I am fortunate to know a bunch of amazing scientists, however -- many in my own family, and many of them chums. Thanks to my time as an undergraduate at Beloit College, I gained close friends who are biologists and geologists, and their continuing knowledge keeps me clued into the world. Case in point: while studying theatre in Wisconsin, I played the role of an aspiring scientist in a feminist revision of Cinderella called The Ash Girl; I was actually one of the ugly step-sisters, and the tragedy of my life was that my mother cared more about me marrying for money than gaining professional fulfillment. I got swept up in the greed and received a toe amputation in return for my gold-digging. Mostly, I was playing a buffoon, but my most telling line in the play amounted to something like, "I don't want [balls and gowns and carriages, etc.]; I only want a microscope." It was easily my biggest laugh line, but I found it showcased my character at her most honest. All she wanted was discovery and study; all she got was pain (though she received a sort of happy ending, in which Cinderella's fairy godmother sent her to the woods to collect rocks and never see anyone ever again).
As an amateur scientist in the play, I made reference to things I didn't understand, particularly pertaining to geology. I took some of my dialogue to my friends, who were more than happy to explain pronunciations and provide photographs of chalcedony (the word I butchered best) and topaz and jasmine. And when I proclaimed those rocks by name the night they attended the performance, I was never prouder of representing knowledge; honestly, it was a way to pay forward their helping me understand the world better. I don't imagine anybody went home that night and Googled chalcedony. But a girl can dream, can't she?
So what was the point of all me blathering on about my teeny tiny not real contribution to science education? I suppose I've been thinking a lot about science in relationship to narrative lately. You could say it's because I finally got around to seeing "Gravity," or because "Cosmos" has been on (and it's amazing), but I'm betting it's because I finally started reading Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.
It's a great read. one that Rucka doesn't clutter with a lot of world-building. Those interested in world-building can find a timeline at the end of many issues, but you get the gist of the secrets being kept from Forever just from the art and the script alone. What I find most interesting is Rucka's inclusion of scientific advances after the letters column; by doing so, he is able to draw a line between his concerns and the way our world is advancing towards the nightmare scenario he's depicting. It's pretty heady stuff, and I enjoy it quite a bit.
Rucka seems to have found a balance I struggle with in writing about technology and science (as I often do when it comes to disability). By centering his discussion of scientific abuses and advances in the protagonist, he makes Forever into a symbol of where we could go if we twist knowledge to selfish ends. Her condition is also the lynchpin for the stakes of the series; once she discovers she is not one of the family, imagine the havoc she will wreak. He doesn't manipulate science (as is done in some moments of "Gravity") to bring about problems; he uses what we're attempting and learning to force characters to make choices. Of course, the Lazarus world is further along than we are, but by acknowledging that at the back of the book, Rucka -- to my mind -- avoids accusations of misusing science to tell a good story.
Of course, as an artist, I want to be responsible when I write about hearing implants or ADD medication. I don't want to draw false conclusions about science in practice. But I don't want to spend too much stage time explaining every single facet of a part of technology. Whatever I use needs to be valuable to the characters, as it was to that poor ugly stepsister in The Ash Girl, as it was to my geologist friends. If science is valuable to the characters, it becomes valuable to audience, and everyone's world might be expanded in the process.
Lazarus cover art: Michael Lark, artist.