Monday, May 3, 2010

SciFi Kaos: Because Not All of Us Aced High School Physics (or Even Walked Near the Classroom Where They Taught It)

Tip of the Day: Congratulations Angie for winning our Spring Cleaning contest and five new novels! And thanks to all of our new followers!

This week, I continue with SciFi Kaos, the tribulations and lessons learned on writing a science fiction novel. If you're thinking of writing a science fiction novel, there's probably a technology or scientific concept you find very interesting. But interesting doesn't equal easy to understand. So how do you teach yourself, let's say, how to launch a satellite if all you're confident that you understand about launching technology is "throwing things up in the air really hard"?

If only you had the equivalent of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Well, Don't Panic! Here are some research tips:

1. Children's Nonfiction. Hit the nonfiction stacks of your library. Huzzah for children's nonfiction writers, whose job is to make difficult scientific concepts easy to grasp.

2. DVDs. While you're at the library, search the catalog for DVDs. Programs like Nova and The Universe are designed to make science accessible to the average person, right?

3. Science Magazines. Discover Magazine is my favorite source. Their website is fantastic. Popular Science is a little more gadgety, but it's hard not to get story ideas looking at articles on helper robots washing dishes and serving cocktails. There are lots more, but which magazines will appeal to you has a lot to do with what you're trying to find out. Search for articles on the internet. Fortunately, science writers dig that internet thing.

4. Wikipedia. Really? Yes, really. Type in "satellite" and you get an article with hundreds of hyperlinks and 41 linked research references at the bottom. Yikes! Oh, and a link to called How Satellites Work.

5. NASA. Hey, they're supposed to spend some of my tax dollars explaining what they do. And actually, they do a very good job of it on their website.

Make a note of where you find things out. I use a Word document with links to Discover and NASA articles. I enter the title and author, the link, and a note like "Has list of names of Russian satellites." I'll need to be able to look them up when I have to spell them.

Now comes the part when you barrage your family with interesting "Did you know?" facts. Don't worry, they'll get you back someday when you least expect it.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

Children's non-fic is SO my friend when doing ANY kind of sciency/historical/geographical research! GREAT stuff.

Carmella Van Vleet said...

I write children's non-fiction and consulting other children's non-fic when researching has been my little secret for years!

Kate Fall said...

I wonder if the materials in the children's section get replaced more often, too. Science books go out of date soooo fast.

Christina Farley said...

Interesting! I'm so amazed at your researching skills. I love researching about history but I've never been a fan of science and math stuff. I really think I could use it though!

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