Purity of Hard Science Fiction

Today let’s gravitate  towards outer space and all things “Hard Science Fiction.” What makes science fiction “hard” and not “soft”?

What is the definition for “Hard Science Fiction”? Can we say that Hard SF is more purely classified by scientific engineers who cite those books that are based on true scientific work and plausible technology? Is the term “Hard SF” a marketing term used to entice readers? Or should it really be left up to the reader to decide?

The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Islands of Space in Astounding Science Fiction magazine.

Let’s start with, A Fall of Moondust a novel by Arthur C. Clarke. This novel was nominated for a Hugo Award and is still classified as Hard SF even after it was found that deep pockets of “moondust” in lunar craters are known to be incorrect.

The Best Hard Science Fiction Books of all Time By Technology Review.

1. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (Jules Verne, 1870) .

2. The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895).

3. I, Robot (Isaac Asimov, 1950)

4. The Shockwave Rider (John Brunner, 1975)

5. The Fountains of Paradise (Arthur C. Clark, 1979)

6. Cyteen (C.J. Cherryh, 1988).

7. The Mars Trilogy (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1992-1996)

8. The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson, 1995)

9. Rainbows End (Vernor Vinge, 2006)

10. Incandescence (Greg Egan, 2008).


No matter what people’s definition of Hard SF might be this is an intriguing category. Whether you’re a purist of Hard SF or just a fan of the genre in general, I have to say, there’s definitely relevance in the idea that the use of real science theories gives this type of science fiction depth, and usually delivers a more believable story. But perhaps the term itself is used more by the purist of the genre.

A good series to watch is the Prophets of Science Fiction –Arthur C Clark. His concepts were not believable at the time, but through science today we know that much of what Clark imagined became scientifically possible.

 Let’s finish with a tribute to Ray Bradbury who passed away 2012.

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.

You must write every single day of your life. You must write dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.

You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfume and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories–science fiction or otherwise.

Which means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

~ Ray Bradbury ~

Of course it wouldn’t be me writing this blog post if I didn’t include a look at some Hard SF anime… simply for my love of anime. Check out! 2oo1 Nights

And just to be true to myself I have to include the Hard SF video game series Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. And here’s a bit of quick science behind the game. The Science of Mass Effect: Red Shift/ Blue Shift


Do you have a favourite Hard SF book or movie? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s my first attempt at a pantoum poem


Outer Space

By Vacen Taylor


Drawn into the depths of outer space,

we marvel at our new space travel,

left to contemplate our new freedom, and

what we may discover in the frontiers of space.


We marvel at our new space travel,

celebrating yet another advance in science.

What we may discover in the frontiers of space,

motivates a new age of thought and fear.


Celebrating yet another advance in science,

left to contemplate our new freedom;

motivates a new age of thought and fear

drawn into the depths of outer space.


Until next time.  Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques


  1. After many years of grappling with definitions, I think I finally understand that what most people call hard sci-fi, I think of as simply sci-fi. To make something science fiction, it is necessary that the story takes it as given that the Universe can, in principle, be explained. I.e. that there is nothing supernatural in the world. Beyond that, the challenges facing the protagonists should arise from the consequences of a “world” in which the of some scientific principle or new technology is invoked or supposed. At the soft end of this definition, you get books like Alasdair Reynold’s “Blue Remembered Earth”, and at the hard end you get Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous With Rama.”

    • Sorry about the typos – should have read it before hitting “Post”!

    • Hi Graham, I have to agree I have reached the same conclusion. It’s sci-fi to me too. I like the idea of real science theories giving the fiction depth, but I’m not a fan of definitions of sci-fi. And I think some real science in the future may still begin purely in the imaginations of writers today. I guess I do understand that some people will still like to define the genre on the purity of the science and in some cases the quantity (or heaviness) of the scientific information included, but I’m inclined to think like you. I totally agree with you on the story as you explained above. Ps. We’re writers typos happen… I’ve learned to live with it. 😉

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