Welcome to my guide on how to write technobabble! Every post will start with one letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, and cover tips and ideas for all you writers of sci-fi. Whether you’re writing about near-future science fiction, far-flung alien worlds, or historical steampunk adventures filled with advanced technology that never was – these posts are designed to help you write convincing and unique tech for your story!
F is for Fiction and Fact
If you’re writing science fiction or a related genre, then facts don’t matter, right? After all, it’s fiction! While that is very true, sometimes facts really do matter.
Facts matter the most when you’re writing something that takes place in the here and now, or any time in history. For example, a cyber-thriller that’s set in present day needs to get some facts correct. If it’s sci-fi set in the real world, then places and things about life need to be presented accurately; and similarly, the real-world technology of today should be the baseline for any fictional tech or gadgetry in the story. That’s part of what would make a story like this believable. If it’s about fictional advanced tech in real world today, then the reader needs to recognize all of the elements of today’s world for the story world to be believable and the sci-fi element to make its impact.
If you’re writing anything historical that takes place on Earth—like alternate history, steampunk or dieselpunk, or other retro-futuristic stories set in the real world—then facts really do matter. The reader needs to be grounded in the place and time in history for all of your cool gadgets that never existed to have their full impact. If you’re writing about a real person or covering a real event in history, then accuracy of facts is even more important—even if you’re marketing your idea exclusively as sci-fi or a ‘punk sub-genre.
And as for far-future sci-fi or completely alien tech—well, those stories do indeed fall into the realm of more “fiction” than “fact.” But having some facts to start from—especially when it comes to writing the technology—can provide a great foundation to build your fictional world on. In fiction it’s okay to bend the rules of physics and science, but if you start with some knowledge about what’s real, it makes it that much easier to create the unreal in unique but believable ways.
I’ll do a post later on that focuses on research (when we get to “R”). But for now, keep in mind when writing your sci-fi and technobabble that real-world facts are useful for grounding the reader and setting a baseline on which to build your tech.