Thursday, April 29, 2010

A call to science

There was a time in American history--say, the 1940s & 50s--when Americans looked at science with love. We had the best engineering schools in the world. We took pride in our nuclear program and space race. And we consumed science fiction like a hungry man devours a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Times have changed.

You practically can not teach science in our public schools (at least in some states) and the numbers of math, science and engineering students falls a little every year. Science went from cool to the stuff of horror movies to something beneath the cultural radar. Science fiction, while still a popular genre, was first swallowed by the horror craze of the 80s and is now playing second fiddle to fantasy. When was the last time you looked in the YA department of your favorite bookstore and saw teenage girls snapping up SF novels? (As an aside, I feel certain this has a lot to do with the unsexiness of space suits. We need scantier space apparel, NASA, and we need it ASAP.)

We, as genre writers, have got step things up. We aren't to blame for Creationists running amok over the curriculum of the nation's schools--but we have obviously been slacking. Guys like Robert Heinlein made outer space cool. Even the extremely old school Jules Verne showed kids that science was the shit. We can do just as well. We can say "no" to sparkly vampires and evil wizards and give a little back to the genre that nurtured our culture to a new cultural era. We can write incredibly amazing, sexy SF novels.

The good news is that we've got a little help finding inspiration in our friend the blogosphere. If you haven't checked out the new Science in My Fiction blog, you're missing out. It's a great resource for real science you can use, digested by real writers who rock. So click on over and geek out. It's the least you can do.

I mean, if you're not too busy designing sexy new togs for NASA.


Headshot Heather said...

To be honest I have never really read any science fiction and I don't know where the best place would be to start. I would be most joyous if you could send me an email and point me in a direction of some good possibilities.

I do, however, agree with you 100% in that science is important and should not be something lost to the ages. Sexy space suits are a must!

Haemony said...

Too, the writers you mention (Heinlein, Verne, and others like them) actually had something to SAY in their science fiction, and people listened, and argued, and thought about those things. If we're going to "step it up," then we need to do it in a way that not only shows how awesome science is, but how it relates to us as people, what it does to us and for us. It all comes back to the question of what makes us human. /rant before it gets out of control lol

Wendy Wagner; said...

Heather--I'm going to think it over & send you a list of some of my favorites!

Haemony--I have to say I'm biased since I currently know most of my readers. I just automatically assume they know that literature is first and foremost about people!