‘Write what you know’ was in the forefront of my mind as I brainstormed the worldbuilding for the book that would become Terrestrial Magic.
But as an undergrad in a molecular biology program some ten years ago (now a PhD graduate), I’d puzzled over how to use my scientific background to inform the genre I wanted to write: urban fantasy. I wanted an aspect of adventure in the forefront, rather than setting a large part of the story in a lab . Which left me thinking of ways to incorporate some kind of field work. Legendary creatures were a natural worldbuilding element to incorporate, one that allowed me to crosslink biology with fantasy by having my protagonist use science to study magical animals.
That left me with the decision for how science would inform the details of the story. A lot of the inaccuracies I see in the portrayal of science in the media stem from a misunderstanding of the basics. Science is a self-correcting process of discovery, not a collection of facts.
This made me want to focus on portraying the generalities of science. Research as an exploration of the unknown. The way that scientists might think through their problems. How logical and detail-oriented thoughts might come through in the narration.
The scientific process is also slower than people usually assume–although 2020 might have changed some of those expectations. As such, in the beginning of the series, I mix the science happening in the background with plot problems that can move more quickly. The characters need time to advance their research, and maybe a plan to harness magic to expedite the process, before they can discover any answers to the series’ biggest questions.
The heart of this series is about assumptions getting tested, about finding out more than we knew before. Every aspect of the story is informed by the role that discovery plays in it. And that’s all because of how much the scientific process was on my mind as I was building this world.