But as someone who is both a reader and possible-maybe-someday future writer of sci-fi, I often find myself wondering whether other readers like a lot of science in their science fiction and how concerned other readers are with the scientific accuracy.
I've kind of been mulling over this post for a while, but I finally figured out how to explain my thoughts in actual words, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts too!
What is Sci-Fi?
Google defines science fiction as:
Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.
And if that’s not clear enough, Merriam-Webster defines it as:
Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.
It generally includes the following subgenres and topics:
– Space Opera
– Genetic Engineering
– Time Travel
And probably some more I don’t even know about.
My Preferences in Sci-Fi
Fun Fact about Kristen: the most advanced science class I ever took was one physical science class in college. I also took a college-level environmental science class in high school. That was all that was required, so that was all that I took. I also don’t spend my free time reading about or researching physics, outer space, chemistry, or any other technical things unless it’s applicable to my life or to something I’m writing. And that’s because science is just not something I’m interested in.
…Except that’s not entirely true. Because I’ve always been interested in psychology and sociology. And those are sciences too, even though I seem to forget that. I took, I believe, two psychology classes and four sociology classes in college even though it wasn’t my major. And sometimes I do end up reading about these things online just for the sole fact that it’s fascinating to me.
The way people think and feel and act is fascinating to me.
That’s why, when I read sci-fi, I gravitate toward dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, the ones that show the way people act when their society is a mess or their world is ripped out from under them, the ones that show people who normally wouldn’t associate banding together while struggling to get along, the ones that explore what people will do when they’re desperate and pushed to their limits.
That’s also why I sometimes gravitate toward genetic engineering and cyborg/android books, the ones that show people coming to terms with being different or handling the emotional trauma of being altered, the ones that show the rifts created in society when some people are genetically different or not really people at all, the ones that ask what it would be like for an unfeeling creature to suddenly have emotions, the ones that ask what it means to be human.
Yes, people and society reacting to bad situations, being pushed to their limits, etc. can be found in other genres, but sci-fi tends to really push characters to the extremes, and I like that.
So I don’t care for a whole bunch of technical science when I read science fiction. And I tend to easily accept any explanations for the technology, the genetics, etc. Quite frankly, I probably don’t know enough facts to pinpoint the inaccuracies, but mostly I just don’t care about that aspect. It’s nice to have an explanation that makes some modicum of sense to explain the situation, but I really don’t care if it’s scientifically feasible or perfectly accurate.
So I don’t read sci-fi for the physics, the space, the technology, the laser guns, the aliens, or even the action and adventure. I read it for the social, psychological, human aspect that it brings to the table—not because I feel books need to teach lessons, simply because that’s what sucks me in and makes me feel something, and, to me, the best books are the ones that make me feel.
*By the way, if you want a recommendation for a sci-fi series that does the social aspect really well, check out my review for The Bane by Keary Taylor!*