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New Hard Sci Fi?

While I enjoy all types of fiction, I’ve always enjoyed hard science fiction a little more than other most. I define hard science fiction as one where despite a certain amount of fiction, there is an attempt to keep the laws of physics and other key scientific principles stable. There is something about knowing that the science is somewhat rigorous that allows me to suspend my disbelief a little easier.

My youth was filled with the writings of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter, Frederik Pohl, Larry Niven, and Ben Bova. Talk of Dyson spheres, ring worlds, wormhole time travel, and other fantastic ideas presented in context with the best science made me feel as if there wasn’t anything that man couldn’t eventually achieve. It also seems that most of the works feature human struggle without the dystopias I found so numbing in other works.

But who are the writers of hard science fiction today? Is anybody out there following in these footsteps?

23 Comments on New Hard Sci Fi?

  1. Look to British writers: Alastair Reynolds, M John Harrison, Ken Macleod, Peter F Hamilton and more. We’ve reviewed a few of them recently for the Andromeda Spaceways website.

  2. Simon has a great list.

    I’d also include Karl Schroeder on that list.

  3. Greg Egan. Mind blowing…

  4. I enjoy Karl Schroeder, I enjoy Tobias Buckell and John Scalzi, and although both are thought of in different terms, I think they tend to keep many of their stories based in hard sci fi. By the way I love your website, KUDOS!!!!

  5. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series is very good hard scifi.

  6. Carles Tixé // September 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm //

    Ian McDonald and, of course, Kim Stanley Robinson.

  7. “My youth was filled with the writings of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter…”

    You read Baxter in your youth?? I guess 20-something seems young now days….

    I’d definitely say Schroeder, although his Virga series tones down the hard SF. Get his earlier stuff.

    My brain hurts just remembering Egan’s Schild’s Ladder. You want hard SF, read this one.

    I’d also suggest Ian McDonald for a near future hard SF fix. His last two book were great.

    Kim Stanley Robinson – Scott just loved his Mars books. I’m not a big fan either.

  8. thoreaubred // September 4, 2007 at 4:19 pm //

    The definition of hard sci-fi in the post above just sounds like “mundane” sf. I thought hard sci-fi was something more specific. Kim Stanley Robinson is an example of an author often mislabeled as hard sci-fi because of Red Mars though I don’t think any of his fans would call him hard sci-fi (or any hard sci-fi fans for that matter.)

  9. In my opinion, mundane is different in that it states that everything has to be possible. To me, hard sci fi chooses one or two key things that are obviously fiction, but keeps the rest of the universe real. For example, given enough metal and energy we could build a Dyson sphere – now what would life be like inside one? Or given all the ways worlds might form in the universe some might be in some unusual topology (non-spherical) and then – what would that be like?

    I agree you can show overlap between the two, but I think there are some hard sci fi books the mundane crowd would claim anathema. For example, the aforementioned Baxter’s The Time Ships is hard sci fi but I doubt very much is considered mudane.

  10. You can’t get more harder than Rudy Rucker 🙂

    With all of the authors so far posted on the comments I only have to strongly disagree with Kim S Robinson. Never really striked me as an hard SF kind of writer, and lately has been veering a looong way from SF.

  11. thoreaubred // September 4, 2007 at 6:30 pm //

    Robinson hasn’t veered from sf at all; his last five books are near-future novels all about science and one alternate history (a well established sf subgenre.) But he was never a hard sf writer, and was never called one before Red Mars.

    As for the difference between hard and mundane, the point I was getting at is that I’ve always heard hard sf associated with a focus on technology, where “the technology itself is one of the characters” or something like that. As opposed to simply any sf book in which the science is accurate, which is the niche mundane is trying to fill.

    Robinson goes further and associates the label with the right wing of sf, which is why he rejects it, as he is unabashedly left wing.

  12. Well there’s Peter Watts and Charles Stross as well.

  13. Definitely Greg Egan. IMHO, he is the best hard SF writer ever.

    But there are other very, very good hard SF authors nowadays: Ted Chiang, John C. Wright, Charles Stross, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher, Stephen Baxter, Robert J. Sawyer, Peter Watts, Wil McCarthy… And I’ve heard many good things (though I haven’t had the chance to read them) of Karl Schroeder, Linda Nagata, John Barnes, Joan Slonczewski…

    I used to visit a cool website devoted to Hard SF. It is http://hardsf.net/ I think it is still working, though I haven’t checked it for a while.

  14. Even though I have used them myself, I am getting thoroughly sick of all these labels. I’m beginning to question their usefulness…particularly when I see what I consider to be a mixed bag of authors being lumped together under the one label.

    The whole Mundane vs Hard SF vs Space Opera argument has turned into a pissing contest that no-one will win.

  15. joshua corning // September 4, 2007 at 9:12 pm //

    The whole Mundane vs Hard SF vs Space Opera argument has turned into a pissing contest that no-one will win.

    I wish I wrote that.

  16. Agree with Derek and Joshua, but mostly because I can’t figure out what exactly people mean when they say “hard sf”. The goalposts seem to keep moving to incorporate more authors/books, many of whom don’t seem to qualify at all IMO.

  17. I’d also add Ken Macleod and Paul J. McAuley (particularly his earlier stuff). I’ll re-emphasize Charles Stross, Alastair Reynolds, Peter Watts, Wil McCarthy, John Barnes and Karl Schroeder – all of whom I’ve read. A lot of fun stuff there.

    And can we move back to talking about hard SF authors now?

  18. Linda Nagata should be on your list of authors to read.

  19. does anyone know of any black hard SF writers working today?

    It would be nice to read something every once in a while that wasn’t from the perspective of a white male.

  20. spoonofmilk // October 3, 2007 at 4:55 am //

    No-one has mentioned Richard Morgan in their lists of authors worth reading. Altered Carbon has some very nice futuristic concepts in a brilliant noir setting… read the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies) Brilliant.

    As for the black perspective over white, I can’t see what the colour of an author has to do with anything, to be honest… but if you want to read something that may deal with that side of things, try Black Man by Richard Morgan (Thirteen in the US of A). Admittedly written by a middle-aged white man, but it has a veneer of dealing with racial equality in a slightly different way that you may enjoy.

  21. Having just gotten really hooked to Charels Stross’ hard sci fi – could anyone recommend me authors that write on similar topics with heavy focus on IT, along the lines of Accellerando?

  22. Martin, try Vernor Vinge and Cory Doctorow.

  23. Ian McDonald, Greg Egan, Kim Stanley Robinson and Peter F. Hamilton too (has good Hard SF qualities in his novels)

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