Today I have on fellow International Thriller Writers Debut Author, Amy Rogers, talking about science in fiction. Amy, Harvard-educated and holding an M.D. and a Ph.D., writes thrilling science-themed novels that pose frightening what if? questions. In addition to writing her own fiction and medical nonfiction, Amy reads every science- or medical-themed thriller she can and reviews these books at her website ScienceThrillers.
Her debut science thriller, PETROPLAGUE, poses the question: What if all the gas in LA suddenly turned into vinegar? Carmageddon doesn’t begin to describe it.
On Science in Fiction
by Amy Rogers
I’m a scientist and a writer. I write fictional science. Sci with fi. Science-y fiction. Science thrillers (SciThri). Fiction with science.
I’ve heard all these terms used by writers working in this genre, a genre that was launched by Michael Crichton with THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN back in 1969. What I don’t want to call my work is science fiction. SciFi is a marvelous, diverse genre with a great history but the label conjures up images of space and time travel, futuristic extrapolations, and dystopian visions.
I don’t write about possible futures. I write about possible presents. My science thrillers are grounded in the present, in reality, in real science. The stories could happen tomorrow; they just haven’t happened yet. For example, my debut novel PETROPLAGUE presents a disaster scenario based on science so realistic you practically need a PhD to figure out where I start making things up. In PETROPLAGUE, bacteria that “eat” petroleum contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city.
Such bacteria montauk-monster.com/pharmacy/prednisone exist in real life. So do the kinds of people whose actions inadvertently lead to the release of these genetically-altered microbes into the environment (a UCLA graduate student, an environmental extremist, a Peak Oil survivalist). By keeping the plot elements real—including the science—I strive to create stories that readers will think about long after the last page is turned
Science is a rich vein of material to mine for thrillers. I’ve been studying, doing, or teaching science my whole life. Combining that knowledge and experience with fiction writing gives me a unique opportunity to get people thinking about science—and learning a little bit too. People read thrillers to be entertained. If they want to information about the oxygen requirements of hydrocarbonclastic bacteria, they’ll pick up a work of nonfiction. But by incorporating real science into good fiction, I can plant seeds of scientific literacy and maybe encourage readers to learn more. (At the end of my book, I provide “behind the scenes” technical information which does just that.)
Page-turning plots and fidelity to accurate science: that’s what SciThri is all about. Interested? Visit ScienceThrillers.com to learn more about PETROPLAGUE and over 75 other science- or medical-themed thrillers by writers you know and writers you’ll be glad you discovered.
Amy Rogers, MD/PhD, is a writer, scientist, educator, and critic. She is a member of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Class 2011-2012. To connect with Amy visit ScienceThrillers.com, subscribe to the ScienceThrillers quarterly e-newsletter, follow @ScienceThriller on twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.