The Science in Science Fiction
I am a veterinarian with a specialty in pathology. A researcher for many years, my interests have been varied within the biomedical sciences. Scientific research is a search for truth, the uncovering of the workings of the natural world. A researcher take leaps of faith to envision what might be true, and then designs experiments to determine if his or her hypothesis is correct or not. We know, of course, that some of the greatest advancements in knowledge have come from ideas first thought to be preposterous by hidebound “experts.”
The first inclination is to dismiss ideas associated with fiction as fanciful and unrealistic. Yet fiction has in many ways molded the world we now live in, socially, politically, and scientifically. From Verne, to Wells, to Clarke, to Gibson, science fiction writers have been percipient foreseers of future technology.
I approach my writing as I approached a scientific research problem. I write about what might be based on what is known. The difference is that I take a leap into an arena where no amount of hypothesis testing will help me prove anything. A plague in a in a race of sentient reptilians has a basis in what we know about biochemistry: the cause and the resultant disease are, perhaps far-fetched, even humorous, but solidly based in medical science. But I don’t have to postulate totally new disease concepts for effective fiction. A metabolic disorder in dragon-like beings turns out to be a very common disorder on Earth, as does the existence of mange is a race of werewolves. These and more form a continuing subplot of my novel, The Galactic Circle Veterinary Service.
All science fiction uses current scientific knowledge as the launching pad to the future. What I hypothesize as medical conundrums in that future are conceivable based on what we know now. Even the alien life-forms I create must fit within a consistent biological scheme of the universe, or the edifice I have built crumbles. Those alien life-forms will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Bottom line: Science is the operative word in science fiction.