Sci Fi Friday: meet Gregory Benford

The Modern Masters of Science Fiction series is devoted to books that survey the work of individual authors who continue to inspire and advance science fiction.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote of his alter ego Kilgore Trout: “Like most science-fiction writers, Trout knew almost nothing about science.”

That most doesn’t include Gregory Benford. A longtime professor of physics with a noteworthy research career, Benford sold his first story in 1965 and has since put out twenty-some novels and over 100 short stories, as well as many essays and articles.

From the start he brought a new perspective to hard sci fi informed by his own background. “Long ago I realized that I had one great advantage in fiction, since few write about scientists, yet science is the driving force of modern times,” he told author George Slusser. “I’ve always wanted to render how scientists think while in their most characteristic mode–facing the unknown, that is, doing research.”

Benford also embraced the big issues, with morality, the failings of human nature, and immortality among the ideas fueling his fiction. And he hasn’t shied away from offering solutions.

“I think we are rushing toward terrible times, with all pressures rising,” he said. “Climate chaos, resource depletion, overpopulation, the rats-in-a-cage frenzy of maddened crowds. So maybe pointing out ways we can best solve these problems by looking large is the best use of my time.”