Bova, Ben, ed. Science Fiction Writer's Series.
Gillett, Stephen L. World-Building: a writer's guide to constructing star systems and life-supporting planets. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest, c1996.
Nahin, Paul J. Time Travel: a writer's guide to the real science of plausible time travel. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest, c1997.
Schmidt, Stanley. Aliens and Alien Societies:
a writer's guide to creating extraterrestrial life-forms. Cincinnati,
OH: Writer's Digest, c1995.
Reference type: Geographical
Authority: This series of books is put out by Writer's Digest, the number one reference source on authorship. Additionally, it is edited by Ben Bova, who is one of today's prime science fiction authors.
Audience Relation: Building a believable universe in science fiction is almost as important as building true to life characters. These four books address four different aspects of making a fictional universe seem as real as downtown New York City to the reader as well as addressing how to incorporate real scientific principles into the design.
Scope: These books are written for science fiction authors at all levels of scientific and authorship knowledge. The information inside covers science from the very simple to the very complex and offers a wide range of access to the concepts.
Content Evaluation: These four books address four of the main issues of concern with science fiction authors when building their settings. The books are all of a great size to slip into a bookbag or briefcase and are printed on slightly off-white paper with a decent sized font and larger, boldface headings. Illustrations and charts are included with the text as needed.
Space Travel covers the essential science needed to understand space travel as we know it today and the potential methods of space travel in the future. Distances and times are described in ways accessible to the lay person, and even things such as the Theory of Relativity do not become too complex. Additionally, if one already knows the science described, the author does a great job of connecting the science to the craft of writing which still makes this a valuable resource. The book includes plenty of bibliographical references, a glossary, and an index.
World-Building is a compact little text that discusses the elements of planetary environments. This covers everything from solar system design (important since stars are generally the prime source of energy for a planet) to planet size to number of moons to creating habitats and ecology. These are all discussed in terms of both scientific plausibility and story dynamics since environment can have a profound effect on characterization. The science can become complex at times but is generally accessible.
Time Travel addresses the science and environmental hazards of using time travel in one's universe. Since time travel is still a theoretical possibility in today's world, no hard science can be cited here. However, many of the major theories and their repercussions are discussed in terms of how they might affect the planet and characters for which time travel is a reality. Time travel has always been mind-bending stuff since concepts such as infinity are employed in the description, but this book makes the subject accessible to most readers.
Aliens and alien societies focusses on the population of an alien world. Included are entries on language, music, culture, and physiology which are all reactive to the environment. The science is less heavily employed than in the other three books, but this is not a detraction from the quality of the writing, merely a bi-product of the subject matter.
These books' main purpose is to get the author to ask himself or herself the right sorts of questions about world development so that their universes and planets will be believable to the reader. They do the job well.