IWSG: Research Rant

InsecureWritersSupportGroupToday’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. It’s a way for insecure writers like myself give each other advice and encouragement. Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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A few years ago, I was at a party with some fellow writers. A certain someone who wrote historical fiction made a comment about how important it is for writers to do their research, to make sure they get all their facts straight, “unless you write science fiction, of course,” he added with slight nod toward me.

I’ve heard this assumption before, and I’ve heard it since. I’ve heard it in writing seminars, I’ve read it on blogs, and I’ve encountered it in many casual conversations with other writers. Writers must do their research, but fantasy and science fiction writers get a pass. After all, they write about stuff that’s totally made up!

I mean, fantasy writers obviously have no need for research. They don’t need to know about different kinds of swords or armor. They certainly don’t need to know anything about farming, horseback riding, or medieval architecture, and I can’t think of any reason why they’d need to study military strategy. No, fantasy writers have it easy. No research required whatsoever.

As for science fiction writers like myself, why we have it even easier! Outer space is a land of pure imagination. Space travel requires zero understanding of Newton’s laws. As a Sci-Fi writer, I will never… not even once… need to know the difference between hydrogen and helium, between dark matter and dark energy, or between special and general relativity. Nope. Science fiction is 100% research free. It’s a good thing too because that relativity stuff is complicated. Have you seen all the math involved?

This historical fiction guy went on to explain that “world building” is what fantasy and science fiction writers do instead of research. “Listen, jerk,” I said, “that’s something I do on top of my research, not instead of it.” Okay, I didn’t actually have the nerve to say that, but I wanted to. I really wanted to.

So please, fellow writers, please do not belittle us fantasy and science fiction authors. We have to do research just as much as anyone else.

End rant.

12 Responses to IWSG: Research Rant

  1. Vee dC says:

    Hmm…and I thought romance writers were the only ones to get grief from “serious writers.” Thanks for this! Visiting from IWSG.

    Like

  2. rosieoliver says:

    Totally agree about SF writers needing to do extra work on top of what other genre and literary writers so. Good on you for speaking up!

    Like

  3. Aloha Jim,

    That is a classic post!

    Well said, and you should keep it handy and repost say, once a year or so 🙂

    Happy research-filled writing 🙂

    Like

  4. jennienzor says:

    I totally agree. Every book I’ve written, whether it’s fantasy or historical or contemporary (or a combination) has required research. There’s always something I don’t know. .

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    • James Pailly says:

      I think that’s the key. Writers are only human, and there’s lots of stuff we don’t know. Whatever you’re writing, you’re going to have to do some fact checking at the very least.

      Like

  5. Preach. Good world building is a complex logical puzzle, where you have to make sure everything is consistent and internally believable. I’m having a hell of a time trying to work out the timeline for the backstory of my book, and its only just barely science fiction!

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  6. emaginette says:

    Too funny. I wrote a short about mining out in the asteroid field. My head is still spinning. Thank the skies above I didn’t have to do any research. So what do you call what I did? hehehe

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    Like

  7. […] started this blog as a way to force myself, as a science fiction writer, to do the kind of research that I and so many other aspiring Sci-Fi authors neglect to do. I’ve learned a lot since Planet […]

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