io9 article: Is Bujold "hard sci-fi"?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by nquixote, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    Article: http://io9.com/5686125/does-lois-mcmaster-bujold-count-as-a-hard-science-fiction-writer

    Repost:



    Side note: There is an awesome description of the particulars of how to do an explosive vacuum weld in Falling Free, which also contains some of the best descriptions of zero-G life and movement that I've ever read.
     
  2. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    there's also a lot of detail about cloning and about genetically enhanced humans [bodyguards] . I would argue they are central to the stories and not just background noise.
     
  3. Leiali

    Leiali Registered User

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    I agree with Algernoninc, I'm reading Cryoburn at the moment, cryonics is central to the story and hugely impacts the world Miles is visiting, and Miles himself. A lot of the tech is in the background but some of it makes a special guest appearance at the forefront of the story.
     
  4. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    It's all in semantics, but I would ask is Honor Harrington with all the info-dumps hard sf? The last article on starship armor was so detailed with diagrams, specs, timeline that you could see it in a "real" journal like pop-science, though of course all is made up. I still would say no, HH is mil-space opera first.

    Same with Bujold, Miles is military (and later) detective adventure in a space opera context, first and foremost. Hard sf is something different for me.
     
  5. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    I would say that Falling Free and Komarr are hard SF in the conventional sense.

    Bujold weaves science and technology into her stories more subtly than just about any other writer. It is very unobtrusive but totally central to the stories.

    "A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content." - Theodore Sturgeon

    Miles Vorkosigan would not exist without the uterine replicator. It is probably necessary for any radical human genetic engineering. How many women would want to give birth to a mutant? But Falling Free and Komarr are the only stories that do much with plain old physics though Komarr exercises "scientific" imagination with 5-space physics.

    psik
     
  6. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    I used to like James Nicoll. :rolleyes:
     
  7. Omphalos

    Omphalos Orthodox Herbertian

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    I haven't read a lot of Bujold yet (got a ton in the pile), but isn't her thing to write in a different sub-genre every time? I know she's written are military SF books, SF romance books. social commentary SF, etc. Is this such a surprise that a highly versitile author eventually gets to hard sf?

    Anyway, and I bumped Falling Free to the top of the list last night, after finishing SS/GB.
     
  8. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Trying to put a single label on any given book is a problem.

    Falling Free is social commentary & genetic engineering & mechanical engineering

    It has genetically engineered people being made technologically obsolete. The uterine replicator that made the genetic engineering economically feasible and the artificial gravity that made them obsolete both came from Beta Colony.

    Shards of Honor is military & romance & social commentary

    The social engineering that is dons on Beta Colony is put in a very bad light. But it does make you wonder what is done here in the REAL WORLD.

    Barrayar is politics and culture conflict but it also shows different reactions to new technology. It really gives a great feel for Barrayaran culture even though it is so antiquated for 500 years in the future. LOL The Vagaan character doesn't show up a lot but he is very important to the story. Like Steve Wozniak to the computer industry.

    The Warriors Apprentice is Military SF and brings in many long term characters.

    The Vor Game is Military SF with political psychology

    Cetaganda and Ethan of Athos are kind of techno-cultural. How we decide to use technology affects what kind of culture gets created in the future. I think we are at a crossroads with all of these computers now. We have to decide what kind of cyber-culture we will create. But how are we going about it? Who is specifying the options? Some people freak out when I suggest mandatory accounting in the schools. Didn't big corporations start using computers to do accounting in the 60s. Aren't these netbooks more powerful than 60s mainframes? What is the problem.

    It is about POWER! How we use computing power matters. Why give a damn about which operating system?

    Brothers in Arms is cloning and politics.

    Mirror Dance is cloning, cryonics, sophisticated bio-medicine and techno-corporate capitalism.

    Memory is neuro-cybernetics and detective story. This story changes the direction of the Vorkosigan series.

    Komarr is Newtonian and 5-space physics and detective story and romance.

    A Civil Campaign is genetic engineering and bio-medicine and politics and romance in a comedy.

    Diplomatic Immunity is genetic engineering and bio-weapons almost military SF and detective story. It helps to have read Cetaganda to make sense of this.

    http://www.lunch.com/Reviews/d/Vorkosigan_Saga-1436309.html?cid=121

    The problem is that right here right now in the REAL WORLD most people are not involved in how this technology is shaping and constricting our future. Why wasn't a big deal being made about planned obsolescence of cars in the 60s. I think that is more important than civil rights but how many people would look at it that way today because they don't know about planned obsolescence now?

    We can't figure out how to use cheap super computers for education but we put up with Macro$cam selling us 4 different versions of Windows 7.

    psik
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  9. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    if we're getting into strict definition of hard sci-fi, then I would have to admit that Vorkosigan is not in the same ballpark as Rama, Ringworld or Eon. More like a cross-over, mash-up that incorporates hard sci-fi in the stew.
     
  10. ebusinesstutor

    ebusinesstutor Star Gawker

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    I think I agree with the point that Bujold works in the technology so smoothly, that we don't notice it. But it definitely has a big impact on the stories.

    As others have mentioned, the uterine replicators, cloning, genetic engineering, etc all play a big part and she does a great job in showing how cultures have to adapt with the technology.
     
  11. Sparrow

    Sparrow Banned

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    ahh, what?.. Ringworld as hard sf?

    There is almost nothing in Ringworld that could possibly exist in our Universe, least of all an artificial ring a million miles wide. Not to mention spaceship hulls that are impervious to anything except antimatter, stepping disks that allow instant point-to-point travel, FTL travel, and drugs that allow you to live hundreds and even thousands of years... not hard sf.

    And the Miles Vorkosigan series is not hard sf.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  12. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    I don't think the science has to be 'actual' to be hard SF but does have to be treated in a certain way. It's not enough to depict a huge space station (that's no moon!), there has to be a feel for the rules of physics that allow the station to function in the way described.

    My personal benchmark for what is and is not hard SF is Stephen Baxter. He wrote Flux, an entire book about people constructed to live in/on a neutron star and move around via manipulation of magnetic fields. He also wrote Ark (sequel to Flood) which uses the Alcubierre theory to produce FTL flight and describes planets that are so depressingly unearthlike that it only increases the realism (ok, a little bit of fudging on the Alcubierre bubble but hey, how's an author to know how to create one?).

    So.... based on the one book and one short story I've read of the Vorkosigan series I would say 'no'. It's nowhere near hard SF. I do vaguely remember Falling Free with the quaddies. What I can remember is far closer to hard SF so I'd give that a tentative 'yes'.
     
  13. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    the other thing to consider is why does it matter if the Miles series or Falling Free is hard sf?

    Personally i think that today hard sf is dead for various reasons; our society is increasingly sfnal in many respects, while on the space travel/fundamental physics, the last 30 years of no major progress in fundamental physics puts a clear limit on 'new stuff" and requires hand-wavium whatever speculations the authors embrace (eg string theory, dark matter - all are speculations as of today with no workable theory that can be mined by sf authors) and conversely the huge advances in at least describing very complex systems (from climate to societies to ecosystems) put a huge span in any 'space pioneers/arkships' and the like as "hard sf' - they are fine as adventure sf or space opera, but hard to take seriously as hard sf, when say the Biosphere experiments show how hard is to do complex artificial ecologies

    So in many ways hard sf is now basically near-future sf and that has been more and more colonized by other genres with the differences being in who writes the book - it's a sf author, we call it sf, it's a thriller author we call it thriller and so on...

    Only new fundamental discoveries in our understanding of the Universe or new fundamental technologies (eg energy) will revive the subgenre
     
  14. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Millions of people can't figure out the fundamental questions to ask to figure out whether or not an airliner can TOTALLY DESTROY a skyscraper 2000 times its mass.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caATBZEKL4c

    Fundamental Physics is NEW to children. How do you expect them to learn it?

    The Golden Age of science fiction is 12. There is a new batch of 12 year olds every year. Sci-fi is just entertainment for people ofer 30 so whether or not it is hard is irrelevant. But for kids just learning how the universe works not being able to distinguish the impossible from the improbable from the probable is a problem.

    College graduates don't know Fundamental Physics:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0wk4qG2mIg

    Millions of people with computers and most can't explain what an electron is. DUH!

    psik
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2010
  15. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    When was this different? When was the time when the "average person" in the world knew more about science than today? Do you seriously claim that there was a time when there were more scientists, engineers, people working in tech domains... than today or that the human race had better know-how?


    As for "golden age of sf" is 12, well that may have been true once upon a time, but now visit a well stocked children library or a big BN children's section (which i do almost daily since my almost 9 year old son has a huge appetite for books and prefers sff to 'realistic" by and large) and you will see that sff dominates; there is still more fantasy than pure sf , but fantasy is the natural continuation of "fairy tales" so that's no wonder; there is a lot of what in the 50's and 60's would have counted as "adult sf" except that now it is in its right literary space where it is not laughable any more.

    So the 12 year olds now have a ton of sff books to read and there is a market wholly devoted to them - which of course limits the adult sff market to well, books for adults...
     
  16. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Where did I make any such claim?

    But SF tells us that the future will be different no matter what. But what we do now affects how the future will be different. So how do we decide? Technology has given us more options though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l_79tXqhac

    So what does that make available to everybody for free?

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33660/33660-h/33660-h.htm

    psik
     
  17. BlackVoid

    BlackVoid Registered User

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    Its a superhero themed B-movie script.
     
  18. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  19. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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  20. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    There is a significant amount of Vorkosigan fan fiction.

    http://www.fanfiction.net/book/Miles_Vorkosigan/

    This story isn't bad.

    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7443812/1/Forward_Momentum

    The first 2/3rds was OK, then it got boring for a while then better again.

    I think it references the true Bujold stories too much and the physics is hopeless. But the overall story is interesting and he does a pretty good job of capturing the characters

    There is another story The Long Way to Escobar. It was going OK then it has a sex scene with Aral and Illiyan. Obviously fanfic writers can do whatever they want but if that is what they intend to do I want a warning before I waste time starting the story. LOL

    psik
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011