Welcome to Friday Fiction Facts: Sciency things fiction writers need to know.
Your main character is an investigative journalist. In this scene she has to talk to a scientist in order to solve a mystery. So she hops in her car and drives to …where? And talks to …whom?
Well, if it’s up to stock photo companies, she drives to a lab and talks to a white dude looking at (or drinking from?) beakers of coloured water (don’t ask me what’s happening in that first photo):
A Google image search adds a little more diversity. We now have people of colour, women, and microscopes mixed in with our white dudes with beakers. Still, everyone is in a lab taking questionable enough actions that they have been mocked widely.
But why, you ask, the focus on stock photos and Google images? Because stock photos are no worse than stock characters in fiction. How we think about scientists (or any career for that matter) is formed by what we see in the world. If your readers’ only exposure to science is through media, they may not know what real scientists look like or do …and where they do it. So it’s up to you to help them.
On that note, today I want to introduce you to some people and hashtags to help you model your characters after actual living scientists. I urge you to click the hashtags to see more of these great people and the work they do. My hope is that when you’re done, you’ll see that your novel’s scientists can be literally anyone!
Pinned tweet needed an update:
Hi, I'm Kari. I study environmental and genetic influences on early life history in fishes, and wild-hatchery fish interactions. Used to work with sculpin and sturgeon; now I work with Columbia River salmon. #ActualLivingScientist #DressLikeAWoman pic.twitter.com/QBjZCtHIVM
— Kari J. Dammerman (@KDFishBiologist) August 7, 2018
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@travelling_with_science is a doctoral student in physics working on a joint PhD between KU Leuven in Belgium and Catholic University in Brescia, Italy. Previously, she completed a masters degree in condensed matter physics from La Sapienza University in Rome. Her research focuses on modifying the electronic properties of graphene using diazonium (N2+) molecules.
Beyond the Binary
Hi, I’m Steph, and this is my first #PrideMonth being out as a bisexual aerospace engineer. It took 28 years, but I’m glad to celebrate this year as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
— Steph Evz (@StephEvz43) June 4, 2018
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"I am queer and I am an earth scientist. // Education, rocks, buildings, food, and dance. I'm aiming for positivity and balance in life—a bit of fun, a bit of love, work, creativeness, and a lifetime of learning. ❤" –Zach, #500QueerScientists Contributor. #QueerinSTEM #STEMPride #earthscience
BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour)
Looking forward to reading about all the @STEMsuperheros! I’m honored to be included in the review process (see back cover). My favorite STEMSuperhero is the amazing Sandra Begay, #Navajo #NativeinSTEM civil engineer pic.twitter.com/a7vXZN131R
— Suzanne Singer (@SuzSinger) April 19, 2019
This Friday afternoon, we are excited to host our 2019 Bromery Scholar, Dr. Ludmilla Aristilde (@Cornell) for a lecture on Molecular Connections in the Cycling of Water and Carbon in Terrestrial Ecosystems: https://t.co/3B8U2tH46B#womeninstem #blackinstem #geosciences #umass pic.twitter.com/cS1v4xLE69
— UMass Geosciences (@UMassGeo) April 15, 2019
This was a great adventure for many reasons, not the least of which being my first field work with my service dog, Wallace. Being #DisabledInSTEM is hard on many levels, incl literal accessibility issues with field work. It was challenging, but we made it work for both of us 7/ pic.twitter.com/ZXc0Hb6ItS
— Dr. Juniper L. Simonis (@JuniperLSimonis) April 6, 2019
— Space Anthro (@SpaceAnthro) February 4, 2017
And finally, if the scientist in your story has more than a cameo, remember, scientists have interesting lives outside of science. Go ahead and click that link and scroll the nearly 700 photos of more actual living scientists. Open a few of them to see how those people really live — what they do in their lives. You’ll quickly see it’s not all about lab benches and beakers.
** Header images, L-R (CC 2.0):
- Tameka Dandridge built in LEGO by Courtney Celley/USFWS.
- Carey Edwards of Iron River National Fish Hatchery built in LEGO by Courtney Celley/USFWS.
- Aleshia Kenney built in LEGO by Courtney Celley/USFWS.