What is (qualifies as) Sci-Fi ?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by jmc, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Would you care to tell me of a science fiction work with a detailed description of physical laws. I can't recall any off hand.

    It amazes me how people exaggerate what I say.

    All I have suggested is that we should have a system of evaluating SF hopefully in multiple characteristics so readers can better select what they like before they buy or read works. But it would be useful for giving grade school kids exposure to science. Personally I did no get a formal science course until my sophomore year in high school. But for me science fiction did make science more interesting than the science teachers I did get.

    These are a couple of stories I would classify as hard SF but I don't see the detail you are talking about.

    Omnilingual (1957) by H. Beam Piper
    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/03/scientific-language-h-beam-pipers-qomnilingualq
    http://www.feedbooks.com/book/308/omnilingual
    http://librivox.org/omnilingual-by-h-beam-piper/

    All Day September by Roger Kuykendall
    http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2295/all-day-september
    http://www.archive.org/download/short_scifi_016_0905_librivox/alldayseptember_kuykendall_bt_64kb.mp3

    People describe some story as AWSOME or say they like some work and you don't have a clue what they liked about it. What good is that?

    psik
     
  2. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Lost in Necropolis

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    I mean dry scientific detail in general, where they serve no purpose to the story. That's not to say that you can't give explanations if written well, but when that's the ''only'' point of the book then it's a problem.

    I didn't find the Piper story to be particularly "hard". Jules Verne's stories were harder than that. For an example of a tr00 hard SF author is Gregory Benford.

    Are you talking about reviews or just random forum posts?ws or just random forum posts? If it's the former then the reasons why something is "awesome" is usually given.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  3. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Lost in Necropolis

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    Double post.
     
  4. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    The story Omnilingual talks the periodic table and the structure of the atom. That is hard science. It is well integrated into the story but it is still hard science.

    It sounds to me like you cannot separate your evaluation of the science from your evaluation of the writing. I have never said that a story is good just because it has hard science. I have only said it should be evaluated as a characteristic of stories that claim to be science fiction.

    psik
     
  5. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Lost in Necropolis

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    I don't believe using hard science is the only criteria for something to be "hard SF".
     
  6. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    http://hardsf.org/

    It is like historical fiction in that the historic events and characters are correct but scenes may be reproduced with historical characters for which data is not complete. Maybe we know the George Washington and Benjamin Franklin met on such and such a day but have no idea why or what they discussed. So an author can create a fictional event that is plausible in relation to what is known about their personalities and the events at the time.

    The hardest SF may have no unknown science, only extrapolations of the known. Like extrapolating more dense CPU chips but no FTL.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness

    psik
     
  7. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    Nice link. Very informative.
    That is exactly the way I think of it. I'm not entirely sure how strict the genre label of hard sf sticks to this, but this is how I think of hard sf.
     
  8. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Lost in Necropolis

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    I know that hard science fiction should use hard science and that the science can be played with as long as it doesn't contradict our own laws of the universe, but what I'm saying is that that's not the only thing it should have. For me hard science fiction should be both scientifically accurate as well as scientifically focused. So a near-future cyberpunk tale with technology similar to our own, that's mainly about an inspector looking for stolen tech that's not explained in detail wouldn't be hard SF, even though the science isn't completely made up.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  9. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    How about these categories

    I enjoy this thread, the discussions even when a bit heated all do bring something to the playing field. I can't remember if this was proposed in the past, but how about 4 categories of SF like the following:

    Science Fiction - rigorious hard SF of the type Baxter writes (or Clarke) where everything is either well known, or a not-so-great leap from that.

    Science fiction - Good science which is important to the story, perhaps to the point there would be no story without it. Maybe the Moon is a Harsh Mistress would fit here, though probably better above.

    science Fiction - Where science is there, possibly even central, but can be left as either assumed or handwaved away and that the emphasis is on the people and the lives they lead. Hyperion perhaps

    science fiction - This would be about the place were a story begins to blur between SF and fantasy. The science is there and can serve as a backdrop but is also subsumed to support the story even if it made a scientist cringe.
     
  10. owlcroft

    owlcroft Webmaster, Great SF&F

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    Incidentally . . .

    Why does anyone feel a need to categorize, much less sub-categorize, works? If the designation "fiction" be not sufficient, then surely "speculative fiction" should suffice. (What used to be called, well before anyone thought to distinguish, say, Verne and Wells from Dunsany and Morris, "fantastic fiction", which included fiction based on extrapolated science.) It's a freakin' book. I can see folk--like myself--who have a taste for the unusual being interested in books wherein things somehow work differently than they do in the mundane consensus world around us, but feeling some urgent need to categorize beyond that has always struck me as pointless. Sure, à chacun son goût and all that, but, to me, incomprehensible.
     
  11. CaptainZ

    CaptainZ Racer City Gangsta

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    Anything scientific but put in the realm of extreme exaggeration.
    Outer Space= real. Others worlds=real.
    Beings on that world=????
    Bring in Fiction. Science Fiction
     
  12. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Flying trees and a woman ageing backwards but only when she goes to sleep?

    I regard it as fantasy/horror.

    psik
     
  13. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    When did the other worlds become real? When was the first exo-planet found?

    Were the worlds not real before that?

    psik
     
  14. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    I quite agree with you that genre categories are artificial. However, it is useful when you happen to like a particular kind of story. Categorizing lets you find what you are interested faster. And our book retailers live by genre. Every book must be sorted into its appropriate genre. Those are the two big thing that drive it.
     
  15. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    All I can say to this is that is seems to be human nature to categorize everything. Even worse many categories are not even well defined: 'Us' vs. 'Them', 'Good Guys' vs. 'Bad Guys', 'Liberal' vs. 'Conservative' (no matter how much over lap between positions these categories are both applied to others and wrapped around the self). Now we're are getting into philosophy though and have left the original thread in tatters.
     
  16. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    I would agree with subjective, but not go so far as artificial. I started going through the public domain science fiction in Project Gutenberg because so much new stuff that got good reviews didn't appeal to me. I provided three works that treated the science differently but no one admitted to even reading them.

    But the book market is not like it was even 20 years ago. The number of works available online, even free is HUGE! We need faster selection methods.

    psik
     
  17. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    If someone were to write a story about a space ship being terrorized by a demon and they bring in a wizard to fight him off, what genre is that? Some would say horror, some fantasy, and some science fiction (its got a space ship). It has to be put into one, but which one? That is why I think the genre designations are artificial. Yeah, they work most of the time, but there are cases where they break down.
     
  18. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    It is fantasy or maybe techno-fantasy, but not science fiction. Science-fantasy is an oxymoron.

    The producers of Star Wars called it space-fantasy in 1977. I think techno-fantasy makes for a better general term than space-fantasy because there is lots of technology not involving space travel.

    psik
     
  19. SR_Seldon

    SR_Seldon SF Author

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    I think this is an area were opinion plays a big role. I find that there is nothing in Star Wars that hasn't been frequently found in science fiction for decades. While quite on the soft side, it does fit, regardless of what odd-ball terms it was called back in the day. In the example I gave, I would say it should be in horror, not fantasy and not science fiction. Same with the Alien movies. This is where the problem of cross genre works comes in. Fortunately, there are a growing number of places where you can find a given title listed in multiple genres.
     
  20. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    In The Empire Strikes Back when the Millenium Falcon flew inside a planetoid didn't there have to be vacuum at the surface. So how could they open the hatch and walk out without space suits?

    If the physics is allowed to get too sloppy and they just go on for the sake of a nice story it ain't science fiction. And The Empire Strikes Back was probably the best of the first three.

    psik