So another post on realism, but this one focusing more on science. Starships and other scifi stuff should be as realistic as possible, but not everyone has background in the science part. Then it comes down to making it feel realistic.
Even hard science can feel unrealistic. Just ask a calculus student. So take some care in how you present it. One method is going by what is trending. This is great in the now, but sucks even a mere year down the road. The timeless approach is better…and that, comes down to talent. Or hard work and experience. Sorry, no tip here.
And now the bread and butter of this post. Research.
I was editing, and doing the final run through one of my novels and I caught something. A radio transmission from Mars to Earth that took 4 minutes. At first it could work, right? If both planets are on the same side of the Sun, and we did have a close fly-by in May 2016 which would cut the signal travel time to about 5 minutes.
But then I look at when the storyline was taking place. You can see where this is going. It wasn’t May. It was November, so basically a full 6 months later. That signal travel time of 5 minutes is so out the window. So I’m not an astronomer but I did a rough estimate of the distance between the two planets. Drew circles representing the circular orbits, calculated how far each planet would travel in 6 moths (in terms of proportions of a whole, for Earth 1/2, for Mars about 1/4 very roughly) then do a Pythagoras and you get the distance. Divide by c, speed of light and bam. You get the time.
This applies to all the little details. If you don’t know, find out. We live in the digital age where info is out there aplenty. There’s no excuse for inventing stuff. Sure a mistake or two is ok when you have hundreds of details but you get my drift.
Not only does science benefit, but anything. Music, if you’re going to write about a composer, make sure you know some music theory. If it’s about a mechanic, make sure you get part names right, or symptoms. (My biggest beef with that, is when in a movie you see a car trying to start, and they always say “The started is busted” even though the car is cranking over just fine. NO! Its either spark or fuel, not starter)
And if all else fails, ask. I have been around the world, have had many careers and have a handful of degrees, but as huge as my ego is (and its expanding faster than the universe!) I am never ashamed of asking a question and stating that I don’t know. I don’t know is the first step to learning, where as I know often is the roadblock.
So, do I know what I’m talking about? I think so, but if I’m wrong, let me know in comments. I am never tired of learning. The day I stop, is the day I’m worm food.
Signed, Somebody that obsesses over small details and cant shut up about math