When I started planning my space opera novel, I had no idea how to research for science fiction. I found some books on physics, space and futurism, read those. I found resources explicitly geared towards science fiction writers and worldbuilding enthusiasts. Some were vague, others incredibly specific with technical spreadsheets--an entire spectrum from soft to hard SF. This led me to questions like: How much science do stories need? Or rather, how hard do I want my SF story to be?
For me, the appeal of science fiction lies in its ideas, in thinking through what the technological landscape might look like and how technology might affect humanity hundreds of years from now. These are my favorite stories and I believe some amount of research is necessary to get them right.
Fortunately, I enjoy learning about science and finding answers to questions like: How would we colonize the rest of the solar system and beyond? If there are other civilizations out there, what would they be like? What role would advanced AI play in an intergalactic society?
Since I am constantly looking for great resources to inform my answers, I thought other writers and sci-fi lovers might appreciate a list of what I have been using so far. I hope these are helpful or at least interesting. If you know of any additional resources, please leave them in the comments!
General resources for people who are just getting interested in science and want to dip their toes in. Everything in this category is accessible and easy to understand. Predictions and forecasts of the future are added here as well.
Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur provides a wealth of science fiction possibilities in video and podcast format with great explanations
PBS Space Time provides easy-to-digest explanations around cosmology and astrophysics
The Artificial Intelligence Revolution by Wait But Why on the future of AI
Cold Takes, especially the Most Important Century blog series on transformative AI and how it might affect us
Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark, another comprehensive take on transformative AI
popular science books by physicist Michio Kaku, especially Future of Humanity and Physics of the Impossible
concepts like longtermism and the effective altruism movement might be interesting to look into for utopian fiction in particular
These resources are explicitly labeled 'worldbuilding' or 'science fiction', meaning they are geared towards writers, game masters, and other creatives without neglecting scientific accuracy.
Building a SciFi Future that Matters, an interview with five authors on how they approach worldbuilding for sci-fi
r/Worldbuilding, especially its associated Discord server where worldbuilding aspects are workshopped
Worldbuilding Pasta, especially the Apple pie from scratch blog series
Tough SF about hard SF concepts, can get very technical
The Planet Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder
Artifexian on cosmology and worldbuilding planets
SF Encyclopedia of common SF concepts, authors and publications
Science in Sci-Fi blog series or the book version Putting the Science in Fiction
Orion's Arm, a science fiction worldbuilding project with a wealth of inspiring and well-thought-out lore articles
Planetocopia, a worldbuilding project of some model worlds that could support intelligent life, and especially the creator's Carpentry Tips for Worldmakers
Star Wars 5e, a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition overhaul for Star Wars campaigns
Battletech Wiki, an alternate history from our past to the 32nd century
Lancer, a military science fiction tabletop RPG system with the core rulebook available for free
Stars Without Number, a science fiction tabletop RPG system (I found the space combat mechanics particularly inspiring)
Other Resource Lists
List of worldbuilding resources on Worldbuilding Stackexchange
Depending on what sort of story you are writing, you might want or need to go deeper into science. If you really want to understand the concepts you are writing about, it can be worth diving deeper into physics, astrophysics, astronomy, geology, botany, zoology, computer science and/or AI. Personally, I’ve gotten hooked on physics, astronomy, and computer science so here are some resources that can serve as entry points in those three areas.
How to teach yourself physics collection of learning resources
Physics for Dummies I-II by Steven Holzner
Teach Yourself Physics by Jakob Schwichtenberger
everything by Richard Feynman, starting with Six Easy Pieces
Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll on quantum physics
SpaceEngine is a realistic universe simulator (disclaimer: I have been eyeing this for a while but have not tried it yet. VR-compatible!)
Astronomy. A Beginner's Guide to the Universe by Eric Chaisson & Steve McMillan
Astronomy 101 by Carolyn Collins Petersen
Astronomy. A Self-Teaching Guide by Dinah L. Moché
The first three are practical self-study courses or programs. Some areas like computer science theory, cybersecurity, and quantum computing might be especially interesting for science fiction writers.
Teach Yourself Computer Science, a free course for programmers who want more background knowledge
Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter explores in great depth whether artificial intelligence can develop 'consciousness'
Serious Cryptography by Jean-Philippe Aumasson also touches on the significance of quantum computing for cryptography
The Art of Invisibility and Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick provide glimpses into hacking and cybersecurity
Darknet Diaries podcast with a variety of hacking and cybercrime stories
Again, if you know of any additional resources that might be helpful to science fiction writers, please leave them in the comments!
Writers, what are your struggles with writing science fiction? And readers, what sort of SF do you enjoy reading?
Thank you for this! My stuff is definitely on the softer side of sci-fi but I’ve still been looking for resources like these. What is your process like for taking notes when you do research? Just read your Obsidian piece and you mentioned Eleanor Konik, do you use a similar note taking/organising method for your research as her?