Saturday, 4 December 2004
Hard SF is indeed a constantly shifting goalpost- over the years it's gott[e]n considerably more rigid and limiting.
Over the last decade the meaning has shifted from "Well thought out plausible extrapolation" to "No physical laws as we know them violated". It currently seems to be slowly shifting to the level of “No technology that we currently don't have”, which means that probably if the trend continues, in about fifteen years “hard SF” will be defined as “Books like the Kinsey Malone mystery stories”.
I think it would be a pity if the first definition stopped being used entirely, since that would eliminate a lot of thoughtful, interesting stories. And while the second definition is useful, I don't think the third is: we already have the Kinsey Malone mystery stories, after all. Science Fiction must continue to concern itself with the possibilities of the future.
The Darkness that Comes Before, by R. Scott Bakker, copyright 2003; Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, 2004. This is described ss The Prince of Nothing, Book One, so I'm looking forward to seeing more books in this series. A very good non-psuedo-medieval fantasy, with an interesting cast of characters and some intriguing background. In some ways it reminds me of Glen Cook's Tower of Fear, although it may have a somewhat larger scope.
Sharpe's Escape, by Bernard Cornwell; narrated by Patrick Tull; Recorded Books, LLC, 2004. Portugal, 1810; Sharpe becomes separated from his regiment as the British retreat to the Lines of Tores Vedras. Well read by Patrick Tull.