Most of what I write is speculative fiction set in an Earth-like world, which means I can largely rely on what I know of how the world works and tweak it based upon my magic system. Easy peasy.
But I decided to write a story for a near-future science fiction contest. Set on Mars. And for the story I needed to understand how an object would behave in freefall on Mars. Turns out, not such an easy answer to find. I found all sorts of facts about atmospheric density and gravity and terminal velocity. But I still wasn’t sure at the end of the day whether what I thought I’d figured out from those numbers is really true.
And I know for a fact that people reading that story will know. Because they are scientist types. Me, the last time I cracked open a physics textbook was about eighteen years ago. So, odds that I got it right? About ten percent.
And, yes, I could’ve sought out an expert, but I didn’t have the time to do so and enter the contest. (Bad author!) I probably still will if the story loses this contest. (If it wins, then I’ve gotta assume I was actually right about my conclusions…) Because I like the core idea of the story and it really doesn’t matter for the core idea what the actual answer is.
But this did remind me of why I shouldn’t write sci-fi. At least not the type that is near enough to the future to rely on actual known facts.
(Oh, and I’m off adventuring for a bit. No computer for the next five days. I may go through withdrawal and have to track down an Internet cafe, but hopefully I survive with just my phone. Sad, really, how dependent I am. First time I went to Europe when I was 20 there were no Internet cafes and my friend and I kept in touch with the folks back home using a calling card and a payphone every few days. How quickly times have changed! And perhaps not for the better…)