scientifically accurate

Writing Science Fiction: Tips for Beginners

We’ve seen a lot of science fiction stories over the past year or so. It’s not like they sci-fi ever went out of style, but it seems to be gaining popularity recently.

For some, writing science fiction might seem like a daunting genre to break into. Do you need to know complex mathematical equations? Do you need to know exactly how space travel works? Did you need to major in astrophysics?

Sure, those things don’t hurt, but they’re absolutely not necessary. You can write a great sci-fi novel without years of research. And you can tell a really interesting story, even if you’re not a science pro.

Here are a few tips to get started:

Consider ‘What-if’ Scenarios

This isn’t just a great rule for sci-fi novels, but I think the best ones use this approach. Start off with a simple what-if scenario. For example: what if we lived on a world made of ice? What if in this particular world only consisted of women? Obviously, you’ll need to expand on those scenarios and spend time really developing what those caveats would mean, but you get the idea.

Start with a small what-if scenario and brainstorm!

Figure Out Your Rules

I don’t think writing great sci-fi depends on being 100% scientifically accurate ALL THE TIME, but I do think you need to stick to your own rules. Whatever is a hard rule for your own universe, it’s important to keep it that way. Does your world have ships that can travel quickly from planet to planet? Sure, that’s great! Figure out your own rules for space travel and develop your world. How do the inhabitants on one planet act/grow/eat/interact compared to the inhabitants of another? Spend time developing these ideas!

No Info Dumps!

Sometimes when people write science fiction, they tend to explain their universe all in one big info-dump. Don’t. This is boring and it does nothing to serve your story. Slowly reveal information. Every plot point in your story should serve a purpose. Develop your characters through the action and show off your worlds through them. Get creative.

Keep it Vague

If you’re unsure about the science of something, write to your strengths. Don’t understand how space travel works? Maybe your MC is put to sleep during a long trip. This is just one example, but try to figure out a way to make it work for you. Maybe avoid space travel altogether if it doesn’t serve your story.

Listen, this isn’t a substitute for research, but I also don’t want you to avoid writing science fiction if you just don’t get a lot of the concepts involved. If you’ve got a great idea for a story, work it out to fit your style. Science fiction is a great platform for unique and compelling character studies, so don’t get scared off! You don’t have to write hard science fiction in order to write a good novel.

-Kris Noel

I don’t know, I just wanted to draw an arthropod this week. Sometimes you just do.

Enjoy this completely inapplicable knowledge.

Transcript below the cut.

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CHARACTERISTICS

Highly successful canine predators, Growlithe flourish in and around urban centers. The Growlithe’s natural habitat is open grassland, but like Vulpix, they travel wherever food is available. They are remarkable for their adaptability and intelligence, and adjust quickly to new circumstances. While many large predatory Pokémon are threatened by human encroachment into their territory, Growlithe is expanding its range.

PHYSIOLOGY

Growlithe produce an enormous variety of sounds at frequencies well above those heard by humans. Each can produce a signature high-pitched howl or whine that identifies itself. They can communicate over long distances with a descriptive language of howls and barks, and studies have shown that one Growlithe can convey instructions to another.

Growlithe have no sweat glands, and control their temperature by rapidly panting. They often take mud or dust baths to regulate their body heat.

BEHAVIOR

Though able lone hunters, Growlithe and their mature form Arkanine, can form packs of three to eight individuals. These packs are not  permanent and form or dissolve depending on local food supplies. While part of a pack, Growlithe cooperate to provide food for the entire group, protect young, and secure territory. The largest members spray urine to mark the boundaries of their domain and bay to frighten away potential trespassers. Even a small pack will attempt to control dozens of square kilometers, keeping the space free from competing predators and guarantee a steady supply of prey Pokémon. Growlithe packs hunt daily, and despite their small stature, can overwhelm lone Tauros and Kangaskhan with their cooperative tactics. Several Growlithe flank while the leaders coordinate from behind. If the prey animals are in a herd, the Growlithe pack will give chase, attempting to separate a single target where it can be brought down by their powerful jaws and tenacious strength.

5

I Origins (2014) - Mike Cahill

5 bullets on this film:

  • This is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The story, the details and the characters are so inspiring and deep that I was kind of shocked when the movie was over. Indie movies are the best, man.
  • I really like the contrast and the connection between science and religion, and this movie used this theme very well. I was expecting a boring love story but it ended up messing me up for weeks because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
  • The cinematography and the soundtrack are amazing.
  • The actors are so beautiful, damn. If you like hot people talking about science and religion, that’s it. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey made me question my life choices.
  • Stop saying that this film is not scientifically accurate because no one cares!!!! The story is good, and that’s it. It’s a movie, not a Stephen Hawking’s theory. And it’s not about religion either, it only ‘explains’ the connection between the ‘spiritual world’ and science. 
Batfamily as things my family said on vacation

**Packing**
Stephanie: “Are my slutty heels at home?”
Barbara: “Which slutty ones? You have to be more specific.”

**Driving to the airport in a silent car at 3am**
Jason: “When I die, I hope it’s quickly. Like on impact.”
Dick: “I was thinking in my sleep, but okay.”

**Wheeling luggage through the crowded airport at 4am**
Tim: **half-asleep** “My shirt is inside out AND on backwards.

**After seeing a lot of children on their flight**
Jason: “Guess this flight is coming with a complimentary nap…chloroform.”

**Tim trying to figure out what direction their flying in**
Tim: **still half-asleep** “Where is Fort Lauderdale on a map?”
Bruce: “Above Miami” 
Tim: “Ohhh…where is Miami on a map?”

**On the cruise ship and looking out at the open ocean**
Jason: “Do you know what’s out there?”
All the kids in sync: “Megalodon.”

Damian: “We’re in international waters now, I could murder you and no one would find your body.”

Stephanie: **Near tears** “A part of me will always be on Saint Kitts.”
Cassandra: “For fuck’s sake, you lost your sunglasses in the ocean, not your virginity.”

Damian: “Islands that have two names attached to it—like Saint Kitts and Nevis or Turks and Caicos—the first one is always fantastic but the second one is always worthless.”
Jason: “Kind of like Jason and Damian.”
Damian: “International waters, Jason. Don’t push your luck.”

**Gazing down the side of the ship to the open ocean below**
Dick: “How deep do you think it is here?”
Tim: “How deep does the ship go?”
Bruce: “30 feet”
Tim: “At least 31 feet then”
Jason: **Sitting in a lawn chair drinking a strawberry daiquiri** “He ain’t wrong.” 
Barbara and Stephanie: **Cheers drink with Jason**

Stephanie: “How long do you think this ship is?”
Barbara: “At least fifteen Meglodons.”
Bruce: “What’s with this family and measuring things in Meglodons?”
Stephanie: “It’s scientifically accurate.”

**Jason coming back to the room after being missing for an hour**
Dick: “Where have you been? You said you were just going to the bathroom.”
Jason: **Holding two strawberry daiquiris** “I caught two employees hooking up in the theater bathroom so I decided to treat myself.” **Takes a sip from both straws at the same time**

If you like science fiction

Please consider watching The Expanse. Just… trust me on this.

  • complex and relatable characters 
  • A+ worldbuilding
  • no cliché good vs. evil setup, just humans with different agendas and varying shades of morality
  • VERY diverse cast
  • relevant commentary to many social/environmental/etc. issues of our time (but not in a preachy way)
  • scientifically accurate as fuck (mostly)
  • no silly looking aliens (of course this is a drawback if you like those)
  • visually gorgeous
  • awesomest spaceships ever (I may be a little biased tho)
  • based on a book series so the show writers know where the fuck they’re going with the plot (and believe me there’s some mindblowing stuff coming up)
  • Shohreh Aghdashloo as the Deputy Undersecretary of the United Nations Chrisjen Avasarala is a fucking delight

You can watch the first two seasons on Amazon Prime (US), CraveTV (Canada), and Netflix (rest of the world).

Season 3 is currently airing on Syfy (US) and Space (Canada).

I know some of you may have second thoughts because Syfy has a reputation of making garbage but honestly this is a really fucking excellent show and 100% worth your time.

The Sides as things me and my friends have said

Virgil-

  • “Punk’s not dead, punk’s running on four hours of sleep and a crap ton of Dr. Pepper to finish this essay.” 
  • “I try to avoid saying ‘damn straight’ now because the only straight thing about me is my plummet straight into depression.” 
  • “I only aim for the bare minimum so I’m either satisfied with my work or I surprise myself with how much I’ve done.”
  • “I like being a pessimist because I’m either right or pleasantly surprised.”
  • “No thanks, I’d rather suppresso my depresso than face it.”
  • “I’M A REAL EMO, OKAY?”
  • “How many (x) band songs do you know?” “,,, oh, that’s a lot… Marry me.”

Patton-

  • “Why be sad when you can be… Not-sad?” “I have depression, dumbass!” “Oh, right.” 
  • “Wake me up when I don’t have to be fake happy anymore.”

  • “I’m strong and independent and I don’t need anybody- but there’s a roach in my room and I can’t find it and I’m hiding in the bathroom please help”

  • “The average person eats eight spiders before they die.~” “THEY WHAT??” “He’s lying-” “Well, I guess the only solution is to be immortal. *nonchalant shrug*”

  • “What are you getting up to today?” “Oh, just having another depression session in my isolation station.” 

  • “I REALLY LIKE YOU.” “I REALLY LIKE YOU TOO.”

Roman-

  • “Guys, I made a poem, listen. *YELLS LOUDLY IN PAIN*”
  • “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, why is writing so damn hard? Up above the world so high, this character’s gonna die! Twinkle, twinkle, fucking shit! This is bullshit, I’m done, I quit!” 

  • “I’m writing, I don’t have time to eat. Wh- hey, no, get back here and give me that food!” 

  • “Yeahhhhhh, this isn’t getting done today… Time to pull an allnighter!”

  • “Do you like it? I stayed up all night to make it. :)))”

  • “I haven’t slept in two days because of this project. I can see colors- I- I mean I can hear colors! Of course I can see colors, I’VE BEEN SEEING COLORS NONSTOP FOR TWO DAYS STRAIGHT. Well, two days gay. I’m not straight, not even for two days.”

  • “Hey, look! You like Disney, I like Disney… Guess we should make out.” 

  • “LESBIAN ELSA 2K17″

  • “You never realize how much black [Virgil] wears until you try to draw and color him in, then run out of black.”

  • “I don’t need sleep, I need my followers on Tumblr to love my content

Logan-

  • “Well, it says here in my totally accurate scientific calculations that you’re being a little bitch.”
  • “Well, logically… I am better than all of you. Logically.”

  • “Feelings? Who’s that? Never heard of ‘em.”

  • “I COMBAT YOUR ANGST WITH COLD HARD FACTS!”

  • “I need eight to nine hours of sleep to maintain maximum health… And it’s already 3:00 AM. Never mind.”

  • “Are you sleeping?” “NOT ANYMORE-”



▲ “Troodon Formosus”

Mon petit neveu à fêté ses 2 ans le mois dernier, j'ai donc pris l'initiative de l'introduire à une dinophilie scientifiquement un peu plus à jour que les jurassic world et autre, avec ce dessin d'un joli spécimen plumé.
Bon, je lui ai envoyé un mois à la bourre et les chatons curieux et le plantes d'intérieur ça fait pas très crétacé, mais ce qui compte c'est l'exactitude scientifique !!!

= (staedtler 0,05 + promarkers couleurs + posca blanc + posca rouge)

🐓► Tirages disponibles à la demande. Alors demande ! ◄🐓

Submission: As a queer, nonbinary person and an animal educator, I’ve thought a lot about the issues recently being discussed on this blog and I wanted to share some of that here. I’ve tried to be as calm and clear as possible, but this is an emotional issue for me so it might be a bit emphatic.

Serveral people in this discussion have mentioned already the problems with questioning the existence of bi/pan/trans/ace/aro animals, but not questioning the existance of straight, cis animals. You’ve made passing mentions to this, but I think it’s actually really important to step back and reframe the entire discussion in this context, if you want to be fair and accurate both to the animals and to the people emotionally affected by this issue.

In particular, this passage: “However, the animal science world uses gendered pronouns to denote physical sex in an animal, because that is how efficient and accurate communication about the animal is ensured” raises some massive red flags for me. Yes, it’s important to clearly communicate with your vet about the body parts an animal does and doesn’t have, for ease of treatment. However, pronouns are far from the only way to do this, and definitely not the most efficient. The pronoun “she” doesn’t tell you if a dog is unaltered, spayed, in heat, pregnant, or menopausal - information your vet definitely needs to know.
It’s the work of half a moment to state “my dog is a spayed female” at the start of an appointment, regardless of what pronouns you use after that. In fact, many trans* people have already learned to talk with their doctors in specific terms about their hormone levels and organs they do or don’t have, and cis people need to catch up. Part of the reason this is such an emotional issue for trans people is that the argument, “your doctor needs to know the gender you were assigned at birth! Therefore everyone you meet needs to know, and it should be on your ID, in case you get in an accident and we have to tell the doctor!” is often invoked. (I wish that was an exaggeration. It’s not. This is in spite of the fact that, as a trans* person, knowing the gender you were assigned at birth is more likely to lead to false assumptions about your health and biology than true ones.) So yes, your doctor needs to know about your biology and your vet needs to know about your pet’s, but gender pronouns really aren’t the way to do it.

Outside the vet’s office, insisting on cisgender-equivalent pronouns for your pet leads to a world of problems. I volunteer at an animal shelter, and I see people misinterpret animal’s actions through their percieved, anthropomorphic gender roles constantly. They’re more eager to read aggression from a male animal and affection from a female, which has the potential to lead to massive problems, since both of those behaviors can be dangerous to misinterpret. I would personally argue for the stance that people would be more able to accurately interpret the behavior of animals if we refered to all non-human animals with gender-neutral pronouns, to more accurately reflect the fact that animals do not have gender. Even in social animals that do have sex-differentied social roles, those are completely different from human gender roles and should not be confused with them by the use of human gendered pronouns. If the biological sex of an animal matters in a particular context, you can mention it in that context, rather than applying it all the time as though it was part of their identity.

I do understand that some people find it reassuring to observe that the social roles of biologically male or female animals are different from those of humans, and that they too can be as nurturing as a male penguin or as fierce as a female hyena. So I understand that sometimes people will want to refer to those animals as male or female, in the same way that I want to refer to a cuttlefish as genderfluid because it makes me feel happy and validated. I just want cis people to understand that those interpretations are exactly equivalent.

As for how this perspective affects the emotions of humans impacted by this issue: claiming that gendered pronouns are a form of scientific terminology that accurately reflects the biological sex of an animal is, intentionally or not, supporting the idea that there are biologically and scientifically two genders. It gives fuel to people who try to force that mindset onto humans, and believe me, they use it. I’ve met many people who become enraged if I use the wrong pronouns for their dog, but refuse to respect my identity and pronouns. The attatchment of gendered pronouns to biological sex in non-humans is absolutely reflected back into humans by most of the public, whether that is your intention as an educator or not.

Using gender pronouns as scientific terminology also muddies issues significantly as soon as you leave the field of mammals, where it quickly becomes clear that a male/female dichotomy is far from absolute. Do I use female pronouns for the hermaphroditic flatworm who lost the penis-fencing match and is now carrying eggs? Will those pronouns still apply after the eggs have hatched? What if they win the penis-fencing match next time and contribute sperm instead?
How about a worker bee, who is genetically female but has not developed reproductive organs and plays no reproductive role?
Do I use male pronouns for a fish who was born genetically male, but isn’t able to engage in sexual behavior and fulfill the male sexual role until mating is initiated by the supermale? How about for the supermale, who is genetically female and used to be reproductively female but has since morphed to be reproductively male due to being the largest fish in the school? Is it even accurate to say “genetically female” of a species where both major reproductive roles are carried out by the same genetic category of animals, and those born “biologically” male only reproduce at all by swimming into the middle of the mating dance, ejaculating, and hoping for the best?

A similar issue exists with the assumption that animals are straight. I’ve seen some cringe-worthy anthropomorphization of male/female pairs of animals, including calling them “married,” referring to them as being “in love,” and a lot of analogies to human married-couple behavior, but I’ve never seen this criticized or significantly discussed as an issue of anthropomorphization. But every time I see a post about lesbian birds or trans fish, this issue comes up. I don’t think that animal educators are doing this on purpose, but I do think it is an indicator that many animal educators have not sufficiently deeply challenged the cultural narrative that straight and cis are “normal” but queer and trans* are “debatable” and should be challenged and argued about. 

Science is an ever-changing field, and scientific terminology becomes outdated and is changed as we realize that it reflects our social assumptions more accurately than in reflects reality. The terms we use to discuss sex, gender, pair-bonding, and mating behavior are all deeply intertwined with human social assumptions of cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous life-time bonds that are simultaneously romantic/affectionate and sexual in nature. Scientific communication would be improved by dropping those assumptions and the terminology that comes with them.

I don’t think I have much to add to this - it’s really well thought out and well said - so I’m going to boost it as is as part of the continued discussion. 

Scientific communication would absolutely be improved by changing the terminology to something more accurate. I don’t know if it’s something that would currently be feasible - because of a myriad of things that make attempting that type of change across so many cultures and languages and historical/social contexts difficult - but I definitely support the idea.