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The Hard SF Renaissance [Paperback]

David G. Hartwell , Kathryn Cramer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2003
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 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.

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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

From Paul McAuley's tale of runaway technology ("Gene Wars") to Gregory Benford's story of evolution and murder ("Immersion"), the 41 stories in this annotated anthology provide a strong argument for the revival of hard sf as a major force in the genre in the 1990s. Showcasing short fiction by veteran sf authors like Kim Stanley Robinson, Joe Haldeman, Bruce Sterling, Nancy Kress, Ben Bova, and Arthur C. Clarke, the collection charts the emergence of trends in the genre. Primary among them are the movement away from a conservative, pro-military route and toward a more liberal-minded science, as well as the rising prominence of British and Australian authors. Each story is prefaced by brief commentaries that continue the arguments posited in the general introduction. For libraries wanting a definitive collection of hard sf written since 1990, this is a priority purchase. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard SF of the `90s Defined and Demonstrated Feb. 18 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This edited volume assembled by David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer contains 41 "hard science fiction" stories sampled from the best writers of the 1990s. It stands alone as a collection, but is best seen as a continuation of their previous anthology, The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. Their similarly-themed Space Opera Renaissance is a logical next read.

My favorite stories are:

Greg Egan - Wang's Carpets. A new kind of life is both hard to detect and understand.
Robert Reed - Marrow. A long-term mission on a generation ship redefines long-term.
Joe Haldeman - For White Hill. Just another love story on home planet Earth.
Karl Schroeder - Halo. A fight-against-terrorism story with characters who never meet.
Vernor Vinge - Fast Times at Fairmont High - Convinces you to read--or not read--Rainbows End, depending on your taste.
Sarah Zettel - Kinds of Strangers. How do marooned astronauts respond to stress?

This is a particularly good collection--there was not a single story I didn't like. SF readers should scan the table of contents before buying, however, since these stories have all appeared elsewhere. The book's preface and brief introductions to each story add significant value. They contain the usual author bios and pointers to other story collections, novels and series. Each intro also presents each author's definition of "hard SF" and excerpts informatively from the authors' own descriptions of their work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good way to learn more about SF Sept. 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
Biographical information about the authors and their works is included before all of the stories. This information is a little more detailed than in Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction and gave me a little more of an idea about the personalties of the authors. I found this particularly helpful in regard to my future reading goals as I like to pick an author and read several stories or novels by that person. I read a library copy of the book but am tempted to buy it to keep as way to remember the names of the authors included and their works. There is also some discussion of trends, such as libertarian SF, which whetted my curiousity. On a radio program recently, I heard a current non-SF author say, "I read to learn about life." I am always surprised how much I learn about life in the worlds of SF.
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Format:Hardcover
A monumental anthology waith many of the best stories published in the last ten years, including many novellas not easily included in smaller anthologies.
Some particular favorites: "Reasons to be Cheerful" by Greg Egan. A young boy finds himself a little too happy with his life. He has a tumor in his brain that has the side effect of making him happy, even when faced with the news of his approaching death. He undergoes a radical new surgery, but afterward, can he ever be happy again?
"Into the Miranda Rift" by G. David Nordley. An exciting new variation on "Journey to the Center of the Earth," except here to journey is through the middle of Uranus' moon.
"Great Wall of Mars" by Alistair Reynolds. A pyrotechnic, breathtaking tour-de-force space opera from one of the most exiting new SF talents.
"Fast Times at Fairmont High" by Vernor Vinge envisions a near future where the junior high science projects of techno-savvy young students can have global repercussions.
"Understand" by Ted Chiang shows how deadly it can be to become smater than everyone else.
"Griffin's Egg" by Michael Swanwick is a captivating depiction of a future lunar society.
"Think Like a Dinosaur" by James Patrick Kelly is both a re-examination of the issues in Tom Godwin's classic "The Cold Equations," and a thoughtful examination into the implications of dealing with alien intelligences who have alien mores and priorities.
"Marrow" by Robert Reed. Humans living and traveling on a gargantuan alien-constructed starship populated by millions of beings invesigate a mystery deep in the center of their own ship, finding there a world stranger than any outside of the ship.
All the storoes in this book range from very good to excellent. There isn't a stinker in the bunch. A worthy addition to any science fiction bookshelf.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Sad SF Renaissance Jan. 23 2003
Format:Hardcover
Throughout my read, my head kept shaking with disappointment. If the "renaissance" of hard SF relies on stories a full decade, even two decades, old, then the genre's future is feebly fixated on its past. Not to say that some of the stories here aren't wonderful ... emphasis on "some." But dredging dead decades to claim a rebirth of hard SF fails to deliver on the title's promise. This is more nostalgia than renewal, and you should read a library-borrowed copy if you want to reminisce about great writers past/passing. But don't drop any real money expecting a glimpse into Sci-Fi's future.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 1 volume highlight of the last decade in hard SF Jan. 25 2003
By "sdixonsf" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A monumental anthology waith many of the best stories published in the last ten years, including many novellas not easily included in smaller anthologies.
Some particular favorites: "Reasons to be Cheerful" by Greg Egan. A young boy finds himself a little too happy with his life. He has a tumor in his brain that has the side effect of making him happy, even when faced with the news of his approaching death. He undergoes a radical new surgery, but afterward, can he ever be happy again?
"Into the Miranda Rift" by G. David Nordley. An exciting new variation on "Journey to the Center of the Earth," except here to journey is through the middle of Uranus' moon.
"Great Wall of Mars" by Alistair Reynolds. A pyrotechnic, breathtaking tour-de-force space opera from one of the most exiting new SF talents.
"Fast Times at Fairmont High" by Vernor Vinge envisions a near future where the junior high science projects of techno-savvy young students can have global repercussions.
"Understand" by Ted Chiang shows how deadly it can be to become smater than everyone else.
"Griffin's Egg" by Michael Swanwick is a captivating depiction of a future lunar society.
"Think Like a Dinosaur" by James Patrick Kelly is both a re-examination of the issues in Tom Godwin's classic "The Cold Equations," and a thoughtful examination into the implications of dealing with alien intelligences who have alien mores and priorities.
"Marrow" by Robert Reed. Humans living and traveling on a gargantuan alien-constructed starship populated by millions of beings invesigate a mystery deep in the center of their own ship, finding there a world stranger than any outside of the ship.
All the storoes in this book range from very good to excellent. There isn't a stinker in the bunch. A worthy addition to any science fiction bookshelf.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard SF Is Not Entirely Dead April 19 2006
By Terry Sunday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If, like me, you lament the state of science fiction today, and if, like me, you long to read stories that will transport you back to the days of the masters of "hard" science fiction--writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Hal Clement and Malcolm Jameson--then this thick volume could be just what you're looking for.

In general, I find today's science fiction unreadable. Every once in a while, out of desperation, sheer boredom or an attack of unwarranted optimism, I pick up a new-release SF paperback, or check one out from the library. I am invariably disappointed. Some current SF books I can't even finish, whereas I continue to read the old ones over and over. I can't recall ANY memorable SF books written within the last 20 years. In my humble opinion, there are very few recent books that even begin to compare to the "hard" SF classics like "Space Cadet," "The Deep Range," "Mission of Gravity" or "Bullard of the Space Patrol," to name just a few.

"The Hard SF Renaissance," however, gives me some hope that all is not lost. If you're a fan of "hard" SF, the stories in this book should appeal to you. While I don't agree that they collectively presage a "renaissance" of the "hard" SF style, they are nonetheless all quite good and live up to their billing. I commend this volume to you if you want to read good, "hard" SF without having to pull out an old, dog-eared, brittle 1950s classic from your collection.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent selection of stories, great introductions Jan. 6 2008
By pretygrrl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Don't underestimate the size of this volume! It's almost 1,000 large pages in small print.
Excellent selection of real hard SF stories. An inspiring and challenging read. I found myself alternating between dictionary, encyclopedia and video searches (google video and youtube) in order to try and wrap my head around many of the concepts.
The editors did a truly masterful job in selecting, introducing and ordering the stories to achieve a full immersion into science, politics and futurism. The introductory notes that precede each story are brief, but do a great job of placing the author into the proper scientific and political context. I never realized just what a tight knit club hard SF is.
The focus of most stories is not science alone, however. Most take place in the near future, and in imagining the future, the authors cannot and do not ignore the politics, economics and sociology that would be required to achieve it. Make no mistake, these guys are hard core Libertarians for the most part. Thanks to this book, I am giving money to the Ron Paul campaign!
I also never quite realized that hard SF doesn't confine itself to physics alone. There are stories by biologists, statisticians and geneticists.
If i were a natural sciences teacher, I would require my students to get this book.
I recommend taking your time with this anthology. I paused in my reading of it to check out novels and other stories by a number of the authors included here.
I think of this anthology as a text book, or maybe a syllabus, for the hard science fiction fan.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader July 31 2007
By Blue Tyson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A really fine, top quality selection of stories. The other writing by the editors is also really good, talking about the SF, the politics, and a piece about each writer, that is enough to boost it to the 5 level, give the stories themselves average 3.8 out of 5. Or, call the whole thing 4.8 out of 5 if you like, rounded up.

Hard SF Renaissance : Gene Wars - Paul J. McAuley
Hard SF Renaissance : Wangs Carpets - Greg Egan
Hard SF Renaissance : Genesis - Poul Anderson
Hard SF Renaissance : Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
Hard SF Renaissance : On the Orion Line [Xeelee] - Stephen Baxter
Hard SF Renaissance : Beggars in Spain [Beggars in Spain] - Nancy Kress
Hard SF Renaissance : Matters End - Gregory Benford
Hard SF Renaissance : The Hammer of Gud - Arthur C. Clarke
Hard SF Renaissance : Think Like a Dinosaur - James Patrick Kelly
Hard SF Renaissance : Mount Olympus [Return to Mars] - Ben Bova
Hard SF Renaissance : Marrow - Robert Reed
Hard SF Renaissance : Microbe - Joan Slonczewski
Hard SF Renaissance : The Lady Vanishes - Charles Sheffield
Hard SF Renaissance : Bicycle Repairman [Chattanooga] - Bruce Sterling
Hard SF Renaissance : An Ever-Reddening Glow - David Brin
Hard SF Renaissance : S3xual Dimorphism - Kim Stanley Robinson
Hard SF Renaissance : Into the Miranda Rift - G. David Nordley
Hard SF Renaissance : The Shoulders of Giants - Robert J. Sawyer
Hard SF Renaissance : A Walk in the Sun - Geoffrey A. Landis
Hard SF Renaissance : For White Hill - Joe Haldeman
Hard SF Renaissance : A Career in Sexual Chemistry - Brian M. Stableford
Hard SF Renaissance : Reef - Paul J. McAuley
Hard SF Renaissance : Exchange Rate - Hal Clement
Hard SF Renaissance : Reasons to Be Cheerful - Greg Egan
Hard SF Renaissance : Griffins Egg - Michael Swanwick
Hard SF Renaissance : Great Wall of Mars - Alastair Reynolds
Hard SF Renaissance : A Niche - Peter Watts
Hard SF Renaissance : Gossamer [Xeelee] - Stephen Baxter
Hard SF Renaissance : Madam Butterfly - James P. Hogan
Hard SF Renaissance : Understand - Ted Chiang
Hard SF Renaissance : Halo - Karl Schroeder
Hard SF Renaissance : Different Kinds of Darkness - David Langford
Hard SF Renaissance : Fast Times at Fairmont High - Vernor Vinge
Hard SF Renaissance : Reality Check - David Brin
Hard SF Renaissance : The Mendelian Lamp Case - Paul Levinson
Hard SF Renaissance : Kinds of Strangers - Sarah Zettel
Hard SF Renaissance : The Good Rat - Allen Steele
Hard SF Renaissance : Built Upon the Sands of Time - Michael F. Flynn
Hard SF Renaissance : Taklamakan [Chattanooga] - Bruce Sterling
Hard SF Renaissance : Hatching the Phoenix [Heechee (Robinette Broadhead)] - Frederik Pohl
Hard SF Renaissance : Immersion - Gregory Benford

Gene Wars - Paul J. McAuley

4 out of 5

Wangs Carpets - Greg Egan

5 out of 5

Genesis - Poul Anderson

3.5 out of 5

Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

4 out of 5

On the Orion Line [Xeelee] - Stephen Baxter

4 out of 5

Beggars in Spain [Beggars in Spain] - Nancy Kress

4 out of 5

Matters End - Gregory Benford

3.5 out of 5

The Hammer of God - Arthur C. Clarke

3.5 out of 5

Think Like a Dinosaur - James Patrick Kelly

4.5 out of 5

Mount Olympus [Return to Mars] - Ben Bova

4 out of 5

Marrow - Robert Reed

3.5 out of 5

Microbe - Joan Slonczewski

4 out of 5

The Lady Vanishes - Charles Sheffield

3.5 out of 5

Bicycle Repairman [Chattanooga] - Bruce Sterling

4 out of 5

An Ever-Reddening Glow - David Brin

3.5 out of 5

Sexual Dimorphism - Kim Stanley Robinson

4 out of 5

Into the Miranda Rift - G. David Nordley

4 out of 5

The Shoulders of Giants - Robert J. Sawyer

3.5 out of 5

A Walk in the Sun - Geoffrey A. Landis

3 out of 5

For White Hill - Joe Haldeman

2.5 out of 5

A Career in Sexual Chemistry - Brian M. Stableford

3.5 out of 5

Reef - Paul J. McAuley

4 out of 5

Exchange Rate - Hal Clement

3.5 out of 5

Reasons to Be Cheerful - Greg Egan

4.5 out of 5

Griffins Egg - Michael Swanwick

3.5 out of 5

Great Wall of Mars - Alastair Reynolds

4.5 out of 5

A Niche - Peter Watts

4 out of 5

Gossamer [Xeelee] - Stephen Baxter

4 out of 5

Madam Butterfly - James P. Hogan

3 out of 5

Understand - Ted Chiang

4.5 out of 5

Halo - Karl Schroeder

4 out of 5

Different Kinds of Darkness - David Langford

4 out of 5

Fast Times at Fairmont High - Vernor Vinge

4 out of 5

Reality Check - David Brin

3.5 out of 5

The Mendelian Lamp Case - Paul Levinson

4 out of 5

Kinds of Strangers - Sarah Zettel

3 out of 5

The Good Rat - Allen Steele

3.5 out of 5

Built Upon the Sands of Time - Michael F. Flynn

3 out of 5

Taklamakan [Chattanooga] - Bruce Sterling

4 out of 5

Hatching the Phoenix [Heechee (Robinette Broadhead)] - Frederik Pohl

4 out of 5

Immersion - Gregory Benford

4 out of 5
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Undiscovered Country Dec 16 2004
By Emily P. Kalbouss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This anthology includes some of the most insightful speculations I have ever encountered. Do you wonder where we are headed as a species? Do your ponderings of the future keep you awake at night, imagining what is possible? When you read the paper or watch TV, can you keep from wondering "what does it all mean" for this ever-the-more complicated and confounded global civilization? Then this book is for you. Fantasies and nightmares abound in this collection of short-stories; the common theme of science and technology as a cultural catalyst binds these very different contexts and characters in an extremely readable anthology. No bird-people, no tap-dancing robots...no motherbrains, and only a few laser-beams. This stuff is far-out without all of the bells and whistles. It approaches the question of what lies ahead from the perspective of a human being living in the late twentieth/early twenty-first century--eye-witness to the marvels and horrors of the modern and postmodern age. This is the stuff that makes you simultaneously hopeful and terrified of what lies ahead for Homo sapiens.
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