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October 13, 2018

Putting the Science in Fiction by Dan Koboldt ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

If you are writing medical dramas, steampunk, techno-thrillers, or any sort of science fiction, then you will want to pick up a copy of Putting the Science in Fiction.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Putting the Science in Fiction
October 2018; Writer's Digest Books
978-1440353383; print (272 pages)
writing guide
Based on Dan Koboldt's popular writing blog, Putting the Science in Fiction is a collection of essays written by researchers and medical professionals, some (at least) who are themselves authors of fantasy and science fiction. A wide range of topics are covered - everything from working in a lab to how code is ran in an ER to wildlife biology to cybersecurity to quantum physics and more.

I, at times, found the essays to be a bit dry and overall the book was a slow read. However, presumably a writer using this as a resource for their own story won't be reading it cover to cover as I did, but instead jump to the section that is pertinent to their universe. Also, I spend my day reading and writing about science at work, which I'm sure influenced my feelings (I love science. I also love ice cream, but if that was all I was consuming I wouldn't be quite as excited).

Some of the essays had my eyes crossing as the science was hard to grasp, others were quite fascinating. As I said some were dry while authors were a bit more fun to read. Working daily with scientists, I know some can talk about there work in exciting ways that draw the reader in and others who are only slightly more enjoyable than a root canal. I think having this variety in tone included in this collection will also help the writer get a sense of the variety of personalities in the science world.

If you are struggling for a story idea, Putting the Science in Fiction is a great resource to help with ideas, too. Many of the later essays provided jumping off points for stories. For example, did you know that fleas were used as a bioweapon during WWII? I didn't (which isn't too surprising since there is a lack of stories set in the Pacific theater).

While I'm not a writer of fiction, I read quite a bit of science fiction and medical dramas. Often how the science is handled irks me in these stories. Usually, it is because there isn't enough detail to convince me that it is a feasible possibility or it is evident that the author just threw it in as a plot point without any research as the details are erroneous. So I definitely believe this book is a needed resource for authors.

While there are some pretty detailed essays, the reader should view this collection as a primer. If your novel relies heavily on science, then more research will be required beyond this collection. It also must be kept in mind that these essays are the experiences and understanding of one or two people in the field. For example, the article about working a research laboratory I wondered what type of laboratory the person was accustomed to because of the differences in how she described security and procedures and what I know about security and procedures as the research center I work at.

This book is a natural choice for writers of medical dramas and science fiction, but even writers of historical fiction will find important advice within its pages. Putting the Science in Fiction is definitely a resource every writer should have in their toolbox.

Buy Putting the Science in Fiction at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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