Apr 6 2015

She scores!


I made it into the Schrodinger Sessions after all!  So pleased.

It turns out that they were unavoidably delayed in finalizing their selections, and just sent out notifications today.

I have some prep to do between now and then… mainly, to review what I actually do know (or think I know) about quantum physics, so that it’s all fresh in my mind, preparatory to adding actual knowledge from actual scientists whilst being disabused of previous erroneous notions.

Also, I want to identify my areas of least understanding, so that I can formulate coherent questions.   I’m pretty sure that “WTF???”, while accurately expressing one’s internal state, would not be the most useful starting point.

On the application form, one of the questions was: What is your interest in attending this workshop? How do you hope it will affect your writing?

They didn’t put a word-count limit on the answer (ha!) so this is what I said:

There are three reasons any science fiction writer would want to attend this workshop — and it’s the third reason that most interests me.

First reason: To get it right. When we mention quantum physics — even if it merely serves as background to a story — it would be good if we knew what we were talking about. There’s already enough bad science fiction in the world, and we don’t need to make more. For this, we need to get the facts right.

Second reason: To generate story ideas. Science fiction is famous for the idea-driven story. If we want to write stories inspired by quantum physics, then we have to become familiar with both its facts and its underlying principles. And more: we need to know where the edges are, where the limit lies between what is known so far, and what remains to be discovered. Within what’s known, we’ll find ideas to drive our stories; at the edges, we’ll find scope for intelligent speculation.

And the third reason: To understand how discovery happens. What type of thinking brought physicists to our current understanding of quantum physics? Why do we think what we think about it, and how do we know what we know? What were the steps, what guided the explorations? To what degree are we sure of our knowledge, to what degree uncertain? In what frame of mind were the researchers operating? How did we figure this out? These are all questions that help reveal how humans go about learning the nature of the universe… which, actually, is the biggest adventure of them all.

So, all three reasons (accuracy, inspiration, and understanding) are important, and each will help me be a better writer. But I feel that the third reason — understanding the nature of discovery — is one that particularly needs to be communicated. And possibly because quantum physics is so famously weird, it seems to me that it might be especially illuminating on the subject.

I can’t wait to hear more about it.