Posts Tagged ‘hard science fiction’

Where Has All the Hard Science Fiction Gone?

So, I recently finished reading Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan, a hard science fiction novel from 1985. We talked about some of the things that were a little bit jarring a few weeks ago in the Old Science Fiction post (to that, I add: an apparent lack of the understanding of plate tectonics), but overall I enjoyed the book and found the science to be mostly solid, even if the characters didn’t figure out what must have happened for things to make sense scientifically until about 100 pages after I did.

That got me to thinking. In general, I like hard science fiction–it must appeal to the engineer in me or something–but all the examples I could think of that I’ve read are older books. Rendezvous with Rama was published in 1973. Ringworld is from 1970. Contact is also 1985, and The Andromeda Strain is from 1969.

Even looking at the Wikipedia and Goodreads lists of hard science fiction shows that there’s been very little of the subgenre put out in the last ten years (and Goodreads’ list is a bit suspect. I am pretty sure Ender’s Game is not hard science fiction).

Why do you think that is, Squiders? Is it because hard science fiction, being fairly dry, just doesn’t ever attract that many readers, meaning a limited number is published at any point of time? Maybe it’s not any slower than before, but there’s just not a lot of it in general. Or is it a representation of some changing tastes in readers and/or writers, where people don’t want to think about science unless it’s accompanied by  explosions and starship chases?

I don’t honestly know, my friends. I welcome any thoughts you have on the matter, and if you do have any good, recent hard science fiction recommendations, please share.

Subgenre Study: Hard Science Fiction

Science fiction can be divided into two subsections: hard and soft science fiction.  Hard scifi is focused on the actual “science” part of science fiction and is much more interested in maintaining scientific accuracy than other subgenres.

Hard science fiction also tends to have a certain feel to it.  The science tends to take a major part in the story, sometimes even to a greater extent than characters or plot.

It is interesting to note than many people think this feeling is more important than scientific accuracy.  If a story feels like hard scifi, but the main scientific principle is eventually proven to be incorrect, it is still considered to be hard scifi because the story was written as scientifically correct when it came out.

The last hard scifi I read was Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (the sequels are not hard scifi, however).  Other examples include things like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, and then there’s some debate about stories like Brave New World, Dune, and even Ender’s Game.

There seems to be a fair amount of bad blood on the subject – some people swear that if there’s no science to be found, it doesn’t count as science fiction and it’s not worth reading.  Others argue that hard science fiction is boring and dry and, for all its scientific wanderings, is just not good for reading for entertainment.

Hard science fiction seems like it’s been harder to find lately.  I think part of this is because science tends to evolve so quickly these days that it’s hard to keep up.  And most hard scifi seems to be set far in the future involving space travel, and there seems to be a trend lately where science fiction is set in the near future and focuses on the changes in society.

How do you feel about hard scifi, Squiders?  Dry and boring?  Scientifically fascinating?  Do you need science in your science fiction?