Cosmic Engineers

A Study of Hard Science Fiction

by Gary Westfahl


The first comprehensive critical study of hard science fiction, this book reveals how the term hard science fiction originated, and closely examines three representative works.

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Cover image for Cosmic Engineers

February 1996


Pages 168
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics The Arts/General

The first comprehensive critical study of hard science fiction, this book reveals how the term hard science fiction originated, and how arguments about its range and nature have unfolded. Westfahl shows that hard science fiction is generally characterized by the author's extreme concern for scientific accuracy and logic. Identifying two characteristic forms of hard science fiction, Westfahl closely examines several representative works: Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust, Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, and Charles Sheffield's Between the Strokes of Midnight. This book offers new insights into hard science fiction and provides a wealth of information about what members of the science fiction community have said about this relatively recent genre.

Author Info

Gary Westfahl is adjunct professor at the University of La Verne, CA. He has published numerous articles on science fiction and fantasy in journals, magazines, critical anthologies, and reference books. He is the also the author of several forthcoming books on science fiction and fantasy, and coeditor of three forthcoming anthologies.



Westfahl offers an extended definition of hard science fiction--i.e., scientifically accurate SF that does not go beyond current scientific knowledge. He distinguishes between two forms--near-future extrapolation of current scientific developments and the far-future projection of large developments and strange (but scientifically plausible) worlds. Highly recommended for academic libraries with SF collections and for large public libraries.—Choice

Westfahl has learned the good trick of packing theexamples in at the same time that his choice of examples is devastatingly true to his sense of definition.—^X^BAppearing in Extrapolation^R


As in his other work, Gary Westfahl's ^I Cosmic Engineers^R combines extensive research and unexpected insights about hard science fiction. Unlike other commentators, he pays close attention to the statements of hard science fiction writers in making judgements and analyzing texts. Some may argue with his conclusions, but all will agree that he is making a valuable contribution to the debate.—^B^XGregory Benford

Gary Westfahl carefully slices away all the nonsense in this trendy subject, leaving a very small but fascinating core.—^B^XDamon Knight

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