If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that the Silly Robot has a special place in his memory banks and emotion chip for the Hard Sci Fi genre. Authors such as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and John Scalzi permeate the way I think about science fiction and how it is written.
Lately I have ben frequenting io9.com, reading all sorts of interesting articles about all sorts of interesting things. The thing I love about io9 is their blending of science articles with a genuine love for science fiction. They intertwine sci fi into most of their articles about science, and do so in very informative and entertaining ways. I have gleaned several ideas for stories on their site, and I hope they continue to churn out content for years to come.
Creating Hard Science Fiction
Hard science fiction is special to me because science is a major part of the storyline. I have a degree in Agriculture, which basically means i have a degree in biology with a concentration on production, so being scientifically accurate is sort of ingrained into my being. I have scoured countless scientific journals for research facts, and doing so for fiction i write is commonplace. Weaving these facts into a work of fiction is accomplished in many different ways.
I love Arthur C. Clarke because of his use of science in his stories. They aren’t always the strongest plots, but the science is fascinating. I just have to keep reading and reading to find out what all of the gadgets do.
Heinlein tends to use science as a sociopolitical device in his stories. Artificial Intelligence running revolutions, exo suits driving a conquest, and Martian colonies causing a dramatic social revolution on Earth are a few ways he accomplishes this. Ideals are achieved through the use of technology and scientific proficiency.
Elements of Hard Science Fiction
HSF is usually associated with long paragraphs explaining tech and how it is used. John Scalzi has a fascinating few pages on his ‘skip’ drive in the novel Old Man’s War. And it actually adds a weird element to the story as he does it. It’s quite fascinating. And OMW is a really good book on top of it.
Most HSF stories take place in space, utilizing FTL propulsion and other theoretical technologies. The desire of the authors to stay scientifically relevant drives the universes their stories take place in. Some of them, Isaac Asimov comes to mind, even start a separate writing career in the non-fiction section of the bookstore. Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were even brought into the newsroom for the Moon Landing in 1969. Science permeated these mens’ lives, driving them to write the fiction they are so renowned for.
How To Do It
So what if you just like writing about some guy who galavants around the galaxy with a laser gun saving pretty girls?
Then HSF probably isn’t for you.
But if you want to write it, remember a few of these things:
It’s all based on a desire to stick to facts and accepted theories. Find a theme and go with it.
Sticking to facts doesn’t mean you can’t draw conclusions based on them. Does your FTL drive move the ship or the space around it? How does time factor into your story? Are there sentient species on other planets? All of these, and more, can shape your story.
Have fun. Reading some of the guys that are dead then switching to guys that came after them is sometimes disheartening. They think HSF means that everyone is totally and completely serious about everything and nobody laughs. Heinlein makes all sorts of jokes in his writing, and Arthur C. Clarke has an entire story about two British freight pilots sneaking the prince aboard their vessel without the captain finding out.
That’s why I like John Scalzi. He’s a throwback to those guys without being a copy. Go read his books.
To Infinity and Beyond
If you want to write HSF, become a researcher. A true student who learns and adapts. Have fun in the facts. And most of all, write good stories.