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Hard SF Isn't All Bad
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 2000 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
I wrote this response to an email from Leslie who doesn't like hard SF.
As a hard-SF writer myself, I've got to gently disagree with you
about all hard SF being the same and being bad. Take Robert
Charles Wilson's Darwinia for example, or my own
Factoring Humanity two of last year's
nominees for the Hugo Award.
They're both hard-SF (Wilson's based on Tipler's omega-point
speculations; mine based on quantum computing), but neither of
them fit the mold you describe.
You refer to "gobs of exposition;" later you cite Kim Stanley
Robinson. This puts me in mind of something Robinson said at
Readercon two years ago: the language of discourse about English
literature (the subject in which Robinson holds a Ph.D.) is set
by artsy types, and, in an Orwellian bit of mind control, there
are no positive terms to refer to exposition.
Exposition is not,
in my view, necessarily a bad thing; indeed, without it, one can
only tell simple stories about things the reader is already
familiar with. Robinson certainly "lards" (to use your word) his
Red Mars trilogy with exposition ("a brutal overload of
information," to quote one review Robinson himself likes to cite)
-- but even he can't hold a candle to the amount of exposition
in, say, Melville's Moby-Dick, widely regarded as the best
American novel ever written.
"The science section of New York Times is a better source of SF
stories than the average bookstore. For example, did you catch
the article about the theory that life developed on Mars before
Earth, and by meteorite transfer Mars could have seeded Earth?
In other words, if you want to see the descendant of a Martian,
go up to a mirror."
I don't know when the Times published that, but as a matter of
fact, The Globe and Mail ran a 1,400-word science-fiction story
by me in its December 11, 1999, edition entitled "Mars Reacts!," and it
dealt with this very theme; I also deal with it in my next novel,
Calculating God, coming in June 2000
(but finished in June 1999).
Many of us do try to keep right up to date.
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