NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Hard SF Renaissance

by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2002, $39.95, 960 pp

Hartwell and Cramer have done a series of magisterial anthologies in Horror and SF history, and now they turn their attention to contemporary hard SF. They argue – correctly, I think – that we're experiencing a true renaissance of hard SF and that the field is richer and stronger than it's ever been.

I've heard people say otherwise, but I think they mistake a loss of dominance with a loss of absolute position. Hard SF is no longer as dominant as it was: whole new subgenres (like Generic Fantasy and endless media tie-ins) have become popular and blossomed since the 50s when some argue that hard SF was dominant in SF. (And I don't even think that that is true, since much of what was written then was adventure stories set in a vaguely hard SF setting, but otherwise not being recognizable as hard SF.) It's true that the fraction of the field that looks (at least superficially) like hard SF has diminished, but the amount being published has grown as the overall field has grown and I think the level of quality is superb.

The stories in the collection are all from the 90s and most of them are since 1995 and it's a most distinguished collection. (I won't attempt to list them all here!)

The book is huge at nearly a thousand pages and is far more than you can read at one sitting – in fact, the main gripe I have about it is that it's such a doorstop that it's somewhat uncomfortable to read!

This is a marvelous book: buy it and read it a bit at a time!

Highly recommended.

NESFA homepage | Review Index | More Reviews by Mark L. Olson