The science in science fiction is the Fantastic Friday Writers topic for today.
There's soft science -- society, culture, psychology, etc ... Which counts. Then there's the hard stuff -- astrophysics, physics, engineering, technology, chemistry, biology, mathematics, etc ...
How far does an author in the genre have to go? It depends on the subgenre of science fiction. Hard Sci-Fi is a subgenre and usually goes into depth about science. It's most popular in the UK and is usually written by Phds, engineers and the like.
Science sometimes inspires whole stories for me. Ie, The Tumbas, to be published in the Wandering Weeds anthology. I read an article on synthetic biology that sparked my imagination.
In a lot of my stories, however, as much as I know doesn't make it onto the page -- if you ever get to read my first novel, you'd have no idea how much time I put into researching a plausible solar system killing scenario that fit the time constraints I needed [thank goodness I found the observatory -- thanks fellow astronomizers]. It depends on the story. If science is central to the plot at some point, more of it will show up. However, I don't see the point of dumping it in just to show I did my homework if it doesn't fit.
Sci-fi fans usually like some sort of nod to science and tech somewhere in the manuscript. It doesn't need to be dwelled on if that's not your thing or the focus of the story, but a sci-fi writer does need to keep in mind his / her audience. Like every other genre. If you screw up the plausibility, you will lose your core audience. If you don't know or don't understand something, find someone to talk to about it who does know.
Books and other types of research are all well and good, but nothing beats speaking to an expert in the field.
When I was researching some ancient history, I randomly emailed a professer at a university. He was so helpful and put me in touch with a better expert. So, don't be afraid to reach out. Most professors and other experts love talking about their pet subject and will happily answer your questions.
Why? So, I can speak to my audience. I think it's a key ingredient in any work. Along with my pile of fiction, I read astrophysics books and other nonfiction on topics relating to my stories. For instance, I've done substantial research on DNA and anthropology, stealth technology, nanotubes and other strange molecular sciences, propulsion -- proposed and existing -- and more subjects than I remember.
Stephanie Meyer, whether you love or hate Twilight, wrote to her audience. Wrote to it like she's a 15 year old girl. That's how we find a market and success as writers. Know your audience and write for them and to them without apology.
See what other Fantastic Friday Wrtiers have to say: Alex J. Cavanaugh, Elizabeth Mueller, Anastasia V. Pergakis, J.D. Brown, Deirdre Eden Coppel and Jeffrey Beesler.
Love science or hate it, how do you cater to your audience in your writing?