The Space Opera Renaissance: Gregory Benford

201107112159.jpg  Gregory Benford is an astrophysicist who is on staff at the University of California, Irvine. He is known mostly for his short story science fiction and particularly for his strict reliance on science as an integral part of his stories. What he writes usually is called ‘hard science fiction’ which means its stories are built around real science and what is actually possible with what we understand about the universe today. When it’s done well this kind of science fiction can feel more real and more intense than the ‘softer’ kinds of science fiction stories. When it’s done poorly it read like a physics text or a dry list of physical restrictions.

Gregory Benford, however, is one who does it well. “Worm in the Well” is a story about wormholes, negative matter, and Fresnel reflections. It’s also a story about a woman trying hard to stay on top of a mounting pile of debt and unfortunate circumstances. Benford tells the story in a very succinct manner, even including diagrams of the reaction of negative matter to normal space, without ever losing the humanity that makes the story interesting. He is able to impart scientific data while telling an intriguing story. This is a rare gift, and much harder than it sounds.

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