David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

On SF Signal: Scientific Accuracy in Stories

SF Signal’s excellent Mind Meld column today asks a variety of science fiction authors whether we have an obligation to be scientifically accurate in our stories. Science Fiction QuarterlyOther respondants include: Alastair Reynolds, Chris Dolley, Marianne de Pierres, Alexis Glynn Latner, Nancy Kress, Karl Schroeder, Elizabeth Bear, and Adam Roberts. My answer, in part:

What is scientific accuracy anyway? Not only do scientists freely admit they don’t know everything, but they often speculate much the way that science fiction does. These days, talk of the metaverse, time travel, and alternate realities isn’t just geekspeak at an SF convention; it’s freely bandied about in respected scientific journals. I read a treatise not too long ago by a guy who put forth a rather convincing argument that we’re actually living in the Matrix…

So we have no obligation to be true to some static definition of scientific accuracy. That being said… black people have no obligation to avoid naming their kids Amos and Andy either. But it doesn’t hurt to have a little sensitivity about it, if only to avoid bringing up offensive and inaccurate stereotypes from the past.

Seeing it on the screen, I’m not so sure how confident I feel about the “Amos and Andy” portion of my response, or at least my wording of it. But it’s out there now, so nothing I can do about it. Go read my full answer on SF Signal.

Responses to the question of whether we have an obligation to scientific accuracy run from “no, absolutely not” (Bear) to “yes, if only to avoid pissing off your scientist reader” (Latner) to something I didn’t quite understand regarding Paul Feyerabend and anarchy in science (Roberts).

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