[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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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.

You write: "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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