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You keep saying 'hard science fiction.' I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Over at Locus, there are some great excerpts from their interview with Stanley Schmidt, who recently ended his record stint as editor of Analog, the hard science fiction magazine. Most notably, Schmidt explains why he sometimes gets tired of the phrase "hard science fiction":

While, in one sense, I'm proud to keep Analog as hard science fiction, I also sometimes wish that term would go away. So many people use it in a way that they think is what I mean by it, and it's completely different from what I really mean. Recently I got a story by somebody who said, ‘So and so said I should sell this to Analog because it's full of clanking hardware.' I have no intrinsic interest in clanking hardware. What I mean by ‘hard science fiction' is actually pretty simple: there's some element of speculative science or technology in it, which is so integral to the story that you can't take it out without making the whole story collapse.

The second requirement is that there should be some attempt to make the science or technology speculation plausible. When I was teaching the science fiction course, one of the stories that I had people read was ‘Flowers for Algernon' (one of my all-time favorites). It's the quintessential example of meeting the requirement that there has to be some speculative element that you can't take out without making the story collapse. Everything that's important to Charlie comes out of that operation. And yet, because there are no rockets or robots and very little is said about the medical details, about half the students in my course were surprised that I even considered it science fiction. On the other hand, everybody thinks of Star Wars movies as science fiction, but they're what my dad calls ‘really good Westerns with terrific special effects.'

Check out the rest at the link, and in the print magazine. [Locus]