Worldbuilding, or Down the Rabbit Hole – by L.J. Cohen

Today, please welcome guest blogger L.J. Cohen, author of the HALCYONE SPACE series, including the recently-released DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE.:


When a materials science student gets kidnapped, she’s drawn into a conflict between the young crew of a sentient spaceship, a weapons smuggling ring, and a Commonwealth-wide conspiracy and must escape before her usefulness as a hostage expires.

(Enter to win a copy of Dreadnought and Shuttle, or one of LJ’s other books, by leaving a comment on this post–more details below!)

Worldbuilding, or Down the Rabbit Hole

by LJ Cohen

People often ask me why I chose to write science fiction and fantasy rather than, say, contemporary fiction. My flip answer is that I get to make stuff up. But the reality is if I want to keep readers engaged and not leave them either scratching their heads or flinging the book across the room, I have to build a world and include details that make sense.

And that means research.

For the Halcyone Space books (DERELICT, ITHAKA RISING, AND DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE), I’ve had to research a large range of interesting things. Some of which, I’m sure, has gotten me on several watch lists. (I joke, but I’m also somewhat serious!)

•   structure of the military, particularly the navy and especially their air division
•   LaGrange points (places in a solar system where the gravitational forces balance out)
•   creation of fuel from nuclear material
•   using a soldering iron in zero gravity (Yes, it’s possible. Yes, NASA did studies.)
•   human circulatory system and the use of catheters to inject materials into the body
•   signs and symptoms of head trauma (Along with the circulatory system, I only needed a refresher on this, given that I had a 25 year career as a physical therapist.)
•   how to generate an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) and what it would destroy
•   photovoltaic charge & storage
•   plant grafting & genetic engineering of plants
•   blood toxicology screening
•   spectroscopic assays (basically plant DNA typing)
•   the physics of wormhole travel
•   object oriented computer programming
•   radiation exposure levels for the human body
•   plasma weapons & burns

And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

One of my favorite things to research led me to a study of how our brains process cause and effect and how that sense of temporal order is impaired in schizophrenia. One theory is that the voices that patients with schizophrenia hear are their own internal voices, only experienced out of phase from the thoughts or events that generated them. That led me to invent a future malady: jump sickness, where the thoughts and perceptions of early wormhole pilots ended up permanently out of phase with their external experiences.

That ended up being one or two lines in ITHAKA RISING, but will feature in future books as well as in a prequel short story about the early days of wormhole exploration.

If you are a writer, what are your favorite research topics? If you are a reader, where does your curiosity take you?

LJ Cohen is a novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. She lives in the Boston area with her family, two dogs, and the occasional international student. DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE (book 3 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space), is her sixth novel. LJ is a member of SFWA, Broad Universe, and the Independent Publishers of New England.

You can find DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE, and LJ Cohen’s other books, at Barnes &, Google Books, the KOBO Store, and on iTunes.

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN an ebook copy of one of LJ Cohen’s novels (winner’s choice!) just leave a comment on this blog before 11:59p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, July 1, 2016, answering one of the questions at the end of the post.

One winner will be drawn at random from all eligible comments. Open worldwide. No purchase necessary to win. Odds of winning vary with number of entries. Void where prohibited.

2 thoughts on “Worldbuilding, or Down the Rabbit Hole – by L.J. Cohen

  • June 24, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you so much for hosting me today, Susan! I know you’ve gone down some interesting rabbit holes in your Shinobi mystery books!

    • June 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      I’m so glad to host you! Congratulations on your release!

Comments are closed.