Photo by Min An
Science fiction as a genre challenges reality and experiments with possibilities. For instance, Scott Harral’s glimpse into the near future as we inhabit the moon highlights a currently-impossible occurrence of people living on the moon.
Science fiction is a well-loved genre because it gives its audience a reason to anticipate a future, especially when living in the present is deemed unbearable. It ignites their imagination to soar and perceive beyond the limitations of their physical world and consciousness, giving them a magnificent experience beyond their reality. Science fiction draws its concepts around the world’s what-ifs, exploring them and allowing people to experience these possibilities.
Science, technology, and people may all have unlimited potential if duly explored, and science fiction takes on the responsibility of doing so. With themes and concepts beyond reality and practicability, science fiction dwells on potential more than the actual.
However, to be great, science fiction must still have some sense of reality. While it tackles lines that are difficult to believe, it must still have something that helps readers ground themselves to believe in its existence or occurrence. In between unfeasible ideas like flying cars, space exploration, and time travel, people would be more interested if the story allowed them to consider reality with these existing. From these what-ifs, people should be moved to question what if the world is this way?
Whether it be an in-depth explanation of how these came about or a thorough equation that might explain why they happen, science fiction concepts should still have a touch of science for them to be effective in catching the audience’s interest.
The Science in Science Fiction
As a basic science fiction rule, the scientific component should play a significant role, if not the story’s focal point. After all, what separates science fiction from fantasy or general fiction, all dealing with the unthinkable, is the former’s science element. While it’s still fictional, “science” still precedes its name, making it a fictional genre sprinkled with or based on scientific concepts.
However, does this immediately merit that one must be competent or, in any way, have the scientific expertise to write a believable and gripping science fiction? Or can they do with a made-up science element to their story?
When asked what science fiction means, the literary field naturally divides the science component into two different perspectives. It’s typically defined as fiction dealing with the influence of actual or imagined science on humans and society, emphasizing the existence and non-limitations of what science is for this genre. As long as there is an exploration of any scientific element, either hypothetical or factual, in the story, it can be considered science fiction.
However, it must be stated that for one to even make-up science, one must still have an inkling of what it is, especially regarding the concept they’re writing about.
How Much Science Does One Need?
Writers don’t need to be knowledgeable about every aspect of science to write science fiction. They’re writing a story, not a textbook. Instead of studying science, in general, they must only be familiar with the field they’re writing about.
For instance, looking at Scott Harral’s Moon Luck as an example, it’s evident that the story’s main point isn’t plausible. People can’t live on the moon. They have tried and failed a couple of times. However, Harral’s glimpse into the near future as we inhabit the moon provides enough explanation, especially on technological matters, making the whole point of the book believable and realistic.
Scott Harral isn’t a scientist nor someone who’s traveled on the moon before. This makes him not a science expert but simply someone enthusiastic about the concept. He only wrote a compelling story on the moon and space exploration because of research rather than on years of scientific background. Before going deep into the lore he built for his book, Harral presumably studied the moon and all the related concepts to write about concretely.
When writing about time travel, one must learn about the basic concepts of time and its theories. They must know about this to make their story, in some way, plausible and authentic. While science fiction is still fiction, it must still be research-focused to avoid having readers raise their eyebrows and scratch their heads when reading the story. This makes science fiction believable: ample research on the concepts tackled, not educational or scientific expertise and experience.