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Forward, Robert L

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1932-2002) US physicist and author, senior scientist at Hughes Research Laboratories and one of the most devoted Hard-SF authors of the 1980s; married to Martha Dodson Forward, father of Julie Forward Fuller (with whom he has collaborated on sf) and supernatural fiction author Robert Dodson Forward (1958-    ). He began publishing sf with "The Singing Diamond" (February 1979 Omni), and made a very considerable impact with the Dragon's Egg sequence, comprising Dragon's Egg (1980) and Starquake! (1985), which is set in a most intriguing venue – a Neutron Star whose surface Gravity is 67,000,000,000 times that of Earth – and concentrates on the immensely enjoyable Alien cheela who inhabit this venue, living and evolving at an enormous rate (a generation passes in 37 minutes). The human scientists who visit the cheela of Dragon's Egg inadvertently civilize them over a 24-hour period, with an effect on the reader of a dramatic inversion of the Time Abyss more commonly found in sf novels which evoke a Sense of Wonder. In the sequel the cheela, now evolved far beyond their glacial human teachers, very quickly explore the entire Galaxy, though the catastrophe of the title soon complicates the plot, leading to further rapid-fire Evolution, invention and mind-play.

Forward's second sequence – comprising The Flight of the Dragonfly (December 1982-February 1983 Analog as "Rocheworld"; exp 1984; exp 1985; orig full version restored, vt Rocheworld 1990), Return to Rocheworld (1993) with Julie Forward Fuller, Marooned on Eden (1993) with Martha Dodson Forward, Ocean Under the Ice (1994) with Martha Dodson Forward and Rescue from Paradise (1995) with Julie Forward Fuller – posited a second world of almost equal fascination. On the eponymous dumb-bell-shaped double-planet is placed an alien race whose individuals are characterized more strongly than are the humans involved in an exploratory mission there; aliens and humans are traced through human generations. (Despite the striking resemblance in storylines and the titles, this sequence is unrelated to the earlier series.) Once again the self-confident articulacy of Forward's scientific mind dominates proceedings, and the novel concludes (as did his first) with a symposium which analyses the ideas underlying the book.

An unfortunate corollary to this style of novel-writing is that, when no compelling scientific conceit governs the structure of the tale, what remains – character and plot and mise en scene, always directed in Forward's best work to furthering the working out of that central conceit – can prove poor substitutes. Martian Rainbow (1991), which has no such central world-building conceit to govern it, consequently fails to convince in its simplistic rendering of a Russian-US conflict on Mars, or in the cardboard triumphalism of its human cast, a failure replicated in Timemaster (1992) a First Contact tale in which a human billionaire more or less conquers all; Camelot 30K (1993) and Saturn Rukh (1997) were two further First Contact novels, each restricted to the solar system, in which Aliens of some interest are discovered on an iceworld beyond Pluto and on Saturn. More than almost any other hard-sf writer, Forward dazzles within his bailiwick and bewilders readers when he leaves home. His working life as a physicist, who gained several patents in his career, was certainly primary to him; and his novels were in fact conceived as fictionalizations of some implications of speculative physics. [JC]

see also: Astronomy; Planetary Romance; Scientists; Seiun Award; Stars.

Robert Lull Forward

born Geneva, New York: 15 August 1932

died Clinton, Washington: 21 September 2002



Dragon's Egg

  • Dragon's Egg (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1980) [Dragon's Egg: hb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • Starquake! (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1985) [Dragon's Egg: hb/Ralph McQuarrie]


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