Does Lois McMaster Bujold count as a hard science fiction writer?

Illustration for article titled Does Lois McMaster Bujold count as a hard science fiction writer?

Is Lois McMaster Bujold really a hard science-fiction author? Her work doesn't appear, at first glance, to revolve around scientific concepts. But, suggests one blogger, that's just because she's rather more subtle about writing about hard science than some authors.

Advertisement

James Nicoll asked on his blog for people to name women who write hard science fiction, and Martin Wisse suggested the Miles Vorkosigan series:

Bujold writes hard science fiction you don't notice, as it's all hidden in plain view in the background.

Advertisement

This drew objections from some other posters, who were under the impression that the science in Bujold's writing is shunted to the background and not really central to the story. Over on his own blog, Wisse responds:

At first glance it does look like a standard mil-sf series, but the genius of Bujold is that she writes stories that revolve around science, technology and the sociological and cultural impact of these, without you realising she is doing this.

Much hard science fiction suffers from technofetishism, where the characters go around lovingly describing each type of ship taking part in a space battle or go into the finer details of the ammunition they're using in the midst of a firefight. Even when the focus is less militaristic, it can sometimes seem the future is entirely populated by geeks. This is not the case with Bujold: her characters are people comfortable with using futuretech, without particularly noticing it or how it influences their society, but this influence is still there. As a reader it means you yourself have to work harder to notice things too, as they're not pointed out to you.

He goes on to point out one example of a future technology that's central to the stories in Bujold's universe: the uterine replicator, which allows women to avoid suffering the "dangers and side effects of pregnancy." You see this technology introduced to Barrayar, and you witness how it changes society.

So what do you think? Is "technofetishism" a crucial part of hard science fiction writing, or just something it's prone to sometimes? [Wis[s]e Words]

Advertisement

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Corpore Metal

I, who have been on a search for women hard science fiction writers, will have to check Bujold out.

But I'm sticking with the old school definition of hard SF—the physics, biology, astronomy and math are central to the story and the rest can go hang for a while. The main reason I read science fiction is for the geekery of devices and concepts we can't quite build—just yet. The whole distinction between Wells and Verne. Verne was one of the first hard SF writers in my opinion, if only because he took Well's to task for getting some basic science wrong, even if Wells was a better writer.

If a story doesn't give me some passable idea how a jet pack might work, then I'm less interested.

Speculative fiction about the social sciences I'm less interested in because I'm less interested in social sciences in general.

But again, if a skillful writer can still give me my fix of golly gee whiz technical geekery and yet prevent that from dominating a good story with decent character development and such, so much the sweeter.

I'll check Bujold out if only because there seems such a scarcity of women in this branch of SF. She might just be fun anyway.