Hal Clement

1922 - 2003

American writer

From its beginning, Hal Clement's work has been characterized by the inclusion of complex physical science ideas, lending a new seriousness to the hard-science fiction genre. His first story was published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1942, during the "Golden Age of Science Fiction." His most famous work thereafter is the series beginning with the novel Mission of Gravity and loosely followed by Close to Critical and Star Light.

Mission of Gravity, one of the best loved novels in science fiction, is set on the intriguingly plausible high-gravity planet of Mesklin, which is inhabited by Clement's most interesting alien species, the Mesklinites. The plot concerns the efforts of the Mesklinite Captain Barlennan and his crew, who are assisting a human team with the recovery of a vital component from a crashed space probe. The humans cannot perform the feat, because Mesklin's gravity varies from an equatorial 3g to a polar 700g. Barlennan's arduous trek is thus inherently fascinating, but perhaps even more engaging is Clement's presentation of the Captain as a kind of Competent Man in extremis, an engineer and a lover of knowledge.

The vividness of imagination so evident in Mission was similarly present in much of Clement's subsequent work. This quality, coupled with his sense that the universe is wonderfully fascinating, has made him a figure of enduring importance to the genre.

Selected Bibliography:
Mission of Gravity (1953)
Close to Critical (1958)
Star Light (1971)
Iceworld (1953)
Cycle of Fire (1957)
Natives of Space (1965)
Small Changes (1969)

Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright � John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.