At a recent Writers Conference in San Francisco, I found myself searching in vain for other authors of the genre known as Hard Science Fiction, i.e., stories about how currently understood science and technology could affect lives on our own world and perhaps lives on some of the other worlds being discovered every day by NASA’s Kepler Mission.
During the course of the conference, it appeared that wearing a badge labeling me as a writer of hard science fiction sometimes intimidated other authors who assumed that an understanding of the physical and natural sciences meant I could not possibly appreciate, let alone write about, the human dramas they described in their works of Fantasy, Young Adult, or Literary Fiction.
Sadly, this assumption could not be farther from the truth.
For me, and I believe most dedicated readers of hard science fiction, it is the memorable, character-driven stories that first capture our interest. And then, when we discover that those stories take place in a world of provable scientific truth, the fictional dramas we are following achieve a whole new level of immediacy that grabs our minds as well as our imaginations, compelling us to see the story through to the end, no matter how many pages it takes!
I would urge anyone reluctant to pick up a hard science fiction novel for fear of not understanding the underlying science to take a leap of faith that the author will successfully seduce you with characters your care about, then take you on a journey that will thrill and inspire you while adding just a bit to your knowledge of the world in which you live.
After all, if The Martian hadn’t been read by a wide range of readers, how would so many people outside of NASA come to know about the dangers to be faced and overcome by space travelers such as Andy Weir’s hero, Mark Watney?
And when we finally do arrive on Mars to stay, whether it’s in an Elon Musk-envisioned colony or some other form of human habitation, it will be the readers of hard science fiction that will be able to say, “We knew we could do it all along!”