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Hard SF vs. Science Fantasy

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Science Fiction is such a broad category and covers a wide range of stories. Some readers focus on the science of Science Fiction and believe stories should be strictly based on known science, while others focus on the fiction part and think it is fine to take whatever liberties the story requires.

Both Hard SF and Science Fantasy offer different options to the author and affect the way he tells his story.

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages to each approach:

Advantages of Hard SF
-The reader can learn new science--I've learned a lot from Star Trek, Charles Sheffield, and others
-More credibility
-Plot twists based on the science are more believable
-Shows the author is knowledgeable and did his homework instead of just throwing something together

Disadvantages of Hard SF
-Science is always changing, which means parts of the story suddenly become invalid
-Some interesting plot twists or points may be unavailable to explore
-The science may cause the story to drag or take directions that aren't as interesting if one gets mired in it

Advantages of Science Fantasy
-You can do anything, so there is no limit to your story
-You may get lucky and predict something that science discovers and be seen as a genius or visionary

Disadvantages of Science Fantasy
-Readers interpret made up science as mistakes or ignorance, and look down on the rest of the story because of it
-Plot twists or choices seem more contrived and less believable, because there aren't realistic limitations usually

Saying one is better than the other is subjective; both offer certain traits the other does not, and depending on the story, will be better for some stories than others.

A good story isn't so much about the science as about how it affects the characters or is merely a mcguffin that allows the author and reader to explore ideas and themes.

Personally, I think Science Fiction should ultimately be judged by the story that is told, not the details of the story, although those details can add or detract from it, so the author should be aware and be careful of it.

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