The Hard Sf Renaissance: An Anthology

The Hard Sf Renaissance: An Anthology

  • Publish Date: 2003-10-01
  • Binding: Paperback
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Something exciting has been happening in modern SF. After decades of confusion, many of the field's best writers have been returning to the subgenre called, roughly, "hard SF"-science fiction focused on science and technology, often with strong adventure plots. Now, World Fantasy Award-winning editors David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer present an immense, authoritative anthology that maps the development and modern-day resurgence of this form, argues for its special virtues and present preeminence-and entertains us with some spectacular storytelling along the way.

Included are major stories by contemporary and classic names such as Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, David Brin, Arthur C. Clarke, Hal Clement, Greg Egan, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Paul Levinson, Paul McAuley, Frederik Pohl, Alastair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, Karl Schroeder, Charles Sheffield, Brian Stableford, Allen Steele, Bruce Sterling, Michael Swanwick, and Vernor Vinge.

The Hard SF Renaissance will be an anthology that SF readers return to for years to come.
Edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, The Hard SF Renaissance (2002) is a thematic sequel to their 1994 anthology The Ascent of Wonder. The first anthology argued that "[t]here has been a persistent viewpoint that hard [science fiction] is somehow the core and the center of the SF field." The Hard SF Renaissance asserts that hard SF has truly become the heart of the genre and supports its assertion by assembling nearly a thousand pages of short stories, novelettes, and novellas originally published between the late 1980s and early 2000s. A different theory says hard SF stories are engineering puzzles disguised as fiction; The Hard SF Renaissance repudiates this theory in regard to modern hard SF. Most of the selections have strong prose and rounded characters, several are classics, and gadget-driven clunkers are mercifully few.

Contributors to The Hard SF Renaissance range from SF gods like Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frederik Pohl; to promising newcomers like Alastair Reynolds, Karl Schroeder, and Peter Watts; and to acclaimed SF writers not usually associated with hard SF, like James Patrick Kelley, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, and Michael Swanwick.

You may have noticed the lack of women in that list. It reflects the book: the 30-odd contributors (some with two stories) include only three women (Nancy Kress, Joan Slonczewski, and Sarah Zettel, with one story each). Some eyebrow-elevating omissions are Eleanor Arnason, Catherine Asaro, Nicola Griffith, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Connie Willis, all of whom have written hard SF stories in the period covered by The Hard SF Renaissance. They've certainly written SF harder than the book's implicit definition (the book reprints Kim Stanley Robinson's fine story "Sexual Dimorphism," in which fossil DNA serves as a metaphor for the protagonist's failing relationship; a few cosmetic changes and this SF story would be mainstream). The absence of several crucial authors makes The Hard SF Renaissance a less-than-definitive anthology of late-20th-century hard SF. --Cynthia Ward

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