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Hard SF Renaissance

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2007

    Too Much Science, Not Enough Fiction

    It can be difficult to evaluate a collection of short stories from a variety of authors. Assuming an interest in the genre, most readers will like some stories, dislike others, and perhaps find many unremarkable. Such is the case with David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer's collection 'The Hard SF Renaissance,' a 960-page selection of work by some of the genre's most noted authors, including Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, etc. 'Hard SF' is loosely defined by the editors and authors as somewhat-plausible speculative-fiction rooted in science-fact. Whether each of these offerings meet that definition is questionable, and it was certainly obvious to me that some authors are included primarily because they are personal favorites of the editors, and not because of their purported contributions to the genre. While I did enjoy some of the stories (most notably 'Hatching the Phoenix' by Pohl, set in his Heechee universe), many of the others were lifeless and drab, due perhaps to many authors' over-reliance on 'science' instead of 'fiction.' Indeed, many authors were so eager to reveal their scientific prophesies that they neglected all other elements of a good short story (plot, characters, etc.) except in the barest form. Not all stories fall into this trap -- Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain emerges as the strongest contender in the story-telling vein, which is unfortunately in short supply elsewhere in the collection. This collection may be of use to those who want to read a small sample of work from various authors to determine which might pique their interest further, but I am unable to heartily recommend it to the casual reader because too many of the entries are merely humdrum.

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