Bookish Musings: How Much Science Do You Like in Your Science Fiction?

 
 
The science fiction genre pretty much runs the gamut from high-tech, quantum physics, hard sci-fi to alien smut with no actual science whatsoever. I think it's safe to say it's a rather broad genre.

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:

– Dystopian
– Post-Apocalyptic
– Space Opera
– Aliens
– Zombies
– Cyborgs/Androids
– Genetic Engineering
– Steampunk
– Cyberpunk
– 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!*

 
 

Talk to me!

How much science do you like in your science fiction?
Do you like detailed explanations, or just the bare minimum?
Are you bothered by inaccuracies or how possible something is?
What types and subgenres of sci-fi do you like best?

 

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  1. sjhigbee

    As a reader and writer of science fiction, this is a hot issue for me, too. I enjoy the ‘softer’ side to science fiction as a non-scientist, but if I encounter a wonderful science-crammed book like Greg Egan’s Orthogonal trilogy, I’m quite happy to skim thorugh the techie stuff – after all scientists are also entitled to read fiction that ticks their boxes and I imagine all that physics is meat and drink to them. Why I was prepared to wade through that, was because the world and the aliens Egan produces were extraordinary, original and very readable. And this is often my problem with harder sci fi – it is often at the expense of believable characters I can care about and once that happens, I find it very hard to bond with a story. I will give authors a free pass over Faster Than Lightspeed travel through space – but I do get irritated if there are massive explosions in space, or huge space cruisers slogging through a planet’s atmosphere. At the least, the technology has to be believably workable, even if we aren’t privy to exactly how. My favourite sorts of sci fi are space opera and books that explore the interface between humanity and technology – Lois McMaster Bujold’s uterine replicator’s impact on a closed society, for instance. Happily, this tends to span a lot of the various sub-genres:). But when I get hold of an engrossing science fiction tale told well – it makes my soul sing…

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve never read any books that were so technical I had to skim. I’ve read some that had some genetics stuff that I didn’t entirely understand, but I didn’t mind that. I definitely agree though that if someone wants to put a bunch of science in their novel, that’s definitely their prerogative! Some people love hard sci-fi. But it wouldn’t be my kind of book if the characters were skimped on.

      I suppose I also get irritated if there are huge oversights. But that’s interesting that your favorite type of sci-fi is the kind that shows human-technology interaction. I’ve never really thought about that.

  2. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    I’ve typically only seen sci-fi as dystopia and space. I like the IDEA of sci-fi and robots finding their humanity…but I can’t take all of the jargon. I think I’m thE opposite of you, I want the action and adventure. :p

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve actually only read a few books that involved space, so that tends to not be my thing. As for the robot thing, I’ve never noticed a whole lot of jargon in the books I’ve read. Maybe you just chose complicated books? Lol. But yeah, I guess we are a bit opposite on this :-P

  3. Daniela Ark

    I find hard to define how much sci-fi I like. It is the same with fantasy.( I’m writing a guest post for Kimba in May “How much Fantasy is too much fantasy”). I think it is all about the world that is built. I don’t like to go down too deep into the rabbit hole. I like to keep at least one toe ground on earth or earthlike settings and characters. That’s why, like you, I tend to stay with Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic because they are usually driven by human behavior and choices when facing challenging circumstances . Like you, I’m not a big fan of time travel either. :) [I read your comment at Greg’s :) ]
    Since I do spend lots of time reading about science or in science fairs I do tend to question the feasibility of the science in books and that’s is probably why I don’t like stories that are waaay too speculative.
    Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Actually yeah, I agree that I think I also like to keep one toe on the ground. That’s why I prefer urban fantasy over high fantasy and probably why I don’t read a lot of space opera type sci-fi. I guess it’s more relatable and more focused on the human aspect, not just the action. And lol, yeah, my thoughts on time travel are rather passionate.

      Hmmm, see, one of the problems I’m having with my book is that it involves a genetic mutation, and I’ve spent hours upon hours researching the human body, blood, genetics, chromosomes, etc., but there is no way to make it TRULY realistic since it’s not actually possible. So I’m stuck trying to figure out how explain it, how much to explain, how to make it as real as possible. Why did my brain have to go and come up with such a difficult idea? Lol.

        1. Kristen Burns

          That is cool :-) Though I have to admit I’m tired of all the research, especially since I don’t understand half of it, haha. And all the times I’ve researched things like blood transfusions, I’ve only been able to read for a couple minutes at a time because I get too freaked out. Seriously, my brain latched onto a terrible story idea lol.

  4. Annika @ Hiding Books

    This is such an interesting post! I don’t read as much sci-fi as I’d like to/should, but I kind of agree with you – I love reading about post-apocalyptic/dystopian settings, especially if I get to see society breaking down – it freaks me out. It’s awesome. I’m picky about time travel because… The explanation does need to kind of make sense to me. Except if it’s a TARDIS, and then all bets are off.

    I’m a little bit picky about scientific explanations. I can usually suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy a story – and I don’t want writers to be weighed down by making things pseudo-factual. But… I’ve studied DNA quite a bit (there’s applications in archaeology too), and if DNA is handled in a way that doesn’t make sense to me I get annoyed. Most other things are okay, I’m just… weird about DNA? haha

    Detailed explanations weigh down the narrative too much, I think. Bare bones, enough to make it understandable, and that’s good enough for me :)

    Seriously, this is such a lovely post, Kristen!

    Annika @ Hiding Books recently posted: The Get to Know Me Tag

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t think there’s any amount of any genre you *should* read, so it makes sense if it’s just not your usual thing. But yes, dystopian/post-apoc is the best type of sci-fi for me too :-D I generally avoid time travel because there are usually too many things that don’t make sense.

      What you said about DNA though, that’s the thing, I feel like people who do have knowledge or expertise in a certain field of science care more about everything in the story being accurate. And that makes sense because, when I read about a topic I know about, I also get annoyed if it’s full of inaccuracies. But in sci-fi that’s a difficult thing since the whole point of it to explore things that aren’t yet possible or maybe aren’t quite possible, you know? It’s almost unfair that anything involving space, genetics, etc. is automatically classed as sci-fi rather than having the option to be fantasy. What if I just want to explore the idea of what would happen to people/society if XYZ happened, regardless of whether it’s scientifically feasible or not?

      Just enough to provide an explanation without too much detail is also what I like :-) And thanks! Glad you like the post!

      1. Annika @ Hiding Books

        Yeah, I think time travel is easier for me to handle in a fantasy context – like if it’s just magic that explains it, then I’m fine with it!

        It’s definitely not just sci-fi where inaccuracies can be a bit hit-and-miss… If characters talk about say, evolution, or disease processes, or anything I’m really interested in, and it’s done so they seem smart, but it’s clumsy or not entirely correct? So annoying haha

        That’s true – it’s kinda unfair. It would be nicer if you didn’t have to care about things being feasible, scientifically. This is so tricky!

        Annika @ Hiding Books recently posted: SHTUM by Jem Lester

        1. Kristen Burns

          Even if it’s magic, I just can’t handle the way it’s done most of the time with all the things that don’t make sense. If someone traveling to the past changes something in the present or future, I’m out lol, because I don’t feel like that is possible or makes sense.

          Oh, it’s definitely not just science that’s annoying when there are inaccuracies. If a character were talking about gymnastics and got something wrong, I’d be annoyed lol. But my point about it being tricky with sci-fi is that the whole point of sci-fi is to kind of explore things that aren’t quite real, you know? So yeah, I was saying to Greg, there should be a genre that’s, like, in between sci-fi and fantasy, like science fantasy. Which might be speculative fiction? But I’m not quite sure what that genre is lol.

  5. Paula Berinstein

    Great topic, Kristen! I’ve always believed that story is the most important thing. Story comprises characters and situations. The world is essential, but it’s much less critical to me than the actors in it. So I agree with you, even though I like Star Trek and Star Wars and Isaac Asimov’s worlds and all that stuff.

    In my own books I fudge like crazy when it comes to the science. I expect readers to suspend their disbelief and just get into the story. Those who can’t will probably prefer Kim Stanley Robinson and other authors who try to make their science completely realistic, but I don’t want to write like that. I’d rather make up fun things and gloss over stuff that’s too complicated.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It’s great to have an author’s perspective on this as well as readers’ perspectives :-) I agree that the story and the characters are more important than the rest.

      And you have a good point about how any readers who can’t suspend their disbelief for your books would be better suited to other authors because I guess the key is that everyone has different taste. So authors who write hard sci-fi with lots of facts and only realistic, possible things will have people to read them, but authors who explore ideas that aren’t actually possible and make things up will also have people to read them.

  6. AngelErin

    Great question! For me I like the bare minimum, but I do want an explanation for all the science stuff. I just don’t want it to be too bogged down and laymens terms are best. Like The Martian for me was the worst because it was too full of science terms. I’m probably the only one who hates that book though.

    1. Kristen Burns

      So you’re like me :-D I also like to have an explanation, but I prefer the bare minimum. I haven’t read The Martian, but I’ve heard it has lots of science. I tend to stay away from books when I see in the reviews that there’s a lot of in-depth science.

  7. Tiffany

    I like science in my science fiction, but only if it’s necessary, and doesn’t read like a textbook (i.e. Jurassic Park). However, if it’s used I want it to be accurate (The Martian). Though the plot is more important. I also like action in my sci-fi, so if it’s all science, then I’m bored.

  8. Greg

    I’m not usually hung up on scientific accuracy. I like dystopian/ cyberpunk the best, near future stuff with implants and androids and futuristic cities. I don’t care if everything is scientifically accurate lol. Post apocalyptic is fun because the world in ruins is, well, fun. I like the sense of wonder, the adventure, the cool concepts- the human drama just set in a futuristic setting.

    The meaning of being human is fascinating and I think that’s why I like cyberpunk/ android stuff. Cyberpunk tends to look at the meaning of humanity in a dystopian setting and I like that. I actually love cyberpunk but the genre is very hit or miss so maybe I just like a certain kind of cyberpunk lol.

    I also think of some scifi as space fantasy. A galactic setting where one can experience new environments. Like Star Wars for example. They use “hyperspace” to get around. I don’t need to know how it works. I’m more interested in the fact that can explore the galaxy! That to me is more interesting than hard scifi and all the limitations.

    Greg recently posted: The 100 3x10

    1. Kristen Burns

      So we agree on what we like! I really do want to try some more cyberpunk I think, ever since reading Artificial. Androids + dystopia + making me think is a good combo.

      I like that term, space fantasy. As I was saying to someone else, it’s actually really unfair that fantasy authors can make up whatever they want, but as soon as something involves genetics or space or technology it automatically gets classified as science fiction, and then people get up in a tizzy about it when thinks aren’t scientifically accurate. But what if someone just wants to explore an idea, like *what would happen if genetics worked like this*, regardless of whether it’s actually possible or not? There should be a science fantasy genre or something. I feel like, is that what speculative fiction? That term just seems so rarely used that I don’t even know what it means.

      1. Greg

        Exactly. Space fantasy tells you okay this is futuristic or whatever but it’s not necessarily limited by what science can explain right now. Maybe that’s what spec fic is- meant to cover everything. But yeah I don’t really know. I like space fantasy because that’s pretty much what I read if it’s not dystopia/ cyberpunk. Hard science fiction just isn’t expansive enough to cover galactic civilizations or whatever because we can’t do that yet. So I guess that’s a long way of saying- you’re right. We need a science fantasy tag or something. :)

        Greg recently posted: Bookcover Spotlight #44

        1. Kristen Burns

          Yeah I’m just not into hard sci-fi. As for space fantasy, the only space books I ever read aren’t really all that space-y. They’re more just normal kind of stuff or dystopian or fantasy, etc., but set on another planet lol. But still, even that isn’t something realistic that we’re capable of at this point, so yeah. I say we start a science fantasy movement!

  9. Nicola

    I tend to read sci-fi more for the sociological/cultural explorations than the scientific what-ifs, so rather than expecting the nitty-gritty of the science and tech to be 100% accurate, I look for a general veneer of plausibility within our current frame of reference (with the exception of Doctor Who, which just revels in absurdity), or at least within my understanding of the subject matter. What this does mean is I have higher standards for computer science than I do chemistry; I haven’t studied chem since high school, but I’m a software developer and I work with computers every day.

    I suppose you could say I want my sci-fi to be just scientific enough to allow suspension of disbelief. I read sci-fi for the people and cultures rather than the science, so I’d rather read a novel about the social implications of a sapient computer than one about the science that made it possible, but if the science is just plain wrong I find it hard to suspend disbelief.

    Nicola recently posted: Tropes I Love and Hate

    1. Kristen Burns

      So you’re like me :-) It seems though, and makes sense, that everyone is more picky about accuracy when it’s something they actually know about.

      I can understand why you’d find it hard to suspend disbelief if the science was all wrong. But what if, for example, the author didn’t even explain the science behind it? What if they were like, “Here’s a sapient computer, enjoy”? Sometimes I wonder if it’s better to include as little description of the science as possible in books because, the deeper you go, the more it’s gonna fall apart if it’s something that just isn’t possible.

      1. Nicola

        I think I agree. If the story’s not about the science, sometimes it’s better to just not try to explain it at all. This can backfire if it just makes things confusing, but when the story is about the cultural ramifications and the MC doesn’t understand how it works it’s generally better than trying to explain and alienating the readers.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Yeah, that’s another thing. Sometimes the protagonist might not know all the science behind everything. I mean, does every human being currently on earth know exactly how their bodies work, all the genetics and systems and functions of organs, etc.? Or does every person who owns technology actually understand how it works? It makes sense for a protag not to know, but sometimes we just expect certain things from books, I guess.

  10. Ashley G.

    This is a really neat discussion. I’ve recently been reading more sci-fi and I normally tend to read it for the same reasons. I like the psychological aspects. As well as the adventure and action too. I don’t mind some science because I think it lends a hand to the world building and I love good world building. But I don’t mind either way. Because if there’s not a whole lot of accurate science, then it focuses more on the story. But if there is real science in the book, then I get to learn something and I enjoy learning about science from time to to time.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s a good point about learning something if there’s a lot of science. I like learning things from books too. I guess I don’t mind if the science is light enough that I can still understand it, but sometimes it’s just too much. And if I don’t understand it, I’m not learning, you know? But I agree that *some* science can make the book better.

  11. Lola

    It’s like this topic is made for me! While I only started reading sci-fi a few years ago I have very strong opinions about the genre. I strongly dislike time travel, but will read most other sci-fi genres. I don’t really mind the level of science, but what is important to me is that it makes sense. What you call alien smut is okay, but I still want the science to make sense and that’s often less the focus of those books. It’s more about the romance and while I like that, I always find it a bit disappointing when the science falls flat then or doesn’t make sense. I have read a few very science heavy books, the one that comes to mind is Partials by Dan Wells. I could still follow it, but barely at times, it sure got complicated in parts. It was very well thought out though and I loved that part, even though it got a bit too much at times.

    The most advanced science class I took was in class 4 of high school, before we had to choose a direction and I dropped science and biology. And focused on geography, history, economy and art instead. Having said that I have done an university degree and I feel like what you really learn there is critical thinking and I still like to think I have a reasonable sense of what is possible and what not and what science can do. I studied psychology, so you can say I know a lot about that science. And guess why I studied that? To quote you “The way people think and feel and act is fascinating to me.” yes that is me exactly. I find it fascinating to know why people do or act a certain way and while I don’t do a lot with my psychology degree anymore it is part of how I think and I still find it fascinating.

    Then again I don’t care as much for dystopia. Yes it’s interesting, but I would much rather see a character with shades of grey and show me what it takes to push them over the edge, how far they will go. One reason why I love Annakin his character in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it’s just fascinating to see him change and do all the wrong things for all the right reasons. Or have you seen Star Trek Deep Space 9 there this character Garek that has such a weird moral compass, he basically does some bad/ evil things and doesn’t feel remorse as he knows it was the best way. And he’s still a good character mostly. He’s such a fascinating character. Okay i feel like I am drifting a bit off topic here, lol. But dystopia’s are usually too bleak for me somehow. It also depends on the exact dystopia book a bit.

    And that last point is where we’re going to disagree, the science has to make sense for me. Or I have to sorta accept it isn’t possible or that’s the rules of that world. But I am pretty unforgiving towards world building that doesn’t make sense. Having said that I can still really enjoy a book where the world building or science doesn’t make sense, I can even give it a 5 star if the rest makes up for it, but most likely that science that doesn’t make sense part will always bug me.

    So while I read sci-fi for the human and psychological aspects I also want the world building and the science to make sense. I don’t want the rules or science to conflict with what we know right now or if they give a reason it better makes sense somehow. I can still enjoy books that don’t have that, I simply won’t enjoy that part.

    For example of both I really like SJ Pajonas her Nogiku series and I don’t think there was any piece of science there that didn’t sound plausible, though the focus was on the characters the science works. Then you have Siobhan Davis her True Calling and Saven series which is very light on the science and there are some parts of the science that bother me, but I still very much enjoy both of those series. She writes the character aspect and the drama part very well and her books are enjoyable enough for me to overlook that the science doesn’t always makes sense. And I think that’s long enough for my comment as I almost wrote a whole post here. It’s just one of those topics I can talk about very long.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Did you see Greg’s post on time travel?! And did you see my comment? Lol because I was immediately all “NO TIME TRAVEL!” I strongly dislike it too.

      As for dystopia, there’s some that focuses more on the whole big problem with society, but there is some that really keeps the focus on the characters and pushing them to their limits, even while the whole society thing is going on. But I suppose that’s true of all genres, that some have a wider or narrower focus than others. I’ve not seen Star Trek, but that actually does sound like an interesting character. I’m not sure I’ve ever read about a character doing bad/evil things but still being a good character.

      But yeah, I guess we do disagree some on the accuracy part. As I’ve mentioned in a couple other comments, I just like when authors explore different ideas, the whole, “what would happen if…” thing. So it doesn’t seem fair to me that just because something has to do with genetics or technology or whatever that it has to be completely accurate while fantasy authors get to make up whatever they want without worrying about the plausibility. But something just makes no sense whatsoever, then yeah, that would bother me too. So there still needs to be a balance. And like you said, when the story and characters and the book overall is good enough, I tend to overlook quite a bit that might annoy me in other books.

      Thanks for your in depth comment :-) I’m genuinely interested to know people’s thoughts on this, especially since it could help with my own writing!

      1. Lola

        I just checked his post and your comment and yup that basically sums up my thoughts about time travel as well. It just doesn’t make sense.

        I’ve read some dystopia books I really enjoyed and I like the focus on society, but I don’t like the whole bleak thing and sometimes it just goes into a direction I don’t like. It’s just not my favourite genre anymore, but there are some really good ones in the genre too.

        I don’t want to spoil what he does for you in case you want to watch the Star Trek DS9 series, but even though he is a side character I think he’s one of the most interesting characters in the series. And I like his character even though he does some questionable things.

        I guess I just can’t suspend my disbelief if they go too far off with the science. It really depends on how exactly the science works and what doesn’t make sense, so it’s hard to explain without going in too much depth or giving exact examples.
        And as it is science fiction it is still speculation, but if something we now know to be impossible suddenly is possible that bugs me. If you want something impossible call it fantasy and explain it through magic or something like that.

        I guess it’s a fine line between making things up and keeping it plausible and going too far that i can’t suspend my disbelief. And then there are other factors that influence my enjoyment as well, so I can still enjoy a book when things don’t make sense.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Sometimes things do go too far and just become nonsensical. So I’m sure there have been times when the science inaccuracies pushed my suspension of disbelief too far.

          But, for example, the book I’ve been trying to work on (re: figure out the details of before I really start writing) involves a genetic mutation has caused people to have a different substance in their veins, not blood, that has certain benefits over blood and whatnot. But it’s not scientifically possible because blood has too many different functions and is too specific in its makeup, which is why I have wracked my brain for some way to make it fantasy instead of sci-fi, but there just is no way to do that and preserve the story. But I fear people will complain about the inaccuracy of the science. (Also, Daniela is going to kill me if she sees this comment because she’s always trying to get me to talk about my book lol.) Then again, I always say that there will always be people who like whatever someone writes since we all have different tastes, just like some people like the science accurate, and other people, like me, don’t really care.

          1. Lola

            I guess it really depends on the exact science and how it is explained.

            I also agree that there always be people who will and won’t like a book. I would say try and make it as scientific accurate as you can, but if something is necessary for the story and you can’t tell the story without that aspect I think it’s worth keeping it in. And I think most people are on the end of the “don’t mind scientific inaccuracies spectrum”.

            It does make me curious though and I wonder how that genetic mutation is caused and what benefits those people have. You don’t really mention your book often, so I sometimes forget you’re also a writer. I hope things are going well with your book/ story :).

            1. Kristen Burns

              Yeah, I always feel the story comes first. I’ve done so much research in my attempt to make the science make as much sense as possible, but I think I’ll try to keep the explanations to a minimum since the deeper the science goes, the more it falls apart.

              Honestly at this point I think the term “idea-ponderer/procrastinator” is a better term for me than writer lol, but thank you :-)

  12. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    Oh, this is such a great question, Kristen! I love, love, love reading sci-fi, and it can have any kind of science included. It has to sound kind of plausible, though, even if it is completely fantastical and set in the future. If actual science is used, I think it should be used correctly, though, like if there is something with particle acceleration and dark matter, it shouldn’t be so out there that checking the CERN web-site would seem like fiction next to it… Does that make sense? I know that I’m reading fiction, but if ‘real’ science is being included, I enjoy it more if it is correct.
    Both Dystopians and post-apocalyptic novels include a lot of science, both psychology and hard science, and I find it fascinating! Especially if there has been a virus or a microbe going amok in the world, and not that many people have survived. Then – immunization shouldn’t be so far out there that even I – a complete lay-person – realize that that’s not at all how viruses work…

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Review: Falling for His Duchess – Donna Cummings

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, it does have to make some sort of sense for me, but it just doesn’t have to really be possible, if that makes sense. But if a book is using actual science that’s currently possible, not just exploring a what-if kind of idea, then yeah, it should definitely be accurate. I never really considered that before.

      That’s true, post-apoc especially often involves viruses, but I’ve yet to read one of those that actually made scientific sense lol. But honestly, I get far more aggravated by characters reacting to things stupidly than inaccurate science.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Same for me to the character thing! I have that book on my TBR, but it’s one of those that I just kinda haven’t gotten around to yet and am not sure I will lol because, you know, TBRs be crazy.

  13. Lee @ Rally the Readers

    This topic really struck a chord with me! The sci-fi books that I’ve read that didn’t work for me were because they got really, really technical with the scientific explanations. I felt like I needed a separate reference book to understand what was going on, lol. Because of those reading experiences, I tend to shy away from the genre, unless I know from other bloggers’ reviews that a particular sci-fi book doesn’t delve overly deep into the details.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book that had too much technical science. I’ve read some dystopian/post-apoc and even the occasional fantasy that had some explanations of genetics, and I didn’t always understand all of it, but it was never so bad that I couldn’t process it enough to get the gist and keep reading. But I guess I purposely avoid highly technical books, especially since I stick more to the types of sci-fi that are about characters and relationships. I do recall considering one book about which the reviews all talked about the in-depth space, black hole, scientific stuff, but I got scared off lol. So I get you, but there are definitely lots out there that don’t have technical stuff in them :-)

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  16. Heather

    The only sci fi book I’ve read that I thought got too technical was The Three Body Problem. All the characters were theoretical physicists and their discussions and explanations hurt my brain sometimes.
    If you are going to have science though it needs to be correct. It would really bother me if the science was wrong in a book I was reading.

  17. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    I love science. When I was in high school, my senior year, I needed one civics class to graduate, but they wouldn’t let me come and take the one class and leave. They made me take a full day of classes, I filled it with advanced math and science. Yes, I’m that nerd. I’m okay with that. I took Advance Chemistry, Genetics and Advanced Statistics as electives. I also took psychology. Like you said, I like to understand how people think. I would’ve taken sociology too, but they didn’t offer it that semester.

    As for reading sci-fi, I do read a ton of it. I love dystopians, for the exact reasons you mention. I love to see how people react to that end of the world situation. I think zombies fall into this category too. I’ve not read a ton of alien or time travel, but I’ve read some. I enjoy them when they’re written well. It has more to do with how much I enjoy the characters.

    The most technical sci-fi book I’ve read is The Martian. It has a lot of tech stuff in it, but the way it is portrayed with humor and a great character, I never felt overwhelmed by the tech. I never had any idea if the science was correct, but the way they explained it, it sounded logical. I’ve heard that several engineers have confirmed that with luck, what Mark Watney does on Mars is possible, but there would be a lot of luck involved. It made for a great story.

    Great topic.

    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted: Hounded Audiobook by Kevin Hearne (REVIEW by Melanie)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think it’s great that you’re that nerd! Everyone has different passions, so I’m glad you used your opportunity to take those classes. (Though it sucks that they made you take a full schedule just for one class.)

      I consider zombies to fall under post-apoc, so I agree they fall under the people-reacting-to-the-end-of-the-world thing. As for time travel, I mostly avoid it, and I’ve only read one alien book which was actually a post-apoc book since it was alien invasion on the earth. I agree though that it always has more to do with the characters themselves than the situation.

      I haven’t read The Martian, and I can’t say I really want to. Doesn’t seem like my kind of thing, and the technical stuff turns me off from it even more. But I’m glad the science didn’t overwhelm you and that you enjoyed it :-)

      Thanks!

  18. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I think I am the EXACT same kind of sci-fi reader that you are. I love all the types of books you described – definitely more into the social/psychological ramifications of sci-fi. And, like you, I want some scientific explanation to back up certain claims, but I’m certainly not checking out accuracy – if the author explains it in a way that makes sense to me, I’m good. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: A Completely Useless (but kind of fun) Bookish Infographic

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, someone who gets me! It seems like a lot of people care a lot about the accuracy, but I’m with you that as long as it’s explained in a way that makes some general sense, it works for me.

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  20. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    YES, you and I are science fiction twins, because this is exactly how I feel about it! I love the humanity in dealing with the science stuff, but not the science itself. Tell me whatever I need to know to make the world sound legit, and let’s move along. If we get into physics or something, I am tagging out! If the world can’t be explained without my eyes glazing over, then it is not a world I am investing in. LOVE this post!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Cover Reveal & Giveaway | Crystal Crowned by Elise Kova

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  22. Bookworm Brandee

    I like my sci-fi the same way, Kristen. I much prefer watching how people react, behave, grow and change than wondering if the scientific elements are accurate. I don’t mind if the science is there but it will never be the element I’m looking for. Great post, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay someone else who likes sci-fi the same way as me! Like you, I like to at least have an explanation, and I don’t mind a bit of science, but I just accept it and move on since it’s not my focus. Thanks!

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