October 25th, 2012, 07:52 AM
If we open this can of worms do we get to see the future too? I am thinking lottery numbers here, I will leave saving the universe to others LOL
Originally Posted by KatG
October 25th, 2012, 02:27 PM
How about Book of the Long Sun Gene Wolfe? Not exactly cliche hard SF but has hard SF themes: Generation starship, no FTL as far as we are aware. Many would consider Wolfe to be a handy prose stylist and respectably "literary."
October 25th, 2012, 03:35 PM
I certainly do despite the subjective nature of that term. Even stories that I never quite got into, or really comprehended fully, like 'There Are Doors' are still a pleasure to read and very immersive.
Originally Posted by Hitmouse
October 25th, 2012, 04:02 PM
We don't classify authors. You're confusing genre as in literary movement with genre as in category (easy to do as they occasionally overlap such as magic realism and cyberpunk.) It's the work, not the author. So an author can write a hard SF work (which is a sub-category of the category of SF,) and thus be a hard SF author because he wrote one but also be a mystery writer, fantasy writer, sociological SF writer, etc. A writer can write in any number of categories. A writer can also be part stylistically of a literary movement, or not as the writer chooses, and can be part of more than one literary movement. All he has to do is have written one of the things and that is what he wrote. Of course, the discussion then is whether the trilogy counts as hard SF. I've only read the first one, long ago, and to my memory it was not hard SF, but I could be forgetting things and other parts of the trilogy may concentrate it on hard SF.
Originally Posted by ian sales
It depends on which quantum physicist you talk to.
Originally Posted by mylinar
Nope, delightful post-apocalyptic sociological SF with strong suspense plots, an ancestor of cyberpunk, and utilizing highly speculative science in the background. Some people believe very strongly that the works of Ur-Sun and Long Sun are fantasy, despite a lack of fantastical elements, because torturers. Other people will throw a screaming fit if you say that.
Originally Posted by Hitmouse
The key test is if Arthur Clarke is "literary" or not. Clarke occupies a Tolkien like place in hard SF historically. And if you have a definition of hard SF that Clarke cannot meet, then that term has apparently been used for something completely different throughout SF history than what it supposedly means. And Clarke of course used FTL, although he had quite a bit of semi-empirically tested science behind it. But Clarke does meet the basic sub-category definition for most of his work, which is that they are stories involving hard science issues as the central premise. Of course, they also can involve powerful aliens, quantum physics, FTL, A.I. and space adventures as well.
All of which is to say that the purity tests of what is SF based on it having to adhere to being hard SF leak like sieves. But I gather that Rosie Oliver wasn't trying to construct a purity test, The main premise of the sub-category of hard SF are stories about people (often scientists, don't have to be human,) trying to solve a hard science problem. Not stories about trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic future or planetary colony, not dealing with a war or an alien invasion, not mining asteroids or conducting trade in a merchant spaceship or through gateway, not trying to solve a murder mystery or dealing with a criminal danger or spies, not surviving a killer robot, not politics, not diplomacy, not sex and family structure, not religion, not taking a vacation to the moon -- but a hard SF story can have all of those elements in the story in addition to the central premise of solving a hard science problem. That's why hard SF is not a literary movement -- you can write in any style and structure and with whatever themes you want. It simply identifies a very basic element of the story -- it's about a hard science problem.
So it's entirely possible to write a hard SF novel in a highly stylistic manner and some writers have. And if we are going purely with Fung Koo's approach of drawing attention to narrative, being writerly and funky, then Greg Egan might actually pop back on my list. While I don't think he has tremendous mastery of prose and imagery and I'm not a fan of his characterization which tends towards the macho suspense sort, the man uses all sorts of devices -- graphs, charts, equation proofs, etc. -- to tell stories about hard science problems that certainly draw attention to the narrative over and above the story at hand. So he might indeed count on that ground and actually quite a few others might too. SF was, for decades, more of a category of short fiction than novels, and so we have tons and tons of stories still respected and studied in academia where writers for the mags experimented with pretty much everything, including styles.
But Dune isn't about solving a hard science problem, and Long Sun stories aren't either. But Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio is. (And Bear also likes to do Halo tie-in novels, so again, it's not about being one thing for authors.) Stories that are not hard SF don't necessarily jettison hard science elements or even always keep them to the background. But those stories are not about solving the hard science problem as the central premise.
Last edited by KatG; October 25th, 2012 at 04:07 PM.
October 26th, 2012, 02:52 AM
I'm doing nothing of the sort. If you state Aldiss has been called a hard sf author, which you did, then you're classifying the author. And just because one of their works might be described as hard sf (which I think we can agree is a stretch) that doesn't mean their entire oeuvre is hard sf - which is the implication. If you were to say Greg Benford is a hard sf author, that's another matter, because most of his books have been hard sf, as that's his chosen métier.
Originally Posted by KatG
October 26th, 2012, 01:58 PM
1) I didn't say that Brian Aldiss has been called nothing but a hard SF author. I said that he's shown up on hard SF works lists, because some people feel that some of his works are hard SF. That's classifying the work, not the author. (Although it does then make him a candidate for "literary hard SF" author for Rosie O's purposes.)
Originally Posted by ian_sales
2) I never said that writing one hard SF novel made an author's entire oeuvre hard SF. I said the opposite of that. I said that an author may write hard SF and sociological SF and fantasy and mystery and so forth. And we then say not that the author is a hard SF author and only that, but that the author is a science fiction author who writes both hard and sociological SF, or the author is a science fiction/fantasy/mystery writer, or a hard SF writer who also writes horror, or.... We are saying that they write these types of books, not that the author is only limited to one sub-category or category and anything that author writes cannot be considered something else. So Gregory Benford is not simply only a hard SF writer because he has also written other types of stories.
Categories and sub-categories -- which we commonly call genres after another adopted definition of the term -- are not literary movements. They describe basic story elements. So an author does not pledge his loyalty to the sub-category forever just because he wrote a book in that sub-category. If we went by that idea, Margaret Atwood would be only a science fiction writer, even though she's only written three SF novels in her life. But we can call Atwood a science fiction writer in addition to her other work, and also a fantasy writer because some of her work is fantasy, because she has written works in those categories and they are part, but not all, of her oeuvre. So we basically don't have to worry about the problem you were talking about -- authors who have only done one or two hard SF stories. Their hard SF works can still go on a list of hard SF or "literary" hard SF, etc. and their other works do not disqualify them from being on such a list, but their hard SF works are not all that they are as authors.
October 26th, 2012, 04:32 PM
The reason a lot of people don't believe they can leave the solar system is because the science fiction writers say so. But there is a very practicable step by step way of leaving the solar system - and yes I've had a short story published describing this way - so I come back to my point about there being a lack of imagination being used by hard science fiction writers today...
Originally Posted by Fung Koo
So, no, we do not know what the future is. We need to break this accepted future view from public acceptance. And this is where literary style can help.
October 26th, 2012, 04:58 PM
Phew... there's been quite a discussion while I haven't had a proper chance to to look in... I think one thing we can all agree on is that it is the the book and not the author that can should be classed as hard SF.
Where the boundary is between hard SF and other SF is dependent on the your view of what constitutes science and how far you believe it can change in the future. The argument about going FTL or getting out of the Solar System are two examples of where such a wide difference of opinion exists. So one man's hard SF can be another woman's soft SF. I think this is the basis of what the argument about constitutes hard SF has really been about.
The literary side of things is definitely about the style of writing. Whilst I have defined it by what its effect is, others have tried to define it by its purpose. The danger with the latter is that it could become too constrained and another name for a new style of writing will have to be invented.
But, if I've followed the arguments correctly, not a single book can be agreed on as being literary hard SF. Given this amount of argument it is not surprising that the publishing industry shy away from using the phrase. They are trying to use jargon that people easily understand in order to sell their books.
So it's no wonder Duotrope can't find any primary choices for literary hard SF stories (the original comment of this thread).
But here's the thing... in all this discussion I seemed to have honed in on how much imagination is lacking from science fiction. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good traditional SF book as much as the next person. But where's the cutting edge science fiction, the science fiction that brings new ideas to the party that takes the readers breath away? Any ideas anyone?
October 26th, 2012, 11:37 PM
Live Long & Suffer
I wonder if the CGI of the last 20 years makes that nearly impossible. I remember trying to envision what the Ringworld would look like if it existed. That was impressive. But now there is too much CGI in television commercials.
Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver
I have read plenty of SF that I have liked, but take breath away, that has been a LONG time.
October 27th, 2012, 12:38 AM
And as I've said before, I don't think you've made any real argument for this claim. Whether works are "literary" in writing style or not has nothing to do with cutting edge science ideas, and cutting edge science ideas are not the essence of story imagination. There's the predictive argument in SF -- people who feel that if science fiction cannot predict which new ideas will be used and accurately predict the future, then it's useless and lacking. This is an argument regularly made to support the idea that SF is dying or really much more awful than it used to be (out of juice). This argument assumes that the only purpose of science fiction stories is to predict things in science. And predicting that we might find a way around the speed of light and leave the solar system are things that science fiction writers did and still do regularly play with, so they are hardly cutting edge. And then there's another argument, which you may be making, that science fiction is failing unless it explores highly speculative theories. All these arguments are about personal preferences for what SF should be, not really a case for SF stories lacking.
Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver
Also, getting a far future SF story published does not then mean that the science in your story is more plausible and likely or that it is now very, very hard SF. It just means you got a SF story published. (And that's no small accomplishment certainly.) When I'm reading Peter Watts and he not only has a hard SF premise but has an appendix in the back to explain various types of research he'd borrowed from to put his story together, I generally find it interesting and not lacking in imagination. But I also find sociological SF stories -- which don't have cutting edge science in them -- to be interesting too and not lacking in imagination. When Charlie Stross decides to do a police procedural near future cyberpunk thriller in second person, well so far I'm finding it interesting. (And of course some folk feel that some of Stross' work is cutting edge hard SF, like his novel Accelerando.) You might be interested in an anthology done for Tor by David G. Hartwell called The Hard SF Renaissance.
The reality is that the fact that when you did a search on duotrope for literary hard SF and didn't find anything doesn't mean anything about what's actually going on in hard SF or SF in general. It doesn't tell you anything about SF being studied in universities or the actual writing styles of authors. And the fact that we and countless other fans don't agree about what the parameters of hard SF is or literary writing for that matter doesn't mean the people writing hard science stories aren't using cutting edge science or interesting writing techniques. A does not equal B. Disagreement does not equal lack.
October 27th, 2012, 02:37 AM
Google for Whippleshield Books.
Originally Posted by Rosie Oliver
October 27th, 2012, 02:40 AM
Unfortunately, most of the stories in that aren't actually sf... much as many of the stories in their The Space Opera Renaissance weren't actually space opera. Taxonomy aside, both anthologies are large and somewhat variable in quality of content. But then what themed anthologies aren't? Except perhaps Rocket Science :-)
Originally Posted by KatG
October 27th, 2012, 08:41 AM
Apart from being pedantic and saying CGI has been around for 30 years (10 more than your quote) - Tron came out in 1982... I suspect I agree with you to a certain extent. However, there are certain scenarios and aspects that can't be portrayed in pictures. I would have naively thought we would have seen more of these in the writing by now... so I'm defintiely missing a trick here...
Originally Posted by psikeyhackr
October 27th, 2012, 09:29 AM
You're right about me not making the argument for the lack of imagination in hard science fiction, but it is actually difficult for me to put it into words. But I'll have a go...
Originally Posted by KatG
Every hard science fiction story that is published has something new to say. The 'new' can be anything from an old story in a new setting or a slight difference from another story where the implications are worked out or similar slight variations to a completely new story in a completely new setting. So we have this spectrum of newness in hard science fictions stories and everyone can usually judge roughly how far along that spectrum of newness a story is. [Note, I'm not limiting newness to any particular aspect of story telling.]
What I'm personally finding is that the new stories I read tend to be to the left hand side of the spectrum i.e. the not too much really new.
There are some good reasons why this is the case. One is that in the middle of the last century most of the big ideas were developed about what our future could look like, thereby limiting the opportunities for publishing 'really new hard SF'. Another good reason is that the publishers are in the business for making money. They are risk averse, particularly at the moment, and therefore tend to want publish slight variations on a theme where they know there's a market for it.
Now I would have quite happily gone along with left hand side of the newness spectrum being the only game in town... until I wrote my short story Agents of Repair, which I consider my breakthrough story. What this story showed me was I could have something very seriously new to say about future tech and its impact on humans... like WHY an app would become destructive and appear to become intelligent and acting in its own right. [It received good reviews when it was published, which to certain extent backs up this being my breakthrough story.]
Anything that is based on pre Agents of Repair being written, is what I call traditional variations on the theme or the left hand side of the newness spectrum. Since Agents of Repair, i have drafted 5 short stories and a novel. With the exception of one short story, they are all further to the right of the newness spectrum. The exception was drafted for specific purpose that limited my room for manoeuvre. None of the new stuff has got published yet, for various reasons... though one short story is about to be published (and someone who saw an early draft said I could write a whole novel on the theme)... and despite getting a distinction for my novel on a top UK MA Creative Writing course, I have yet to find an agent. So unfortunately I can't produce the evidence to back this assertion up. Yes I have found the further right in the newness spectrum the storyline was, the harder it was to write.
So I can understand KatG being sceptic about what I'm saying in this regard.
I never said anything about what is and what is not going on in universities... the duotrope comment is about publishing. There could be some very good work going on in the universities, but we won't see it if it can't get published...
October 27th, 2012, 02:58 PM
You're not making an argument, you're making suppositions. Or rather, you're describing a feeling. I don't have a problem with feelings, but the problem is they are usually presented not as feelings but as declarative statements about the state of the field, usually based on a very narrow reading of the field and according to classifications made up and personal preferences. This is in large part why we argue over classifications (hard SF,) literary movements and goalposts for SF fiction -- everybody is unhappy if their personal vision is not being utilized. But the field of SF, of authors in the field, doesn't give a twit what any individual wants in the field and never has. So, to make an argument that declares the state of the field requires evidence, and it requires more evidence than stuff I've read lately that I pre-selected according to my reader interests and it requires more evidence than SF authors I've noticed don't seem to be doing what I want them to do or what I'm doing in my writing. It requires you pointing to specific authors and explaining how they failed what you see as a critical goal of SF (which is not necessarily the goal of SF,) and those authors being seminal authors/works in the field. It requires you, if you're going to make a claim that there has been a shift, to come up with specific and sufficient numbers of works past and present to support it, it requires you to not ignore books, especially prominent and popular ones, that don't fit your hypothesis. It requires something beyond you complaining that nameless works you read bored you.
Publishing is not risk averse, nor is it monochrome and united in its goals and interests. Publishers rely on variety to maximize readership in the market because written fiction is a small market. So hard SF (in all the forms we disagree about,) does not die. Nor do they have a problem with cool science ideas. And while you having trouble finding an agent in the very tight UK fiction market is unfortunate, it doesn't actually say anything about what different editors are doing in the market. It just means that you haven't found folks to connect with and willing to invest in your novel yet.
The all the cool ideas of the future have been figured out already line is part of the cyclical call that SF is dying off. It is factually incorrect and ignores the scientific research that shows predictions about the future have been on average dead wrong. People whose job it is to predict future developments and trends have about as good a rate of success as a coin toss. And science is discovering new things all the time, which many science fiction authors seize on and play with. And you yourself declared that you found a new idea for your story. So let's dispense with the ideas are dead and publishers wouldn't want them anyway rhetoric. That's a feeling; it's not really backed up by the business or the world of science. Past SF authors were good, but they weren't that good. They thought computers would stay giant and aliens likely lived on Mars.
It's true that many authors will take familiar paths. Suspense is obviously a standard approach in SF stories. But as you say, that doesn't result in a lack of imagination about science stories per se. To find that out or at least make a critical argument about, we'd have to look at the actual authors like Peter Watts, the three Greg's -- Bear, Egan and Benford, etc., and authors whose works are debated on being hard SF or not, such as authors like Stross, and look at what they were actually doing and the science they were utilizing and how cutting edge that science is and what they do with it. If we wanted to look at just those authors who are creating a far future vision, then we would have to look at that set in the same way. And if we wanted only to look at how literary stylistic approaches could be used in stories about hard science, that would be an analysis of actual narratives, not a database search.
I don't think you want to do any of that. I think you are mostly worried about the reception for your fiction, and wondering what's in the neighborhood of it. Which is perfectly understandable and hopefully some of the authors we're talking about or that you may find, since your net for hard SF seems to be fairly wide, will help with that. And since you are not religious about the hardness, authors like Clifford A. Pickover and more speculative science-based fiction might interest you. Whether all of these authors will be stylist is another issue. It's certainly not avoided in the market -- fans like psikey feel it's taking over, in fact. But as in all fiction, it's not always the goal.