Conversely, many scientists have dabbled in science fiction, writing a few short stories or one or two novels, without ever intending to make a career out of it. I would certainly put myself in that category. In my own field of astrophysics, there's Don Clayton, who's famous for his work on nuclear reactions in stars, and Craig Wheeler, who works on supernovae.
All of which makes Benford's parallel career as a scientist and science fiction writer all the more remarkable. In fact, I know of only one "Nobel-Prize class" scientist who also had a major science fiction writing career. Can you guess who? The answer is after the break.
The answer is Fred Hoyle. Note that I chose my words carefully. Hoyle should have shared the Nobel Prize in 1983 with Fowler and Chandrasekhar -- there were some political issues that hurt him. And Hoyle wrote a number of well-known science fiction novels -- my favorite of these is October the First is Too Late.
It's no surprise that most people either abandon scientific research for a career as a science fiction writer or remain in the world of science and write science fiction on the side, without devoting themselves equally to both. It's a bit like asking why more athletes don't play baseball in the summer and football in the winter, or why more neurosurgeons don't spend half their time doing dentistry. Someone with an aptitude for two different fields of endeavor will naturally gravitate to the one they are better at and enjoy more.
But here's one remarkable exception: Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan took his team to the NFL championship in the early 1960s, earned a Ph.D. in mathematics, and served as a math professor at Case while still playing professional football. Amazing!