BWF: Real Science and Science Fiction

The standout panel for the festival was a meeting of science fiction authors and science communicators, discussing the impact the two have upon each other.

Are scientists influenced by science fiction? Of course! Was the resounding answer. How many desks at NASA, CERN and some of our other greatest scientific facilities would have a TARDIS, Klingon Bird of Prey or Tie-Fighter sitting on them? How many computer and mobile phone engineers would have been the early-day communicators used in Star Trek and William Gibson’s novels and dreamed about building their own?

Science fiction gives scientists a warrant to think big, says science journalist and non-fiction author Antony Fenell (sp).

But how much does writing science fiction rely on an understanding of and currency with scientific research? Not that much, say the authors.

Because science fiction is about social change.

A book about flying cars and hologrammatic gadgets might be interesting for a little while, but it is the people engaging with their environment that holds a reader.

In this post-capitalist society it may be difficult to see where we are headed. We have had religious, artistic, educational, industrial and economic revolutions. We have had world wars – are we ever going to see another one? It seems like the world is simply focused on economy, and even that isn’t working. What are we going to do – just keep upgrading out iPhones?

The speakers urged us to move on from the current phase science fiction is in of destruction and apocalypse and to look to what the next big social change will be. This makes for the most compelling material as both a writer and a reader.

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