Wanted: Researcher. Details Below.

John Scalzi

I’m looking for a freelance researcher to help me generate some data for my upcoming novel. The data I require will be (to put it mildly) somewhat esoteric but absolutely needs to be rooted in physics and other scientific knowledge that we already know today. The researcher will need some experience in, be able to contact those who might have knowledge regarding, or be able to get quickly up to speed to produce credible speculations about:

  • Planetary astronomy
  • Selenology (generally, not necessarily relating to the Earth’s moon)
  • Orbital physics
  • Geology (generally, not necessarily relating to the Earth)
  • Chemistry (particularly organic chemistry)
  • Math involving planet-sized objects
  • Other general science knowledge with particular emphasis on physics and astronomy

The gig will require some intensive research at the outset (I suspect about ten hours worth of work) and I would like the researcher to remain on call for the remainder of the writing process (I usually take 3 to 4 months to write a novel) to field questions as they might come up. 

A masters or PhD in astronomy, astrophysics or physics, and work, academic and/or professional, is strongly preferred but I would be willing to consider an experienced science journalist with a working knowledge of these general fields. The ability to collaborate and quickly produce results is a must; I have to get writing on this soon. References and CV useful. Facility with the English language required; it’s the only language I am fluent in. We will be in contact primarily through email. 

The job will need to be confidential (until the book is completed and/or announced by the publisher, whichever is later). I don’t need you to sign an NDA, just, you know, don’t be a jerk. Aside from the pay (listed below), you will receive acknowledgement and thanks in the back matter of the book. Work is to begin immediately after hire. 

Pay is $75/hr, with 10 hours minimum (20 hours max). This is a freelance, not staff, position. 

To apply, please send an email with “RESEARCH POSITION” and your name in the email header to john@scalzi.com by 5pm Eastern on April 11. Please include your relevant experience (see: references and CV request above). I will make a selection by the end of April so if you have not heard from me by then, assume you have not been hired. 

Thank you!

— JS

43 Comments on “Wanted: Researcher. Details Below.”

  1. US citizens only? I have someone in mind but he’s a UK citizen living in Canada.

  2. You (and presumably your researcher) may wish to speak to Dean Regas (twitter handle @DeanRegas), an astronomer and astronomy educator at the Cincinnati Observatory. He’s a heck of a nice guy and eminently knowledgeable about pretty much everything you listed, and an easy day trip away from you. Bonus, visiting the observatory is a great thing to do itself, it’s where my wife an I were married.

  3. I have none of the prereqs, but hear me out: I DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express one time.

  4. 1) Yay for hard(er) science fiction!
    2) I suspect 10 hours will not suffice if you want “research”, but will for quick & accurate answers if you give specific details to the person you hire.
    3) Will pass this on to a doctor in the field.

  5. Oh, how I wish I met the qualifications! I am interested in all of these things and have some knowledge of them, but not sufficiently so sadly.

    Dave, your answer gave me a chuckle!

  6. This is not me, sadly.

    If you ever need a PhD Historian of Science, please let me know. Others I’ll just be here enjoying my “alt-ac” career.

  7. As a retired nuclear physicist I was asked to help a science fiction novelist and I gotta say it was pretty cool seeing my name listed among the credits. (I’m credited as the lead author and contributor to over 100 research papers but it’s not the same). But I specialized in sub-atomic particle physics, or small number physics (huge numbers – exponentially speaking – generally beginning with a – but still less than 1).

    I know math is math but there’s a huge difference in the huge math used in astrophysics and cosmology vs the math used to describe physics at the sub-atomic level. Macro vs Micro I guess you could say.

    Regardless of all that, the big list of the help you’re looking for is encouraging! Sounds like a good read if it’s going to contain all that big math physics! Good luck!

  8. Beep!
    [ChatGPT4 robotic voice]
    “I’m sorry Poul Anderson is no longer available.”
    “Have a very nice day!”

  9. My minute claim to fame is when Richard Morgan posted on his blog an excerpt from the his next novel set on Mars “Thin Air”
    I pointed out he’d got Mar’s gravity wrong. Like a gent he corrected it the next day and thanked me.

  10. I’m related to a tenured full professor of organic chemistry who is really good at making the subject comprehensible to non-chemists and is also a huge Scalzi fan – will send along a link forthwith.

  11. I do find your request a little confusing and perhaps unrealistic. You are fully aware that Sci-Fi usually violates real physics, geology, chemistry and biology. Yet you seem to want some pretty powerful research pretty cheap. I wonder if it is needed.

    If your goal is just to bounce an idea off of someone knowledgeable to see if it is plausible, that could work.

  12. I might not have any experience, or degrees

    but i do play Kerbal space program, and know how to use NASA’s eyes on the solar system

    would be willing to accept half of your offer
    (yes this is a joke, hope it made someone chuckle)

  13. If I didn’t need the research, I wouldn’t have asked for it. Also, after nearly twenty science fiction novels, millions of copies sold and rather a lot of awards and other accolades for it, I think I’ve demonstrated reasonably well that I know what science fiction is and requires.

  14. O.K. I didn’t question your writing ability. Sorry if I hit a nerve, not my intention. I really enjoy your stories, I think I have read them all so far.

    I’ll be interested in how this all works out.
    Best Regards.

  15. No astrophysicists in my family, but a good long term friend who works for NASA is (1) a PhD prepared astrophysicist and (2) a SciFi fan. This info was forwarded to him.

  16. [Deleted the person so salty I blocked them on Mastodon they had to stomp over here to whine about it. Run along, child – JS]

  17. Wow, from the want ad requirements, this book sounds likely to be fascinating. Will be awaiting it with interest. Good luck hiring your researcher; what a great way to advertise it! Your blog has such reach. Best wishes and wish I could be a fly on the wall for your conversations with whomever you hire.

  18. Now I wish I had degrees (and time) for all the things that interest me. Wait… I already wished that. Still hasn’t come true.

  19. I’ve passed this along to some early career folks I know in astronomy/planetary sciences. It sounds like a fun opportunity!

  20. I bet there’ll be several applications going “no degree, but I’ve memorised every Wikipedia article in [[Category:Astrophysics]]”…

  21. I want to post about this on the next open thread at Ask A Manager — not to promote the search, but because this is a wonderful model for a job posting. It includes the requirements, the pay, the perks, and what an applicant can expect in terms of hearing back in a reasonable timeframe.

  22. I’m guessing the job involves “help me justify, and extrapolate from, this ridiculously weird and unlikely (but hopefully not actually impossible) orbital setup”… it reminds me of a story I read ages ago involving some planetary orbits that were literally impossible. The writer clearly knew this, and threw in a scene that served no other purpose than to demonstrate that the laws of mathematics in the story were different from our math, so our universe’s physics didn’t apply.

  23. I have a Dr Astrophysics pseudo-relative who I regularly ask questions like “How much energy would it take to simulate 1G on mars by spinning it really fast and standing upside-down”.

    He’d be perfect.

  24. Looks like you won’t be wanting for applicants!

    My wife has a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics and runs a 3.5 meter telescope and shoots lasers at the moon. I’ll send it to her and some of our other astronomer buds.

  25. I am so sad to be totally unqualified for this position. If you ever want a researcher for stuff about honey bees, I’d probably do that just for the acknowledgement in the book.

  26. Sweet !!! and best of luck with both the research and going forward on the book/movie/computer game, etc.

  27. If they’re not being restricted to the Earth and our Moon, then what exactly is the difference between geology and selenology? Is it an arbitrary distinction between planets and moons? Or does it mean “bodies that physically resemble the Earth/Moon”? (e.g. that one has plate tectonics and an atmosphere and the other doesn’t)

  28. Selenology is the study of the geology and features of the moon and how it came to be. There is a lot of info available on this.

%d bloggers like this: