Filed under “Things science fiction writers don’t want to happen.”
You write your book. You edit it. You hit the publish button. Then some schmuck of a scientist releases a paper that contradicts a key story element. Argh!
One curse of the science fiction writer is that science changes, and sometimes it can leave your story in the dust. It happened to me in Transpecial. I state that lightning storms are rare on Mars.
Not long after I published it, NASA released data indicating that actually? Lightning storms (dry ones) happen all the time on Mars because of static generated by all the dust.
So, what can you do about it? You have three choices:
Ignore It and Hope it Goes Away
Yeah. You can pretend it didn’t happen and hope your readers didn’t notice. It might work, it might not.
If it doesn’t, you can shift to another strategy. If readers aren’t complaining, then maybe they didn’t notice. Or don’t care.
Honestly, it’s probably the best initial response.
Release a Second Edition
If you’re publishing independently, you can go in and fix it. However, if you do, then a reader who notices the difference is more likely to think you made a mistake.
Labeling it as a second edition can mitigate that, especially amongst more savvy readers who actually check copyright dates.
And then there’s my personal choice: Own it. Admit it. Because it happens, and sure, it dates your book, but is it really that big a deal?
If it is, if it’s driving you nuts, then maybe a second edition is the best idea. If not, then just respond to anyone who asks with “I know. Science changes.”
Which is the best thing about science. And a pretty good thing about science fiction, too.
Final note: It happens to all of us. It’s not a mistake. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do your research, esp. as none of us can afford to subscribe to all the scientific journals (And not all of us can become a professor to get access!).
It’s an occupational hazard and no, it doesn’t ruin your book.