There are always markets for a good story, but maybe SciFi has an edge lately.
A few years ago an excellent anthology of short stories hit the bookshelves: The Hard Science Fiction Renaissance (Cramer, Katherine and Hartwell, David, Tor Books, 2003). It’s an apt title, because there’s been quite a resurgence of science-based SF recently. A quick look at Amazon’s best sellers in the genre shows two such novels: The Martian by Andy Weir, and Eternity’s End, by Jeffry Carver. And the big names in this arena — Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Peter Hamilton, Larry Niven – continue to sell very well.
Along these same lines I’ve noticed many of the SF short story markets are asking (read: begging) for hard SF stories too. So, if you have an interest in cobbling together some tales where science is central to the story, you may find yourself on the receiving end of publication. And that ain’t bad.
So, what defines hard science fiction? Actually, it’s pretty simple. It’s a story about characters (stories are always about characters) who could not act or react without some scientific element involved. For example, look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The novel centers around the hapless, morally ambiguous monster named, well, Monster. But without the science of animating dead body parts there isn’t much here to offer. This, then, is basically what hard SF is: Without the science or engineering or lightning bolts the story would not be a story.
More conventional hard SF takes place in outer space, of course. Star Trek is often considered part of this genre, although its claims to science can be quite dubious at times. One the best examples for aspiring writers is Larry Niven’s classic tale, “Neutron Star”. In this tale Niven’s protagonist must figure out how and why passengers had been killed inside a spaceship with a seemingly impervious General Products hull. The twist at the end is very cool indeed.
There are dozens of markets for this kind of a story. The big ones are well known to SF fans: Asimov’s, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Interzone (UK), and Strange Horizons, just to name a few. A quick search on Google will reveal many more. But please remember, if you embark on a journey with spaceships and ray guns, you need to have good, strong characters going along for the ride.