Whatever You Do, Keep Wondering

by syaffolee

Nature has recently started publishing a series of Q & A sessions with writers who write science books for a different, non-expert, audience.  In this Thursday’s issue, David Brin is interviewed about fiction writing (subscription required).

I always find myself interested in what other scientists have to say about fiction writing–particularly since most scientists I encounter are not very interested in writing fiction (although they may be avid readers) and most writers are not particularly keen on the science (although they might be pretty intrigued with lasers and black holes).  One writer I once met seemed absolutely amazed that I could do science and writing at the same time–as if they were mutually exclusive tasks.

I find myself, well, feeling a bit left out when all the other writers claim that writing is their passion and that they want to do it all day to the exclusion of everything else.  And I am very reluctant to disclose to anyone in science that I write–for fun.  Because for a lot of people, these things are an either-or proposition. Brin, however, has a slightly different take on it:

You have to love it as a hobby, develop your skill and not give a damn when [getting published] will actually happen.

This is pretty much how I view writing: a compulsive hobby.  It’s something that I love but not so much that I’m going to quit grad school in order to live the carefree life of a wastrel scribbler wandering the hinterlands.

Unfortunately, the interview was too short to go into any philosophical questions on why a scientist would end up writing fiction.  While people might jump to the conclusion that writing fiction and science are two totally different things and that anyone who would want to do both are crazy or brilliant polymaths–I would suggest a much simpler and mundane reason.  Both science and writing ask questions that the curious mind would inevitably posit.  Except that one is about reality and the other is about the imagination.