Bear was born in San Diego, California. He attended San Diego State University (1968–73), where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. At the University, he was a teaching assistant to Elizabeth Chater in her course on science fiction writing, and in later years her friend.
Bear is often classified as a hard science fiction author, based on the scientific details in his work. Early in his career, he also published work as an artist, including illustrations for an early version of the Star Trek Concordance and covers for Galaxy and F&SF. He sold his first story, "Destroyers", to Famous Science Fiction in 1967.
Bear often addresses major questions in contemporary science and culture with fictional solutions. For example, The Forge of God offers an explanation for the Fermi paradox, supposing that the galaxy is filled with potentially predatory intelligences and that young civilizations that survive are those that don't attract their attention—by staying quiet. In Queen of Angels, Bear examines crime, guilt, and punishment in society. He frames these questions around an examination of consciousness and awareness, including the emergent self-awareness of highly advanced computers in communication with humans. In Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children, he addresses the problem of over-population with a mutation in the human genome making, basically, a new series of humans. The question of cultural acceptance of something new and unavoidable is also brought up.
One of Bear's favorite themes is reality as a function of observers. In Blood Music, reality becomes unstable as the number of observers—trillions of intelligent single-cell organisms—spirals higher and higher. Anvil of Stars (sequel to The Forge of God) and Moving Mars postulate a physics based on information exchange between particles, capable of being altered at the "bit level". (Bear has credited the inspiration for this idea to Frederick Kantor's 1967 treatise "Information Mechanics" (see Digital physics)) In Moving Mars, this knowledge is used to remove Mars from the solar system and transfer it to an orbit around a distant star.
Blood Music was first published as a short story (1983) and then expanded to a novel (1985). It has also been credited as the first account of nanotechnology in science fiction. More certainly, the short story is the first in science fiction to describe microscopic medical machines and to treat DNA as a computational system capable of being reprogrammed; that is, expanded and modified. In later works, beginning with Queen of Angels and continuing with its sequel, Slant, Bear gives a detailed description of a near-future nanotechnological society. This historical sequence continues with Heads—which may contain the first description of a so-called "quantum logic computer"—and with Moving Mars. This sequence also charts the historical development of self-awareness in AIs. Its continuing character Jill was inspired in part by Robert A. Heinlein's self-aware computer Mycroft HOLMES (High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor) in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
Bear, Gregory Benford, and David Brin wrote a trilogy of prequel novels to Isaac Asimov's influential Foundation trilogy. Bear is credited for the middle book.
While most of Bear's work is science fiction, he has written in other fiction genres. Examples include Songs of Earth and Power (fantasy) and Psychlone (horror). Bear has described his Dead Lines, which straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy, as a "high-tech ghost story". He has received many accolades, including five Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards.
Bear cites Ray Bradbury as the most influential writer in his life. He met Bradbury in 1967 and had a lifelong correspondence. As a teenager Bear attended Bradbury lectures and events in Southern California.
He also serves on the Board of Advisors for the Museum of Science Fiction.
In 1975, Bear married Christina M. Nielson; they divorced in 1981. In 1983, he married Astrid Anderson, the daughter of science fiction author Poul Anderson. They have two children, Erik and Alexandra. They reside near Seattle, Washington.
He is a deist.
On September 23, 2014, Bear underwent surgery to repair an aortic artery dissection. The procedure included installation of a mechanical aortic valve.Before Blood Music was a novel, it was a story published in the June 1983 issue of Analog. It won the Best Novelette Nebula Award (1983) and Hugo Award (1984).
Darwin's Radio won the Endeavour Award in 2000.
Hull Zero Three was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke (Book) Award in 2012.
Hayakawa Award "Heads" Best Foreign Short Story (1996).
Doris Lessing, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote, "I also admire the classic sort of science fiction, like Blood Music, by Greg Bear. He's a great writer."
Darwin's Radio (1999) Nebula Award winner, Hugo, Locus SF, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards nominee, 2000
Darwin's Children (2003) Locus SF, Arthur C. Clarke, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards nominee, 2004
The Forge of God
The Forge of God (1987) Hugo, and Locus SF Awards nominee, 1988; Nebula Award nominee, 1986
Anvil of Stars (1992)
Songs of Earth and Power
The Infinity Concerto (1984) Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 1985
The Serpent Mage (1986)
Songs of Earth and Power (1994 – combines The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage)
Novels in internal chronology:Queen of Angels (1990) Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards nominee, 1991
/ (also known as Slant; 1997) John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee, 1998
Moving Mars (1993) Nebula Award winner; Hugo, Locus SF, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards nominee, 1994
War Dogs (2014)
Killing Titan (2015)
Take Back the Sky (2016)
Eon (1985) Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 1987
Legacy (1995) Locus SF Award nominee, 1996
The Way of All Ghosts (1999)
The Foundation Series
Foundation and Chaos (1998) (Second Foundation series: book 2)
The Man Who Would Be Kzin (with S.M. Stirling) (1991)
Forerunner Saga (trilogy)
Cryptum (2011) (Forerunner trilogy book 1)
Primordium (2012) (Forerunner trilogy book 2)
Silentium (2013) (Forerunner trilogy book 3)
Star Trek: The Original Series
Rogue Planet (2000)
The Mongoliad (2012-2013)
Beyond Heaven's River (1980)
Strength of Stones (1981)
Blood Music (1985) Hugo, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards nominee, 1986; British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1986; Nebula Award nominee, 1985
Dinosaur Summer (1998) (winner 1999 Endeavour Award)
Vitals (2002) John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee 2003
Dead Lines (2004)
City at the End of Time (Gollancz edition published 7/17/2008; Del Rey Books edition August, 2008) (Nominated for the Locus and Campbell Awards, 2009)
Hull Zero Three (2010)
The Wind from a Burning Woman (1983, vt The Venging 1992)
Early Harvest (February 1988)
Bear's Fantasies (1992)
The Collected Stories of Greg Bear (2002)
W3: Women in Deep Time (2003)
Sleepside: The Collected Fantasies (November 2005)
New Legends (1995, with Martin H. Greenberg)
Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (2014, with Gardner Dozois)
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015 (2015)