'The desert burns clean': the challenge of conveying accurate science through embodied characters in science fiction

Kirby, B.K (2023) 'The desert burns clean': the challenge of conveying accurate science through embodied characters in science fiction. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

Repository Terms Apply.

Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis is comprised of two parts: a novel, The Desert Burns Clean, and a contextualizing exegesis. Together, these two elements allow me to explore the challenge of accurately portraying the facts of a complex scientific reality while still accessing the truth of the human body experience. To achieve this, I utilize a variety of technical craft strategies in my fiction, while examining and reflecting upon them in my contextualizing exegesis in ways that I hope will be of use to other writers and critics. Based on current scientific research, the novel is set in a future where optimal health—complete with long life—is available for those who can afford it through regular microbial inoculations begun at birth. In this fictional world, fertility rates have dropped, and epidemics have become common. Against this backdrop, I have created five protagonists who are diverse in terms of their genders as well as their cultural, educational, and racial backgrounds. They must work towards trusting each other to overcome the machinations of a wealthy and politically powerful owner of a fertility clinic who wants to exploit their bodies for her illicit research. The contextual component of my thesis examines the strategies I use to incorporate accurate scientific information in the novel through the embodied experiences of my characters. My first strategy is that of worldbuilding. Here, the scientific information is not overtly present in the text but provides the “natural laws” of the world and how the characters will experience it. With worldbuilding, an accurate foundation of current science is laid from which all other aspects of story will be grounded. Secondly, I explore four forms of exposition through which I relate scientific information overtly through my characters. Finally, I discuss the benefits, challenges, and limitations of conveying information through characters’ body experiences. We cannot escape the fact that information is processed in and through our bodies. Thus, fundamental to my argument and methodology is the premise that grounding information and knowledge in human body experience offers writers an important strategy for conveying complex scientific information accurately in a work of science fiction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The document attached to this record is the contextualising research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the manuscript for the novel 'The desert burns clean'.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, science fiction, scientific information, fertility rates, health policies, human body experience
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.17870/bathspa.00015367
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2023 11:49
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:30
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/15367
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)