I’m feeling the need to explore the staleness of the “traditional SF” among the Hugo nominees a bit further. Since I’m a late-comer to the squabble, I don’t know how the works were chosen by the Puppies’ nominating committee. The writers might be friends of different Puppies who benefited from the round-up of stories. The stories might be the nominators’ estimation of the best of “traditional” SF&F culled from magazines with this leaning. Or maybe the nominators are well-read enough in the sub-genre to just know which are the most popular and deserving writers without really looking at their material. Whatever the method, the results are definitely less polished than the type work that normally gets award nominations. Those MFA graduates do know how to put together a good story.
I mostly quit reading hard SF years ago without really considering why. It was just that I didn’t enjoy the stories that much anymore. Looking at this collection now and comparing it to The Three Body Problem, for example, really points out the difficulty at hand. As mainstream SF has gone sentimental, traditional SF has lost its edge in a different way. In an interesting time warp, Cixin Liu thinks the Golden Age of SF is still here. Those old SF writers were addressing a science-literate audience, and like Cixin Liu, they pulled out all the stops, dropping in technical concepts and scientific discussion without concerns their audience wouldn’t like it. Somewhere along the line, that has disappeared for SF published in English.
I’ve been a big promoter of more literary science fiction over the years, but now that hard SF seems to be in trouble, I’m concerned the community is losing an important part of its heritage. The Puppies may have exposed a real problem here. It looks like hard SF writers are in danger of extinction. So, could WorldCon maybe establish an award specifically for hard SF? That might attract a few more accomplished writers to the sub-genre and improve the offering.