Hard science fiction
In stories that are considered hard science fiction, sciences such as physics, robotics, nanotechnology and astronomy form the basis of the entire story. The mathematical sciences are given top billing in the hard science fiction books; these are tales in which theory and knowledge become real. Larry Niven based his famous Ringworld series on physics, starting with an artificially created world shaped in the form of a gigantic ring, he then peopled the story with a set of interesting explorers. For hard science fiction, though, the logistics of the science have to be sound and Ringworld shows not only Niven’s education in mathematics but also his understanding of geology, climatology and all the other aspects that make up a working world. However, if that scientific understanding had been the extent of the work, it would have been an essay, not a story.
Niven also has a gift for creating the other two important aspects of a story: characters and plot. He created four characters – two human and two alien – and set them exploring his ringworld oddity to try to learn who had built it. Their adventures made Larry Niven famous both for his excellent
use of science and also for a fantastic story.
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Writing hard science fiction requires research of the type a graduate student might make. If you are going to write about a certain type of real-world science, then you have to immerse yourself in the basics. Unless you are actively working in the field, chances are you need a refresher in some of the material even if you took classes in college. This is not the type of material you can be lax about because
the audience for these stories is extremely demanding of authenticity. The science has to be sound and you may have your ideas vetted by those who work in the field – though don’t be discouraged if the scientist doesn’t see the point in writing a fiction story.
No matter what type of science fiction you write, the science must be integral to the plot, rather than something added on and which hasn’t any real function in the story. So, while having a scientific background can be a real boon to writing stories based on hard science, that doesn’t mean a layperson
cannot attempt these types of tales. It does mean, however, that such a person will have considerable work researching the background. A good place to start is with current scientific magazines such as New Scientist, Scientific American and Popular Science. If you cannot take out a subscription, try your local library for reference copies and plan to spend a few hours each week looking through the material.
If you haven’t already decided on a specific type of science or theory on which to base your story, take notes on everything that interests you. Once you have settled on the basis of your work, expand your research on the subject and those closely related to it. Read everything you can, but at the same
time don’t forget that you are writing fiction.
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Author Lazette Gifford
Price £12.99 €13.99
Format Paperback, 215 x 135mm, 160pp
ISBN 978-1-84285-060-2 Click here to buy Click here for more information on this book.
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