Going Hard Core

Out-nerding The Geeks

There used to be a form, exemplified by Robert L. Forward among others, which placed a major emphasis on the uber-technicalities of the science behind the story line. While this was all fine and good to a degree (Spec Fi stories urgently need background since we deal with such esoterica as orbital mechanics, alien environments, advanced stellar physics, etc.) but these stories went way overboard with it. What came to be known as 'Hard Science Fiction' delved into page after page of the most out there science (a peculiar example of Infodumping not to mention an ongoing "You know, Bob..." moment.) This made for very heavy reading, which some enjoyed, but many others were turned off to.

I haven't seen that much of the form in recent years, but its still out there. Those stories had their moments, their compelling characters, and their dramatic situations, but many of them were Doctoral Theses set in an action/dramatic background. For better or worse, the form seems to have been a passing fancy. Its not to say you can't do it, or shouldn't, if that's what floats your boat, but you need to understand this is one of the most difficult forms to get right.

One big problem with the genre is that you need to be hep to the most advanced thinking in the Hard Sciences - and Heaven help you if you try to fake it! Spec Fi is notorious for the merciless critiques of the True Believers, especially if you throw down the metaphorical gauntlet of a story driven by Cutting Edge Tech. That is an invitation to being savaged in the Court Of Public Opinion.

Another problem is that the major character stereotypes - scientists, bureaucrats, and Manly Spacemen - tend to be Geeks (or Jocks) in their own right. This will make generating an interesting character set all that more difficult. Having your characters discover that they are Two Dimensional Beings won't help the plot line one little bit.

Plus - it must be said - such material is mostly dull and hard to follow. True, if you choose to pursue this literary form, you will find devoted readers (assuming you get your tech right!) But it will be a tough row to hoe with the fans, the reviewers, and expecially with the press.

Rule Of Thumb: don't go there.

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