I write a fair amount of science fiction, but my science is pretty fast and loose. I’m less interested in how exactly technology advances and more interested in how society develops. That sort of science fiction is commonly called social science fiction, or soft science fiction, as opposed to hard science fiction. More Ray Bradbury than Isaac Asimov. More Hunger Games than Ringworld.
That said, there are times when I need to get the science at least passably correct. At those times, I rely on two things: Wikipedia, and my husband.
See, I’m married to an astrophysicist. He studies black holes and what happens when one tears apart and gobbles up a star. Which is the layman’s description, and when it gets past that, it goes right over my head. Read one of his papers without being familiar with the mathematical languages of astrophysics, and you wouldn’t even be able to discern the layman’s description. I went to his dissertation defense for moral support, and within the first five seconds my brain totally zoned out in sheer self-defense (sorry, sweetie, love you, sweetie).
This aside, though, there are distinct benefits to being married to an astrophysicist, especially to a science fiction writer. Is there a way to use a nuclear bomb as a fireworks show, and what would it look like? Those pictures of nebulae: are they actually that color? Or are they colorized by the scientists who take and analyze the pictures? What sort of signal from outer space would be definitively not from a natural phenomenon? He knows, and can (usually) give me explanations that I can follow.
More valuable, perhaps, is that ideas get snagged in his intellectual net that would escape mine entirely were it not for him. Just recently, he told me that there will come a point where the universe is expanding so fast that the light of one part will not reach the light of another. When astronomers (of whatever species they are at that time, billions of years in the future) will look up and see only the stars in our own galaxy. They’d have ancient records of other galaxies, but no ability to perceive them first-hand. Will they believe in other galaxies? (Note: I had to edit this, changing “stars” to “other galaxies”, because I apparently got it wrong, and my husband doesn’t want to look like a slacker.)
What an awesome premise for a story.