Posted by: kshayes513 | May 11, 2013

Ryk E. Spoor Talks about Writing Hard Science Fiction

Friends, followers and readers, you’ve been very patient with me this spring while my attention has been everywhere but here. I will resume putting up new articles and discussions very soon. But meanwhile, I offer you one of the best articles I’ve read recently about writing hard science fiction and getting it right.

portal coverRyk E. Spoor and Eric Flint recently released Portal, the final book in their Boundary trilogy (cover and artwork by my good friend Bob Eggleton), and in honor of the event, Ryk wrote a guest post on John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. He tells how he came to partner with Eric Flint on the series, and describes the challenges of writing the kind of SF Eric was aiming for: “real hard SF – near-future, using extrapolations of real technology, with parts of it solid enough to ring like steel when someone hammered on them.

At the heart of the piece is the big challenge of any kind of worldbuilding – getting in all the information your readers need to be convinced that the world is real, and to understand what’s happening, without sinking the story under pages of info-dumps.

Here’s a choice bit on knowing when to stop explaining:

“That second bit is a crucial, and very scary, part of writing hard SF. You cannot get it all exactly right, not without writing textbooks on each and every subject, and you don’t have hundreds of pages to make your technical points. If you’re lucky, you have two paragraphs to make the point before the reader’s attention begins to wander down the page, looking for the next thing that isn’t an infodump. And even if you think you can get away with a few paragraphs on everything, to learn everything you might need well enough to write authoritatively on it… well, it’ll take you a lot longer than your contractual deadline allows you.”

You can read the entire piece here. It’s great advice and information, not only for hard SF writers but for anyone writing a complex world with unfamiliar cultures, magic or technology. And in the middle of all this Ryk even comes up with a pretty nifty definition of what makes a successful hard SF story. Hmm. I think I’ll go repost this on a couple of spec fiction forums and see who starts a fight over his definition. Muahahahaa!

Warning: Ryk mentions a few plot points which appear to be pretty major spoilers, so if you’re in the middle of reading the series, you might want to save this until you’re done.


  1. I missed this when you first posted it, but thanks for the kind words!

  2. It’s an excellent piece, Ryk, it was my pleasure to share it.
    By the way, I intended to link your name to your website, and I just noticed that the link never activated. Fixed now. Everyone go look at all the other goodies Ryk’s website offers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: