What’s that, Mr. Spell-Checker? You say I’ve misspelled science?
I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Mr. Spell-Checker. My letter choice was entirely intentional.
I’m on a crusade. A sciency fiction crusade.
Sciency fiction is not science fiction. Sciency fiction is not at all speculative. It is not set in the future. Sciency fiction depicts actual current (or current for the time if historical) science. Although the characters and situations can be fictional, the science is not.
I made up the term, I admit, and Google is on my spell-checker’s team, misdirecting my searches every time. I have an ally across the pond in Tom Webb, who independently proposed the term for grown-up books.
“To me, science fiction is fiction infused with science. … I quite like fiction that conveys some understanding about the workings of the universe.”
Kurtis is a fiction lover to whom science is an added bonus. He gains an appreciation of science through novels.
Then there are those who start out loving science. You know the kids—obsessed with dinosaurs, or rocks, or rockets. They love nonfiction. They eat up books like Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Novels are not their thing, and they only read them when assigned in school–and then grudgingly.
One day, one of these kids—my son, actually–got a look at The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It’s a novel set at Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb. The book is populated by scientists. Dewey, the young protagonist is smart and inquisitive, with a definite sciency sensibility. My son gobbled up this book and its sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, in five days. But he told me it got boring near the end. Why? Because the science aspect was downplayed and the focus was on Dewey’s emotional journey.
That observation was a revelation for me. While the emotional journey of the protagonist was compelling, it wasn’t enough for him. He needed more than emotion to hold his interest. I stocked our bookshelves with more sciency novels, and then steampunk and science fiction and fantasy. Now he asks me to get novels for him from the library.
My son is a science lover who learned to appreciate narrative fiction through sciency fiction.
Good sciency fiction combines a compelling story with interesting science, and it can serve is a bridge between science and fiction. Got a student who only reads nonfiction about science? Got a student who doesn’t care for science class, but loves a good story?
Give them both some sciency fiction.
Where to start? Here’s a list.
Kurtis included some great titles in his post, including
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
He also included some more speculative titles in his list and mentions Isaac Asimov several times.
“The paragon for me will always be Isaac Asimov, a knowledgeable science-minded author. Asimov made his work true to science the way a historical novelist would be true to history… Science was my worst subject in school, but authors like Asimov made science lucid and compelling while telling a good story.”
Some people like their science real, so I’m limiting my list to those titles where the science is not speculative at all.
101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher by Lee Wardlaw
Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman
Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith
Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts! By Frances O’Roark Dowell
Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head by Nancy Viau
Back in April, I wrote a post for this blog about sciency novels that address environmental sciences—Eco-fiction if you will. That list is here.
I like to call my debut novel, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, sciency fiction. It just came out in paperback, and to celebrate, I’m giving away the remainder of my Advance Reader Copies in one big giveaway. If you would like your school or library to have a teaching set of up to 15 ARCs, leave the name of the library or school in the comments, along with the title of your favorite sciency novel (it can be one I’ve listed, or something else) and the number of copies you’ll need. Enter by 11:59 CDT Saturday October 27. Winner will be announced October 28.
Jacqueline Houtman spent 27 years in school so she could be a scientist. Now she’s a freelance science writer and middle-grade novelist–living proof that biology (or chemistry or physics) is not destiny. Find out more at www.jhoutman.com.