Seems that I’m having a bit of a Beeb week. Having just finished the “Science and Fiction” module of my course, I was interested to read this BBC news article on four science fictions authors and their relationship with science fact.
Ken MacLeod, author of the Fall Revolution and Engine of Light books, says that scientific accuracy in sci-fi is important, but only up to a point. Get a well-known scientific principle wrong and readers will view you as incompetent, but focus on scientific minutiae and you risk being incomprehensible.
Paul Cornell has written many Doctor Who novels in addition to working on the TV series. He views science fiction as a form of satire, and currently in crisis. The shared view of a future with bases on the Moon and robots in every home has failed to emerge, whilst technologies like artificial intelligence and faster than light travel may never happen. Writers should instead concentrate on examining what happens when the human race exhausts an Earth with limited resources.
Iain Banks writes both sci-fi novels and mainstream fiction. He likes to stay informed on the latest science news, reading New Scientist and Scientific American, and will sometimes incorporate ideas from real world developments into his books. On the other hand, he likes to break as many laws as he can – especially faster than light travel. Ultimately, he approaches science fiction with a “general respect for science”.
Lastly there’s Ian Watson, who has written a great manner sci-fi books. He thinks that “zaniness” is very important in science fiction, and just sticking to the facts leads to boring stories. He also wonders whether, if we ever do meet aliens, will they have science fiction writers?
At the moment my favourite piece of science fiction is probably Battlestar Galactica, a television series in which humanity is reduced to a rag-tag fleet of spaceships, struggling to survive extermination at the hands of their own creation. The Cylons, originally metallic robots designed to serve the humans, have since “evolved” to appear human themselves, and they’re determined to destroy their makers.
There series features FTL drives, space battles and the aforementioned robots, but it’s really a show about people, politics and religion. If you’re interested in finding out mroe, the Guardian have an article today singing its praises. Well worth a watch.