I don’t even remember why I chose it to read. Maybe it was random buzz on the internet. I mainly needed something to kill time on a cross-country flight. On the plane, I cracked it open. Just a few pages in, I knew it was different. An interesting science fiction story, but it was something more that appealed. It was how science and problem solving were woven directly into the plot of The Martian at nearly every turn.
In my reading experience, this type of book is a rarity. In fiction, I might stumble across a section or a phrase that brings in science, but not sprinkled so liberally throughout a book. Carl Djerassi, a well-known chemist as well as playwright and novelist, describes it as science-in-fiction. Novels can teach science while still being enjoyable to readers. He describes his aim to covertly deliver the goods:
So therefore, I thought I would smuggle it. I will hide it in what I initially called science-in-fiction to differentiate it completely from science fiction. In other words, everything I describe in a pseudo- or quasi- fictional context is, in fact, either true or plausible.
I wrote five novels, four of them in the science in fiction category which should, as such, be interesting, exciting, hopefully well-written ones that people like to read. But when they’re finished, they’ve learned something without knowing that. (https://www.chemistryworld.com/opinion/carl-djerassi-chemistry-and-theatre/7805.article)
What To Read Next?
Andy Weir’s The Martian, which fits this science-in-fiction genre, is the focus of the American ChemicalSociety’s ChemClubs virtual book club in 2017. The reading guide for the book club poses the question: Are there other fictional books that you would recommend tat also weave science into the plot?
A few ideas to consider:
- Visit the ACS ChemClub Books to Read Pinterest board. Most of the pins are non-fiction, but youll find a few that might fit the bill, such as a Flavia de Luce novel and Bob Shaws Other Days, Other Eyes.
- Turn to a short story. The blog post The Chemistry of Science Fiction: Isaac Asimovs Chemical Tales shares links to a couple short stories.
- Look for one of Djerassis novels: Cantors Dilemma, The Bourbaki Gambit, Menachems Seed, and NO.
- Enjoy a childrens picture book at any age. Patricia Bishop McKeans Using Childrens Literature To Teach Science points out the science involved in many picture books, along with science activities to accompany them.
- Choose from David Katz’s list of Science and Science Fiction.
We Want To Hear from You!
What science-in-fiction books have you found? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social media with #ACSChemClubBook.