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On the other hand, I realized that the average reader wouldn't really care for the nuts and bolts of the electrochemical process of smelting iron oxide ore, so I had to draw the line somewhere.

This is more subjective, but in my opinion hard sci-fi is where you have the serious science down, but then to be any sci-fi, the science has to be key to the story.

Delving heavily into science without it being relevant to the story (relevant meaning "ties to a plot point"), then it comes off as nerdy techno-geek stuff, without about as much value as graphic sex scenes that have no other point than to titillate the reader briefly.

At first glance, it might appear that adding a third thruster would increase our speed by 50%, from 14 kph to 21 kph.

This isn't true. Number of thrusters won't increase speed, it increases acceleration. Top speed in outer space is not limited by your thrust, it's limited by fuel, thruster efficiency and time.

(BTW, I'm not trying to bust your balls on all this, but I figure some tough love early is probably better than nothing =) )

True, but on the other hand, right now I have only four stories written.

Actually, now that I think about it, the right approach might be to do a shotgun approach to multiple venues simultaneously, choosing the stories to match the right target. This lets you have multiple simultaneous submissions out there without doing simultaneous submissions of the same piece, and in the process gives you a lot more feedback quickly. I would definitely lean towards that direction if I had that quantity of material available.

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