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Hard science fiction - Input Junkie
December 30th, 2010
12:15 pm


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Hard science fiction
There isn't a lot of hard science fiction (and possibly less now than in previous years), and it doesn't have its own award.

I'm defining hard science fiction as stories which are dependent on science as it was known when the story was written.

In other words, I'm not going to insist that everything in the story be accurate science. I can live with ftl because I like alien planets.

I think the best (reasonably?) hard sf I've read lately is Stross' Saturn's Children. Any recommendations?

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Date:December 30th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Reportedly Vinge has one coming out in late 2011. Something to look forward to, anyway. Though by a really rigorous definition I suppose A Fire upon the Deep isn't "hard."

Cory Doctorow's For the Win is pretty good, sort of New Cyberpunk (in the sense that Stross is often New Space Opera). It even got me to sympathize with the union organizers, which is good writing. I don't think there's anything in it that contradicts present-day scientific theories.
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Date:December 30th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)

a couple

Peter F Hamilton, he does tend to throw in (in one case literally) a Deus Ex Machina device but the rest of the books up till that point (in each series) has pretty thoughtful stuff about technology. moreover, he's unusual in being one of the few authors to think hard about longevity technology.

LE Modesitt does reasonably (though I wouldn't say extra) hard SF. His strong point is paying attention to ecological questions. The man is fairly conservative and definitely an unabashed elitist (and the only sci fi author I know of from a high status socioeconomic background)...but he's extremely honest and analytical.

(In particular, he really likes to kill irresponsible or corrupt leaders in his books all the time. (He very much doesn't like ANY of the _current_ elites in RL, either.) One book he had his hero say "If we [the elite] are all we're cracked up to be, then we don't need to rig society to keep us on top. And if we're not all we're cracked up to be, we don't deserve to be on top". (and in case you think that's an innately disingenuous position, the key to ALL the reformed elitist systems in his books is magic or technology that allows : infallibly accurate lie detection, undetectability, and ways of killing someone very very dead in an eyeblink. (and yes, he acknowledges this could make for a tense society. But he thinks most people are not innately reasonable so tense is better than leaving them to pursue their preferences unchecked.) He also acknowledges the struggles to inspire and maintain excellence are not casual or rote and require unremitting struggle. Lots of good sociology mixed in with the science.))

For Peter F Hamilton, start with book one of the Reality Dysfunction, for LE Modesitt, Archform: Beauty or Flash are good starting points.
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Date:December 30th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
When I think of good recent hardish SF, I think of Ted Chiang and Peter Watts modulo lots of grim in the latter; if we are using definitions such that interesting alien worlds with reasonably solid science in count, have you read any Karl Schroeder ?
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Date:December 30th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'd vote for Schroeder -- especially _Lady of Mazes_.

I also have a biased candidate -- biased in that I was an early reader on it -- _Duplicate_, by Alex Feinman. http://alexfeinman.net/

And _Fragment_, by Warren Fahy. Quite hard, and lots of fun, if a bit scary.
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Date:January 1st, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, to be clear, I think Karl Schroeder is absolutely brilliant, I was just unsure whether he fit the flavour of hard SF nancylebov is looking for; possibly the Virga books would be less good a fit for that than his first three.
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Date:December 30th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series and Donna Andrews' Turing Hopper books (usually shelved as Mystery) are my favorites for hard sf, but unfortunately both series have stalled after four books.

Less hard (but containing more sf tropes) are Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov trilogy and Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian quintet. And that's just about all the sf I've read and liked in the last decade. (Unless you count webcomics like Tara Tallan's Galaxion.)
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