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  1. #1

    Question Literary Hard Science Fiction

    I've gone into shock... I've just done a search on Duotrope for publishers of literary hard science fiction novels. The search came back with 0 (ZERO) primary choices.

    Surely there must be some literary hard science fiction novels out there? Suggestions, anyone?

  2. #2
    Registered User JimF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver View Post
    I've gone into shock... I've just done a search on Duotrope for publishers of literary hard science fiction novels. The search came back with 0 (ZERO) primary choices.

    Surely there must be some literary hard science fiction novels out there? Suggestions, anyone?
    People tend to use the Terms "literary" and "hard SF" to mean what they want it to mean rather than some objective definition. as for literary SF there is stuff like Farenhight 451 and 1984. Martian Chronicals may count as literary hard SF, but I read that about 30 years ago.

    Maybe you could post what you liked in the past and that might help with a suggestion or two.

    As for what is Hard SF there was an interesting post on the IO9 website today.

    https://midnightslair.com/forum/foru...er-Development

    Jim

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    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Surely there must be some literary hard science fiction novels out there?

    Whence that "surely"?

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    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimF View Post
    People tend to use the Terms "literary" and "hard SF" to mean what they want it to mean rather than some objective definition. as for literary SF there is stuff like Farenhight 451 and 1984. Martian Chronicals may count as literary hard SF, but I read that about 30 years ago.

    Maybe you could post what you liked in the past and that might help with a suggestion or two.

    As for what is Hard SF there was an interesting post on the IO9 website today.

    https://midnightslair.com/forum/foru...er-Development

    Jim
    I have just finished rereading The Martian Chronicles to compare it to Clarke's The Sands of Mars. MC is definitely NOT hard SF.
    The two books do make for an interesting comparison. I like them both but for different reasons. Sands of Mars is hard SF. Read it and judge how literary it is.

    http://www.wetasphalt.com/content/sa...d-be-different

    The Sands of Mars has the interesting aspect of the protagonist being a science fiction writer and Clarke has other characters make pot shots about it. But both books are "serious" science fiction regardless of the hardness.

    psik


    PS - sent from Nexus 7
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; December 29th, 2012 at 10:13 AM.

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    I saw Chris Beckett's Dark Eden mentioned earlier, and wouldn't call it 'hard' SF (planet without a star?) but it is one of the best novels I've read. Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-up Girl would probably be kinda hard SF, taking place in a post-fossil fuels earth, and dealing with genetically modified foods that on the level of what is certainly capable in the real world.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by utherdoul View Post
    I saw Chris Beckett's Dark Eden mentioned earlier, and wouldn't call it 'hard' SF (planet without a star?) but it is one of the best novels I've read. Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-up Girl would probably be kinda hard SF, taking place in a post-fossil fuels earth, and dealing with genetically modified foods that on the level of what is certainly capable in the real world.
    If I remember correctly, they have recently (last few years) discovered a planet in deep space without a Sun.

    This isn't unexpected for me as it would follow from either being thrown out of a solar system by a collision or having only a small space and mass of accretion, i.e. not big enough to form an object big enough to start the nuclear reactions needed to form a Sun (which is not that much bigger than Jupiter). Hope this helps...

  7. #7
    Registered User ian_sales's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver View Post
    I've gone into shock... I've just done a search on Duotrope for publishers of literary hard science fiction novels. The search came back with 0 (ZERO) primary choices.

    Surely there must be some literary hard science fiction novels out there? Suggestions, anyone?
    No one writes it. Literary authors who write sf tend to use old-fashioned tropes for the heartland of the genre. A notable exception is Ascent by Jed Mercurio. And those sf authors that have the writing chops to be considered literary tend not to write hard sf, possibly because they look down on anything that smacks of science. To my mind, part of being literary is doing the research - and that includes the science and technology as much as it would history or geography in literary fiction. But that is apparently an unpopular position.

    But it's the lack of literary hard sf that prompted me to write my own - the Apollo Quartet, the first book of which is currently available. Reviews so far suggest I did what I set out to do :-)
    Last edited by KatG; October 20th, 2012 at 05:59 PM. Reason: promotional spam links not allowed

  8. #8
    I think a huge part of why the two things are not often brought together has to do with the origins of science fiction itself.

    Science fiction in its origins combined science and speculation with pulp adventure. Verne used adventure stories to illuminate various areas of futuristic science and technology (If you call yourself a hard science fiction fan and have NOT read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, get thee to a library). Wells used adventure stories to illuminate human society and history and explore concepts of the human future. Hrrrm. Those sound familiar, don't they. Both men made fairly accurate predictions - Verne designed a modern submarine, with his only error being that he overestimated the immediate possibilities of electricity and Wells got the date of the Second World War wrong by only four months.

    If one looks at modern definitions of hard versus soft SF, we can see that Verne and Wells were already on opposite sides of the divide. Burroughs, of course, invented the planetary romance, out of which developed two important things people don't often link together - space opera (Star Wars is, in part, a planetary romance) and Superman (thus strongly influencing the modern superhero genre). Both Verne and Wells are considered 'literary' these days, but that's not because of style, but rather because their books have stood the test of time. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea remains a great read despite not really being science fiction any more).

    'Literary' these days, however, doesn't have anything to do with quality. In a literary work the beauty and use of language are as important as the story...in some extremely experimental works they're more important than the story. Now, I can't vouch first hand for Verne's style because my French isn't that good and I've only read it in translation, but if the standard translations are accurate, his style was very clear (albeit with a tendency to go off into long lists of exposition that no modern writer would get away with). When you are explaining/inventing unknown science and technology, it pays to be clear. Now, if I ask most people 'Who is the greatest hard science fiction writer of all time' then most, at least most English speakers, are going to tug out one of three names - Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Of the three, Clarke wrote in the most literary style overall. Heinlein crosses into literary science fiction with Stranger In A Strange Land, but Stranger is SOFT science fiction and borders in places on fantasy. The bulk of Heinlein's work, much of it what we would now call 'Young Adult', is also written in a straightforward style. And Asimov is as far from the ideal of 'literary' as you can get - a popular science writer as well as a fiction writer he had a gift for explaining difficult concepts in a way ordinary people could understand. I would argue that the majority of the next generation of writers of hard science fiction wanted to be Heinlein or Asimov rather than, say, Frederick Pohl (who did write in a more literary style). And, of course, the exemplifiers of literary science fiction in general - Ursula K. LeGuin, Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood did not write hard science fiction (Margaret Atwood continues to insist she does not write science fiction but, I'm sorry, The Handmaid's Tale is soft science fiction...and literary soft science fiction at that).

    I think what it really boils down to is that people have developed an expectation that hard science fiction be written in a sparser style. Many hard science fiction writers strive for a style of writing that is often called 'transparent', which Asimov exemplifies in almost all of his work - where the only thing the reader notices is the story and the language choices fade into the background. Transparent is the opposite of literary.

    I think there IS a certain amount of looking down on science fiction in literary quarters...heck, my high school English teacher demanded that my parents take away all my science fiction books and replace them with Dickens and Austen (Needless to say they smiled, nodded, then laughed when she was out of earshot). Margaret Atwood's continued insistence that her work isn't science fiction proves that it exists. But I also think that the *reverse* is true...that hard science fiction writers, especially those old enough to have cut their teeth on Asimov and Heinlein, look down on literary work as a style and see it as rambling and pointless.

    And that was WAY too long.

    Good luck with your venture, by the way, Ian. It does seem like there's a market for it.

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    while I think that more or less everyone understands and accepts what literary means in this context, I think the issue is what hard-sf means; eg if Verne is one's idea of hard sf (not mine for sure, Verne which i love and read almost all his work is adventure books for boys by and large and the forerunner of today's thrillers more than of today's sf which descends from Gernsback and then Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein) then for example, Adam Roberts who writes the best literary sf of today (and arguably of ever) is hard sf; same with various books by Andrew Crumey (like Mobius Dick) or Toby Litt (Journey into space) or Chris beckett (Dark Eden, short stories)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer P View Post

    I think what it really boils down to is that people have developed an expectation that hard science fiction be written in a sparser style. Many hard science fiction writers strive for a style of writing that is often called 'transparent', which Asimov exemplifies in almost all of his work - where the only thing the reader notices is the story and the language choices fade into the background. Transparent is the opposite of literary.
    Many thanks to all who have replied to my query and for the interesting discussion that is going apace. I look forward to seeing how it progresses...

    I also think Jennifer has made an interesting point about hard science fiction being usually in a sparser style. I wonder if it's because the writer wants to explain his world building ideas as clearly as possible, which leaves little room for moulding the words to induce a mood swing in the reader.

    One of the things I've noticed in my writing is that every once in a while I come across the need for a word that does not exist in English (e.g. look up how many synonyms and slight variations there are on the word 'cold' and you'll see what I mean). So when I invent a word to fill the gap, I have to explain it. Could it be that the true hard science fiction writers have to explain their ideas so much so that there is no room for literaturfying it?

  11. #11
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer P View Post
    NOT read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, get thee to a library

    LIBRARY !?!?!?

    How 19th century!

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/164/164-h/164-h.htm

    Don't you have a tablet?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vykHuzNOd9U

    This is a science fiction reality. GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

    20,000 Leagues Under The Sea remains a great read despite not really being science fiction any more
    Whether or not it is science fiction should be determined by the date it was written because that says what the author could know at the time.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; October 18th, 2012 at 02:42 PM.

  12. #12
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver View Post
    One of the things I've noticed in my writing is that every once in a while I come across the need for a word that does not exist in English (e.g. look up how many synonyms and slight variations there are on the word 'cold' and you'll see what I mean). So when I invent a word to fill the gap, I have to explain it. Could it be that the true hard science fiction writers have to explain their ideas so much so that there is no room for literaturfying it?
    How many hard science fiction readers do not care about literary style? Are the hard SF writers and hard SF readers on the same wavelength and the literary stuff is just a bore that gets in the way of the story, if there is a story.

    Are we dealing with two different mentalities here? I have never finished a Margaret Atwood book. Didn't even get very far into them in fact.

    psik

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by psikeyhackr View Post
    How many hard science fiction readers do not care about literary style? Are the hard SF writers and hard SF readers on the same wavelength and the literary stuff is just a bore that gets in the way of the story, if there is a story.

    Are we dealing with two different mentalities here? I have never finished a Margaret Atwood book. Didn't even get very far into them in fact.

    psik
    Literary style is supposed to in some way resonate with the story being told, so that the reader experiences a little more in depth what the protagonists are going through. This would lead to the reader having more empathy with what has been written and therefore leave a longer lasting impression. Well that's the theory anyway.

    The problem with a significant proportion of what are called literary works is that they try to delve into the psychological state by writing about minute details and how they affect the protagonist, so much so that the writing becomes boring for the reader.

    So going by the theory the hard science fiction writers and readers should care enough to get the more in depth experiences from the story.

    According to my tutors, my novel is literary hard science fiction. At least I know now why I haven't yet been able to get an agent... there is NO market for literary hard science fiction.

    By the way _ i've never read Margaret Atwood... I thought her pretentious for trying to deny she had written science fiction and therefore could not respect her as an author.

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