As a physicist, his work was mainly focused on gravitational wave detection and cutting-edge methods of spaceflight, including the Solar Sail. All of which was an influence on his work. He was best known for his novel Dragon's Egg, about extremely exotic Starfish Aliens that actually lived on the surface of a neutron star, and had biology based on nuclear reactions instead of chemical ones.
His work was known for emphasizing interesting physics over minor details like plot and character.
Works with a page on this wiki:
- the Rocheworld series:
- Rocheworld (1981) (aka The Flight of the Dragonfly)
- Return to Rocheworld (1993, with Julie Forward Fuller)
- Marooned on Eden (1993, with Martha Dodson Forward)
- Ocean Under the Ice (1994, with Martha Dodson Forward)
- Rescued from Paradise (199, with Julie Forward Fuller)
- Martian Rainbow (1991)
- Timemaster (1992)
- Saturn Rukh (1997)
Tropes in his other works:
- Church of Happyology: In Martian Rainbow, Gen. Alexander Armstrong organizes a globe-girdling cult as a pyramid scheme, featuring himself as next messiah and Lord of the Church of the Unifier. He enforces his rule with a doomsday device made from an orbiting asteroid that will destroy the Earth unless he activates a safety switch with his handprint once every 24 hours. His identical twin brother Augustus saves the Earth by taking Alexander's place when he dies of a heart attack, cutting off their right hands with a band saw and getting his brother's hand surgically attached to his arm so he can operate the switch on the doomsday device. Then he rolls up the organization, buying out the leadership for cash and ordering them to disperse. Naturally, he can't admit to any of this and has to pretend to be his brother from then on. This goes well beyond Happyology, but you can see where Forward got most of the idea.
- Gold Fever: Averted in the short story "Self-Limiting". No member of the society described is obsessed with accumulating wealth, which is made not of gold but of a refined version of another rare, heavy, soft metal Uranium 235. Anyone who is too greedy accumulates a large pile of coins under their dwelling. They are then removed from the gene pool in a spectacular fashion.
- Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: In Rocheworld, the ship's crew are given a drug (NoDie) that greatly extends their lifespans at the expense of making them stupid. The ship's AI stops administering the drug when they get to their destination, and their intelligence comes back.
- Screw Yourself: The protagonist in Timemaster gets into a foursome with his wife, himself, and himself. Hey, it was her idea!
- Solar Sail: The Rocheworld series features solar sails heavily. They are used for cargo vessels in the solar system, and the interstellar ship sent to the Barnard system uses a solar sail propelled by a laser on Mercury.
- Space Elevator: The hero of Timemaster owns a company that made him a trillionaire largely through building space rotavators and related technology. Rotavators don't touch the ground, they are large cables that are rotating slowly with good momentum. On Earth they just barely touch the upper atmosphere and are timed to touch down in specific location every few hours so a large plane can load a capsule on to the Rotavator. It should be noted the author was the head of the NASA team that designed them...
- Stable Time Loop: Timemaster demonstrates the use of a Stable Time Loop generated by a wormhole (technically, a "closed timelike curve") as an offensive weapon.
- Starfish Aliens: The aliens from the Rocheworld series are very nonhuman—the Flouwen are aquatic blobs who love math and surfing and can compress themselves into rocks to think more effectively, the Gummies are elephant-sized five-limbed creatures who put down roots during the dry season and shed an arm during mating, and the "green giants" from the less than spectacular "Marooned on Eden" are mobile trees with detachable birds for eyes and racoon-like "gatherers" for hands. There are also sentient colored fungal mats with eyestalks, which puzzle humans with their seeming lack of reproduction (their population grows because the aliens often find feral individuals out in the tundra and bring them back to society), until they finally piece together how it works. A common species of shark swims about the ocean and moves towards volcanic vents near the end of their life cycle. Their corpses are blasted onto the tundra (the world is covered in ice, with oceans underneath) and then their ovaries develop into sentient fungal mat creatures. The sharks are born when the fungal mat creatures find a shark corpse on the tundra, eat its ovaries (a rare delicacy), and a few days later they get violently ill and dump their fertilized sewage into the ocean.
- The War of Earthly Aggression: Martian Rainbow plays with the trope a little. First, a Russian colony on Mars is forcibly conquered by American-led United Nations forces when the Russians won't let anyone else set up colonies there. Then the resulting UN scientific colony is cut off after the leader of that multinational fleet hooks up with a corrupt televangelist, gets himself elected President of the World, and makes all space travel illegal as part of a general anti-science campaign to satisfy his religious backers, who have in the meantime declared him the new Messiah. So the scientists in the Mars Colony, cut off from resupply and rescue, are essentially forced to admit they are now independent, and try to make a go of things. Finally, they send the chief scientist from the Mars base, who happens to be the identical twin brother of the Dark Messiah President of Earth, to assassinate his brother and take his place, and resume legal space travel. Did I mention that both twins are Neil Armstrong's identical grandsons?
- World Shapes: Rocheworld has two egg-shaped planets orbiting so closely around each other that they share atmosphere, and come to conical points at the ends nearest each other. Oceans can even flow between them under certain circumstances. The oddest thing is that this bizarre world-shape uses real-world physics, and double stars with this configuration have been found.