Sci-Fi Month 2014: Blogger Panel #2 – Scientific Knowledge

Posted 14 November, 2014 by Rinn in Sci-Fi Month / 20 Comments

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Welcome to the second of the blogger panels for Sci-Fi Month! This is where we ask a group of bloggers a question relating to science fiction, and they are free to answer it in any way they wish. There will be four over the course of the event, alternating between my blog and Oh, the Books!. The first panel was held last week, and it’s already time for the second! Today’s question is:

Do you need to know a lot about science to read/enjoy sci fi? Or, on the flip side, do you think reading sci fi helps you learn about science?


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Angie @ Angela’s Anxious Life
Angela's Anxious Life

I don’t actually think you need to know a lot about science to read science fiction. I don’t know a lot about science and am able to read sci-fi and understand what is going on. Usually the author provides enough information so that the reader is not left in the dark and can follow the plot. I really don’t think that reading sci-fi helps you learn science. Maybe in some books.. but when I think of science fiction I think of made up stories. Or stories with technology that doesn’t even exist yet. I think maybe I haven’t read a sci-fi book that is a story about science that exists today… it is about science that will exist in the future. It is one of the reasons I enjoy sci-fi, it takes me out of the world of today.

Angie blogs about books, films, comics and video games at Angela’s Anxious Life.

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Ana @ Read Me Away
Read Me Away

No, I don’t think you need to be a science buff to read and enjoy science fiction. However, I think it helps. There this moment of “aha!” or “Eureka!” that I get when I’m reading sci-fi books because sometimes I’ll encounter something that I’ve learned about in my classes. “I know what that is!” I almost say aloud, feeling rather chuffed (and like a total nerd) when I find a topic I have some knowledge about.

I think reading is a learning experience, and if you don’t know a lot about science, science fiction can give you a great introduction to some of the more fascinating aspects about science. I didn’t like physics when I took it as a class, but I absolutely loved reading about astrophysics in sci-fi novels. I think sci-fi helped me appreciate science class more, because sci-fi gives me a glimpse of what science could possibly do, and what future technology could possibly look like.

People always talk about how the line between science fiction and science fact is getting really fuzzy, and I find that absolutely fascinating! And a little terrifying when you think about some of the dystopian sci-fi titles out there. That’s what I think, at least. You don’t need to know a lot about science to enjoy sci-fi, and I think that sci-fi is a great way to start off the science appreciation life. 😛

Thanks for letting me participate in this blogger panel, Rinn!

Ana blogs about books and also video games at Read Me Away.

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Amy @ Ode to Jo and Katniss
Amy

Confession: I have never been into or been particular good at science. In high school when I had the chance to forgo chemistry for the joke class environmental science, I did it gladly. In college when I was required to take two semesters of science, I took geology and astronomy because I thought they would be easy. Turns out both were harder than I thought, especially astronomy because basically I was taking basic astrophysics! (Here I thought I was just going to learn about constellations and planets!) A look at a my ACT score (a standardized college acceptance exam sort of like the SAT) also showed my lack of scientific understanding as I scored 10 points lower in the science section than the English (a huge difference!).

But science fiction is different for me. I ignore the science babble and enjoy the wonder of the all the possibilities. I am certainly glad for people who understand space travel and all that good stuff so we can dream of the future, even if I will never understand these things!

Something else I appreciate about science fiction is when the SOCIAL sciences (history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.) are featured in the stories, “sciences” I can understand! I especially love when psychology plays a role in the story as a character struggles with what makes them human even though they are actually part android, or because of the acts they are willing to commit in time of intergalactic war, etc. Those are the types of stories that keep me coming back for more.

Does science fiction help me understand science any more? Eh, I don’t think too much. It’s possible it has a little bit and I just haven’t noticed, but let’s just say I’m not going to enroll in another astronomy class anytime soon. 🙂

Amy’s greatest sci-fi love is Star Trek, which her husband introduced to her (and that is true love). When she’s not watching Star Trek or doing boring adult things, she is probably writing or reading or, most likely, procrastinating everything via the Internet.

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Lianne @ Caffeinated Life

I don’t think you need to know a lot about science to read and enjoy science fiction. I think that as long as you know some of the basics–how many planets there are in the solar system, that gravity works differently outside of the earth, that space travel at a particular speed is incredibly complicated and long by our standards (those are the only three that come to mind at present)–and that the logic of the world in which that story operates in makes sense or is consistent, then you an get by. Tying in to the next question, I love it that sci-fi novels have all of these ideas and theories at play in the story as sometimes the really interesting stuff compels me to look it up–via books, via the internet–and therefore learning a bit of science along the way 🙂 Sci-fi is a great medium to get people interested in science or to learn more/think about the possibilities out there.

Lianne blogs about books, as well as other topics such as films and TV, at Caffeinated Life.

What are your thoughts – do you think a knowledge of science is needed to enjoy science fiction? Have you ever read any books than assumed a more detailed scientific understanding?

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20 responses to “Sci-Fi Month 2014: Blogger Panel #2 – Scientific Knowledge

    • Same, I’ve never been great at science (which means I’ll never work in some parts of archaeology!), but maybe that’s why I like sci-fi – it makes me feel like I finally understand, haha 😉

  1. I have a science background (BS Bioengineering / MS Genetics, work in clinical research), but I really have to agree with the panelists above. A great sci-fi book usually doesn’t require any huge amount of science knowledge.

    BUT I do think that having some science can definitely help, though.

    Ted Chiang’s short story collection ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ is a great example of this. (I’m hoping to write a review and post it before the end of the month). There were a few of the stories that the science/math was way over my head but by the end of the story I felt like I had gotten a basic understanding. In a few of the stories where I understood a little more of the science, I really grew to appreciate what he was doing in the story / with the science.

    Overall, I think an apt comparison may be an artist enjoying another person’s art. Any great piece of art can be enjoyed by everyone! But if you get some of the underpinnings of the art/science, you can appreciate maybe a tiny bit more what the other artist/science-writer has done for the artwork/story.
    Steph @ Exploring Worlds recently posted…Sunday Short: Seanan McGuire’s Each to Each

    • Ah yes I remember reading your post 😀

      That’s really interesting actually, if a science fiction novel helps you to get to grips with certain elements of science or maths.

      That’s a wonderful comparison!

  2. I do appreciate some science in my science fiction but… not too much: as in everything else I appreciate Coco Chanel’s motto that went “Less is more” 🙂 By this I mean that a few scientific informations can compel the reader to look for more detail and learn something, while too much – as in those books that rely too heavily on scientific fact – means there is less room for the *story*. And the story, the journey, is what we’re looking for in the first place, are we not?
    Maddalena@spaceandsorcery recently posted…Farscape characters: Rygel & Pilot

  3. Anne

    I don’t know if Sci-Fi teaches you a lot about actual science, but at least opens your mind up to the possibilities of what could be. That’s what I love about reading Sci-Fi.

  4. Yesss I agree with YOU ALL. You really don’t need to know science to enjoy science fiction, unless the author doesn’t do a good job explaining the concepts to you. I’ve only read YA science fiction so far, so most of the sciency terms have been manageable. Though I do have to say that although it is science fiction, I don’t think it teaches me much about science (aka physics because time travel and parallel world books is pretty much all I read, and space travel). It’s mostly about technology that could happen, but usually the books I read only glaze over the science aspects of it.
    Valerie recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #13

    • Yes I’ve never encountered difficulty with terms in YA SF – some heavy SF yes, but it’s rare. Or a couple of pages on the matter and it’s all clear 🙂

  5. I always say I learned everything I know about wormhole physics from Stargate. Though that isn’t entirely true, I learned some of it from Star Trek also. Which doesn’t necessarily mean I know anything about wormhole physics 🙂

    But while I don’t love a lot of the sciences, I like the lite-science in sci-fi. Because you can pick up a thing or two without it being all serious and full of math. Plus there’s fun words that you learn.

    • Haha, but you know enough to get by in those universes, right? 😉

      Yes, lite-science. Too much of it confuses me because I SUCKED at science at school…

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