This is a golden age for British science fiction, chiefly thanks to a wave of writers who are tackling an area their American rivals tend to leave well alone—far-future set, space-operatic, hard sci-fi. Americans tend to set their sci-fi in soft (ie, scientifically unsupported) near futures.Scalzi makes some good points, specifically that there’s no shortage of far-future SF in modern American SF, but what he fails to note is that Jeffries’ lead literally doesn’t make any sense. So much so that one wonders if it wasn’t mangled by a subeditor. Leaving aside the suggestion that one group of writers are “rivals” to another (as if literature were a team sport), and the whole tiresome distinction between allegedly “hard” and “soft” SF (yes, your SF is rigid and heroic, and that other SF is flaccid and irresolute; nope, no issues here, none whatsoever), since when was near-future science fiction more “scientifically unsupported” than SF set thousands of years hence? In fact, to the contrary, a story set in the next few decades, in order to be believable, tends to need to be more plausibly grounded in known science and technology, for the simple reason that its world is visibly connected to the one we inhabit and already know about. Conversely, if your story is set in 5,271,009 AD, you can pretty much make up your technical details on the fly.
As it happens I think most of the British writers Jeffries singles out are worthwhile indeed, and some of them even do a good job of establishing the plausibility of their far-future tech. (Others neutralize readerly skepticism with artful handwaving, which is just as valid a technique. SF is not futurology.) But Jeffries’ evident belief that SF set in “near futures” is “soft (ie, scientifically unsupported)” is simply daft—as if a review of Unforgiven were to begin by dismissing those classic John Ford films because they were all set in Czechoslovakia and starred the Marx Brothers. Unforgiven is still a good movie, but one might plausibly wonder whether the reviewer had actually seen any other westerns.