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Scott Harral’s sci-fi and mystery book, Moon Luck, is a wonderful example of writing mystery into a hard science fiction setting; it sounds difficult to do, but it is possible.

Scott Harral’s sci-fi and mystery book, Moon Luck, is a masterclass in how mystery can be integrated into hard science fiction. The book is set in a lunar colony in the near future, where there are secrets afoot, and questions must be answered before everything ends.

While the two genres may seem, at first glance, difficult to actually mix together, there are simple ways to go about it.

But first—

What is Hard Science Fiction?

Hard science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction that is very concerned with scientific accuracy and logic. What this means is that while Star Wars and The Martian might be under the umbrella of science fiction, they are on very opposite ends of the spectrum.

Where in most science fiction, technologies, and scientific themes are tropes and tools used by the author, hard science fiction integrates scientific discoveries and realistic possibilities into its narrative. What this means, in essence, is that authors of hard science fiction are very diligent and exhaustive with their use of science. What they write about is something that is theoretically possible and not just used because the concept sounds cool and awesome (although it can be).

Impossible Puzzles

One reason why it is very difficult to integrate mystery into hard science fiction is that the genre does not lend itself well to the illogical or the fantastically creative, even though some aspects of the two seem to mesh very well together. On the one hand, hard science fiction relies heavily on actual scientific and technical principles, and on the other, mystery fiction is all about solving puzzles and uncovering secrets.

Yet, isn’t science all about uncovering the mysteries of the world?

Adding Mystery in Hard Science Fiction

Regardless, if you want to write something like Moon Luck by Scott Harral and integrate mystery into a hard science fiction setting, here are some steps you might consider taking:

  • Establish the rules of the universe and stick to them.

Because hard science fiction is very strict when it comes to the workings of its setting, you have to be very mindful about what can and what cannot happen—and NEVER violate any of them without reason.

How you define the laws of physics, the limitations of technology, and the important scientific principles you are focusing on can make or break your story. Having a handy set of rules allows you to develop a world that is equally believable as it is functional.

When incorporating mystery into your hard science fiction setting, ensuring your story follows these rules is vital. The secrets that inform the story should be based on science and technology, not magic or supernatural elements. Breaking the laws you set out means breaking your readers’ trust, and that is not a thing you want happening if you want to write a good mystery.

  • Base your mysteries and secrets in science.

If you want to properly incorporate mystery into your hard science fiction setting, you have to use science to create it. Be creative with your use of technology in a way that is plausible and, at the same time, critical to understanding the puzzles you have laid out for both your characters and your readers.

Using science in this way creates a more believable story and allows you to incorporate fundamental scientific principles and theories into your plot. This also has the added benefit of making your narrative more educational and engaging for readers who are interested in science.

  • Create Complex Characters

A good mystery novel is one populated with complex characters, each with hidden motives and secrets. Incorporating characters with depth into your hard science fiction slash mystery novel can add depth and intrigue to the narrative.

  • Keep the Reader Guessing

If you want to create a successful mystery, it is essential to keep the reader guessing. This means introducing multiple suspects and red herrings throughout the story. As the story progresses, readers should constantly re-evaluate their theories and suspicions.

And with a hard science fiction setting, these re-evaluations should be spurred and hastened by a deep understanding of the scientific principles involved.


Incorporating mystery into a hard science fiction setting can be challenging, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. By using science to create clues and suspects, creating complex characters, and keeping the reader guessing, you can make a story that is both educational and entertaining.

The science fiction thriller genre usually involves a thrilling and mysterious journey, with unexpected twists and dangers that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Person’s hand reaching out to a light
Person’s hand reaching out to a light

A science fiction thriller is a genre that combines science fiction and suspense. It occurs in the future or on distant planets, featuring advanced technology, aliens, or dystopian societies. The characters may face life-threatening challenges, like battling evil forces or uncovering dark secrets. It’s a genre that appeals to those who love science fiction and suspenseful storytelling.

Science Fiction 

Science fiction is a genre that imagines events and technologies in the future or beyond our world. It explores scientific concepts like space travel, time travel, robots, or alternate realities. Often set in space or advanced societies, science fiction features imaginative elements and possibilities that aren’t yet real but could be one day. The genre is famous for its ability to inspire wonder and curiosity while addressing important themes like ethics, human nature, and the impact of technology on society.


The thriller genre keeps readers or viewers on the edge of their seats with intense excitement and suspense. It centers around high-stakes situations, danger, and unexpected twists. The genre can cover various settings and themes, such as crime, espionage, or psychological tension. It aims to evoke strong emotions like fear, anticipation, and excitement while captivating audiences with gripping narratives and characters facing dangerous circumstances.

Five Science Fiction Thriller Novels

“The Paradox Hotel” by Rob Hart

In the thrilling science-fiction novel “The Paradox Hotel,” January Cole faces an impossible crime while working security at the mysterious hotel. The place is no ordinary spot, as it hosts time-traveling tourists and is rumored to be haunted. When a perplexing corpse appears, only January can see it, setting her on a dangerous path. Simultaneously, influential figures gather to claim privatized time-travel technology, and “accidents” target them. January’s unique ability is to see what others can’t become a double-edged sword, blurring her sense of reality. In this gripping murder mystery infused with humor, grief, and ghostly encounters, author Rob Hart takes readers on an unforgettable ride through time.

“Moon Luck” by Scott Harral 

Shortly, with moon colonies becoming a reality, “Moon Luck” by Wayne Scott Harral delves into the lives of 30 astronauts on the lunar surface. This science-fiction tale showcases their experiences as astronaut scientists and explorers, conducting experiments, mining minerals, and forming bonds and conflicts. However, when a senior member dies under suspicious circumstances, the story takes a thrilling turn as they seek to uncover the truth behind the apparent accident. As the moon becomes humanity’s new frontier, the book raises a compelling question: can a death on the lunar surface be considered murder? Be prepared for an enthralling journey of intrigue and exploration.

“The Caves of Steel (The Robot Series Book 1)” by Isaac Asimov

In a distant future, humanity has colonized the galaxy and created positronic brains. Enter Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels, where a New York City detective, Elijah Baley, forms an unexpected alliance with a humanoid robot. Earth’s overpopulation has left Baley disliking the Spacers and their robots. However, when a prominent Spacer is killed, he’s sent to the Outer Worlds to solve the case. The situation is complicated by his distrustful Spacer superiors and the fact that his partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, is a robot designed to resemble the victim. Can they overcome their differences and catch the killer? A gripping sci-fi tale of detective work and human-robot relationships awaits.

“Shovel Ready (Spademan)” by Adam Sternbergh 

Meet Spademan, once a sanitation worker, now a hitman in a near-future, post-apocalyptic New York City. After a dirty bomb tragedy and the loss of his wife, the city has crumbled into a stark divide: the privileged who live in virtual reality and the struggling survivors on the streets. Spademan chooses the gritty reality, but his latest assignment complicates things. Hired to kill an influential evangelist’s daughter, he must navigate the stark contrast between the two worlds, fulfill the job, and confront his conscience. Will he survive the deadly game and ensure justice prevails, or will he become another victim buried in the ground?

“The Last Policeman” by Ben H. Winters

Amidst impending doom from an approaching asteroid, Detective Hank Palace grapples with the futility of solving murders when humanity’s end is near. With only six months left until impact, the economy crumbles, crops wither, and people abandon their jobs. In this pre-apocalyptic setting, death by hanging catches Palace’s attention in a city plagued by suicides. As everyone else loses hope, he can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss. In a world on the brink, Palace doggedly pursues the truth. This rare blend of apocalyptic and detective fiction weaves a suspenseful tale transcending the ordinary procedural, offering a gripping and unique reading experience.



Copyright by Scott Harral 2020. All rights reserved.