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When Science Meets Fiction

An inaugural competition encourages science scholars to get creative.

Edward Williams TCU, Jeffrey Gassen, Science Meets Fiction contest

Graduate students Edward Williams and Jeffrey Gassen were finalists in the first Science Meets Fiction writing contest.

When Science Meets Fiction

An inaugural competition encourages science scholars to get creative.

While science fiction is a popular genre in all sorts of media, when disconnected — science and fiction — seem like two different and isolated categories. But during the first “Science Meets Fiction” competition, science students demonstrated their skills by penning prose.

The inaugural contest, which is a part of the College of Science & Engineering’s SciCom initiative, was created to encourage students to write fiction focused on what the future of technology and science might bring, said Magnus Rittby, the college’s senior associate dean.

“I feel like the majority of work that goes into science is just not communicated to the public.”
Edward Williams

SciCom was designed to help science students communicate their work and research to a general audience, said Rittby, and a writing competition is another avenue to achieve that ongoing goal. “There’s an inherent conflict between the science and the fiction,” he said. “The balance of that, that’s what makes [a story] great.”

Jeffrey Gassen, a graduate student in experimental psychology, tied for second place in the writing competition. “It’s a departure from what I’m used to doing as part of schoolwork and as part of what I want to do as far as writing scientific nonfiction,” he said.

Gassen decided to enter the competition to give his creative writing an outlet. He had been exploring science-fiction story ideas for the past year. The two writing processes for science and fiction were distinctive, though. In scientific writing, there is a specific format to follow, he said. However, in fiction writing, there is more flexibility.

As for the science behind the fiction, “I’m from psychology,” said Gassen. “There’s a lot of things and possibilities when it comes to human behavior.”

Along with Gassen, Edward Williams, a graduate student in biology, shared second place honors in the inaugural competition. His entry was the first chapter of a novel he has been working on for about 10 years. “It was the first time I ever shared my own recreational creative writing.”

For Williams, the writing process for science and for fiction share familiar paths. “It definitely is a challenge to make everything fit together, to make sure that it abides by science as we know it,” he said. “But there’s a lot of other science that we just simply haven’t discovered yet. One part of writing this book is that I incorporate some science that essentially I just made up.”

Williams said contests such as “Science Meets Fiction” benefit students and the public. “I feel like the majority of work that goes into science is just not communicated to the public,” he said.

“Any way that we can have a program in which we encourage students, not only to practice scientific writing for publishing journals and manuscripts for other scientists to read, but also encourage them to communicate their information to the public, I think it’s so valuable.”