One of the things I have been most struck by in my journey to become a published (albeit self-published) science fiction writer is the amount of work it really takes. It’s not just writing down your daydreams. I can’t speak for romance writers, mystery writers or authors of other genres, but the amount of research required to write hard science fiction is as vast as the universe I write about. I’ve spent weeks studying particle physics, hours trading messages with astrophysicists, and I’ve even studied linguistics.
I’ve designed powered armor, launch systems, a Mars colony, an intergalactic government, and even dabbled in bio-engineering as I created a few aliens. Just last night I put the finishing touches on an agricultural system that will allow humanity to enter into trade agreements with over 700 species from across our arm of the galaxy. Keep in mind I did all this to just to get a single idea out of my head. That idea? What would happen if a true warrior from our time jumped a few centuries into the future?
Warrior’s Scar began the journey for me. I wrote it mostly to get the story out of my head. But before I could do that, I had to make it believable. Not only for me, but also for my readers. I’ve never been able to write “It happened”. I have to write “It happened because…”. That means I can’t say “The ship jump to beta Centauri.” I have to explain the technology that made that jump possible. This little bit of OCD puts me firmly in the realm of ‘hard science fiction’. Hard science fiction. Dammit. Now I have to study. Now I have to research quantum theory.
I’m a cowboy and a country boy at heart. The weekend before I moved to northern California I was shoveling horse shit and spreading hay for my horse. Astrophysics? Hardly. Now skinning a catfish? That was more my speed. Pull it out of the water, nail its head to a tree and peel the skin down its body. Dip the meat with some buttermilk and cornmeal, throw it in boiling lard until it floats easily, drop in some balls of cornbread mix, and you can bet your waistline that I’m an expert as you down the catfish and hush-puppies. But decades ago, at an age too young to understand its nuances, I read Dune. Then I was hooked. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne… You get the idea. Those were the stories and writers that I cut my science fiction teeth on.
Remember how I said I was a country boy? I could write an epic western without reading anything more than a map. I may do it someday. I suspect every writer has something they could write easily. Some topic about which they could finish a novel in a week. But for whatever reason, we don’t. We challenge ourselves. We find the story we have to study about. The story we spend three hours researching for every hour we write. We find the story that broadens our own horizons the same way we seek to broaden the horizons of our readers.