently than humans, literally. So how would their x-ray vision affect their society? Many of the articles encourage the reader to ask the experts about details, and give contacts and sources. Of cou ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved this book and found it a great factual resource for people who might be writing science fiction or even just realistic fiction that involves medical science. It had a great, conversational tone, and the science was very much in layman's terms so that any level of scientific knowledge could understand.

The only complaint I had, to be honest, were that the explanations were a bit brief. If someone has done a little bit of research, they may have already hit all the 'do not do's
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. As someone with forensic psychology experience, I am often annoyed when fiction writers get psychology wrong and clearly have done littleness to no reaesarch in an area that their book has a large focus. This resource has 59 chapters written by science experts in the field aimed at educating writers, busting common myths, and with some ideas of how to get the writing to be as accurate as possible even in a fictional or fantasy worl ...more
Carolyn McBride
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have been following Dan Koboldt's blog for some time and learning a lot. So I was excited to see this book and hopeful at the same time. I'm pleased to report that I learned even more from the book! No matter if you write with a lot of sci-fi in your work or even just a little, there's bound to be something in here you'll find yourself using. Much of it is written in a conversational style, very easy to read. (Although I confess to reading the genetics section twice in order to understand part ...more
Wil C. Fry
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it

My spouse found this at the local public library and brought it home for me, knowing I’ve been trying to write science fiction. I’m glad she did. Not only is there plenty of useful information, but the chapters are short and the writers are each experts in their fields.

Much of this information is available on Dan Koboldt’s blog site, which I’ve bookmarked for future reference as I continue to write sci-fi. Personally, I think filmmakers need this more than book authors — I’m far more likely to s

Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book but honestly I felt like most of this was just experts in STEM related fields complaining about how fictional settings or places aren’t actually reflective of reality. To which I reply “well, duh.”

Granted many of the experts within this reference book do in fact provide really excellent constructive feedback and give you good tips into extending your writing into the realm of some believability. The one about portraying mental illnesses I found particular useful
Tanya Gold
I can't even count the number of times I've referred authors to Dan Koboldt's blog, The Science in Sci-Fi, where he has specialists talk about how to make the science, technology and medicine in sci-fi more realistic. This book takes the best parts of that blog and expands upon it. It's a great starting point for research.

(I just wish that the few sections where experts rant about how books and movies got it wrong had been revisited. It's so much more helpful to tell writers how to get it right
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
What an utterly fascinating book! I love reading 'the truth behind the fiction' and this book was perfect for that. I did skim a few - very few - chapters that got a little too technical for me, but overall, this book was easily understood and extremely interesting. HIGHLY recommended for sci-fi writers.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it liked it
As a writer who occasionally dabbles in sci-fi and ended up with plenty of questionable "science" in my latest project, I had high hopes for this one. Some chapters were quite interesting, but overall I was disappointed - the book covers so many topics that each one is fairly surface level, and the organization just left a lot to be desired. ...more
Stoney deGeyter
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great primer for anyone writing science into their novels. The book covers a lot of ground quickly so it won't replace your research, but it's a good starting point to know what to dig into. Plus, it's extremely interesting. Worth reading on that alone. ...more
Sonja Tyson
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I enjoyed the book. I learned a bit, too.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As an aspiring author myself, I’m always interested in titles that might help me develop my craft. I predominantly write crime fiction, but my reading tastes are a little more eclectic – encompassing horror, some science fiction, dystopia and the burgeoning new genre that is Cli-Fi - so I can well envisage writing something along those lines someday. Readers have always sought a certain realism, even in horror and fantasy they expect some consistency in the world the author creates, and this is ...more
Stephanie Sauvinet
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: favorites
Disclaimer: I am one of the contributors for this book.

This book is a great resource for writers, particularly SF writers. We cannot possibly be knowledgeable in ALL fields of science in order to write SF and this book is the perfect answer. It covers an array of scientific topics and gives you the skinny on the science behind them. It allows for someone unfamiliar with those scientific topics to understand some basics, and best of all, prevent glaring mistakes. It debunks a lot of the myths fic
Robin Blankenship
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was interesting and fun. It really explained so much of the science I have been wondering about. It was not stuff and boring like some technical books can be. I would definitely recommend this resource to anyone looking to write a novel or who just loves the science behind it all. It was well composed and well written from top experts in the field. I very much enjoyed this and think this is a handy guide for writers of science fiction to keep handy. I also keep thinking my ...more
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good but very brief explanations of various things that are often portrayed incorrectly in science fiction. I will be using this regularly.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Although aimed at writers of science fiction and fantasy, this handy anthology of essays into how to accurately portray STEM fields and their array of characters will fascinate and inform anyone with an interest in how science works. The book is chock full of easily grasped explanations of a variety of scientific, psychological, medical, and technological principles that will help writers build believable worlds, convincing characters, and spellbinding plots. And each section is carefully catego ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
If I ever doubted that I am not a hard science fiction reader/writer, this book definitely convinced me.

On the science fiction/fantasy spectrum, I definitely lean more toward the fantasy end. As long as the science is "close enough" (even for things I KNOW are wrong), the story is more important to me. I'm okay with some hand waving and "comic book science" as long as the characters and integrity of the plot carry the story.

Overall, this book definitely served that end. It provided just enough
Diane Hernandez
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Whether you write mysteries, fantasy or science fiction, Putting the Science in Fiction is an exceptional way to avoid factual errors. But it is also just a great way to catch up with current technology trends.

When your spaceship dramatically explodes into a fiery cataclysm, scientists everywhere are screaming (with laughter). Of course, in space no one can hear you scream. However, you should also know that without oxygen, you know like in outer space, fiery explosions can’t occur. To avoid gig
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Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher who has co-authored more than 90 publications in Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, and other journals. Every fall, he disappears into the woods to pursue whitetail deer with bow and arrow. He lives with his wife and three children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating all of the plants in his backyard.

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