Tripping fantastic in hard sci-fi

 Posted by at 11:48 am on March 24, 2012  Writing sci-fi  Add comments
Mar 242012

Hard sci-fi has a reputation for being almost exclusively about science and tech, with people only thrown in for context. I don’t buy it, and I don’t buy stories which take that approach. Unfortunately it’s a reputation reinforced by some authors who do embrace that idea and fill their stories with techno-overdrive. These authors meticulously plot out the wizardry of their science, then add people as filler, inserting cardboard cutouts as characters brought in as afterthoughts.

See the MartianSands bookstore page for submission guidelines to recommend books or submit short stories.

That isn’t good storytelling, and it isn’t good science fiction. Sci-fi is still about the human drama of confronting the new and the strange. In fact, you and I confront the new and the strange regularly in our real lives. Hard sci-fi extrapolates our present reality to what may lie ahead for us, be it 20 minutes into the future or centuries and even epochs beyond. Yes, there are variations like steampunk that put fantastical technical advances in the past, and the anywhen of time-travel stories. Science fiction covers a broad reach of storytelling, and hard sci-fi is a sub-genre. Yet it still is at the core of what science fiction is.

What I hope to do with MartianSands is focus on the hard sci-fi sub-genre, including the sale of stories within that sub-genre. This blog will cover areas related to plausible speculation of the near future in fiction and non-fiction, and I’ll post affiliate sales links on the bookstore pages for titles that generally meet the site’s focus. “Focus” is the key word, here. I am not declaring that hard sci-fi is the only good sci-fi. I’m not that foolish nor close minded. It’s not even the only sci-fi I like. But if I’m to keep MartianSands true to its goal of exploring “Life at the dawn of the 22nd century,” I have to keep the site focused.

Why this particular focus? I remember as a kid cruising the library’s sci-fi shelves and reading a number of stories about going to the Moon and traveling to Mars, particularly stories about the first to reach these bodies in the sky. They weren’t always good stories, and much of the speculative “science” behind the stories seem quaint now, even ludicrous. But they were generally earnest attempts at imagining the unknown.

Then Neil Armstrong planted his foot on the Moon’s surface, and all those fictional trips to the moon – in one small step – became obsolete. With the voyages of the Mariners, Surveyor and other Martian probes, it rapidly became clear that the old stories about going to Mars were also becoming obsolete, and writers seemed to stop writing about Mars for a time, or any story set in an early exploration of our solar system. There were some, of course, but not as many. Why write a story that could become obsolete in 10 years, because we figured that’s all it would take to reach our next stop, Mars?

It seems like we’ve been 10 years away from Mars for more than 40 years now, and we’re still no closer. But we’ve learned so much more about Mars and the rest of the solar system, and writers are getting impatient. Since about the ‘90s, stories about Mars, the asteroid belt and the outer planets are becoming more prevalent. The science is on firmer ground, but the potential for human drama is still broad and perhaps even more fantastic.

This is what I will explore in my own fiction and in this blog. It’s also what I want to sell on the bookstore pages of the site.

Looking for recommended titles

Rather than merely use the category listings provided by Amazon, I will list titles that include recommendations from readers and writers. At this point, I am not reviewing novels but I will consider books whose focus generally matches that of this website. The affiliate sales links do not have to be to Amazon. See details on the MartianSands main bookstore page for the criteria I’m using, though I mean the criteria to be flexible.

I’m not guaranteeing all the titles will be good, though I will give greater credence to titles attracting good reviews. I am eager to show works by new writers, though not exclusively.

Short Stories

I want to publish short stories on MartianSands, but I admit this is problematic. I’ve seen other sites that invite writers to submit stories for consideration. There’s no payment to the writer, but they get exposure. Isn’t that great?!

Well, no it isn’t. It’s a rip-off, and I don’t want MartianSands to be one of those sites.

On the other hand, I don’t have a pool of funds to pay for short stories.

It turns out, however, that the evolving market for authors to publish their own work has created a new way to feature short stories without taking advantage of the writer. There are a number of short stories being sold as mini-e-books for 99 cents generally, some for free. This trend provides a way for me to feature an intro to the story with an affiliate link for the full piece.

Not sure how it will work out, but my idea is to feature three short stories per month, each with an illustration if available, an intro, and the first couple of paragraphs followed by the affiliate link to the full story. The author sets the price as he or she normally would when selling through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other sites. If the author wants to set the price free for a time, that’s the author’s call.

I’ll start featuring short stories when I feel I have enough submissions that show quality work, so I’ll need to see the full story, not just a synopsis. I will likely not be featuring novellas at the start, but that may change. I may be open to serializations in the future, but hold off for now.

How to submit

Go to the MartianSands Bookstore page for guidelines and separate email links to recommend books or submit short stories. Recommendations can come from anybody, but short stories must be submitted by the author.

– Tom Chmielewski


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