Hard Sci-Fi Made Easy: Jumping the Paywall While Researching Facts for Science Fiction Stories, Visuals, Songs and Films

One of the greatest joys of science-based “hard sci-fi” is the ability to learn and sample from a vast array of real scientific fields and disciplines.

To create hard sci-fi requires well-developed research habits and study skills. It can feel at times like playing with ideas from a university course developed in a future (or past, or alternative present) that did not exist prior to your discovery. You construct your own unique curriculum while researching the people, cultures, circumstances and worlds that you are building for your story.

As such, at times it will be inevitable to bump up against man-made limitations in our quest for access to information.

How can we gain open access to needlessly restricted data?

Notes below are extracted from a talk by Storm Harding titled “Jumping the Paywall: How to freely share research without being arrested”, offered at the 2015 Chaos Communication Camp.


Any particular tenses I may use, and any particular tenses you may hear, are not indicative of any kind of injunctions to action; we are always operating on a purely imaginative framework.

Approaches to content access and intellectual property

Gary Hall, 2009. “Pirate Philosophy (Version 1.0): Open Access, Open Editing, Free Content, Free/Libre/Open Media”, in Culture Machine 10. pp. 1-43.

Ted Striphas and Kembrew McLeod, 2006. “Strategic Improprieties – Cultural Studies, The Everyday and the Politics of IP”, in Cultural Studies 20 (2-3). pp. 119-144.

Aaron Swartz. 2008. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.

Open-Access Information Sources

PLOS (Public Library of Science)
…-see also PLOS One for peer-reviewed science publications.

Alternative Content Procurement Vectors

Library Genesis
libgen.io (mirror: http://gen.lib.rus.ec)
— may change to .biz, .org, etc.


Crowdsourced Resources

Reddit Scholar

Twitter Hashtag #ICanHazPDF

Google Scholar

Also, check the personal/work pages of the authors (if not for the article links, then for their email addresses)

Or, physically visit the university library itself.

Be sure to watch the talk at the CCC 2015 website for more ideas and thoughts along related lines.

Also, not mentioned in the talk:

If you want to access an article that is paywalled online, try running a Google search that results in a link to the article; if you click the article link from the Google search results list, it may open without further issues.

To avoid having paywall “countdowns” (i.e. ‘You have x number of free articles left this month’, etc.), use a proxy like Tor and regularly empty out your cache and cookies. Further details about how do to this can be found elsewhere on the Web if necessary.

Enjoy researching your science fiction works; far from drudgery, the learning process can stimulate new ideas and expand your creative horizons. The farther you go toward grounding your stories in authentic science, the more your readers will trust your voice and have the chance to be inspired by the worlds that you create.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s