[LMB] Amazing (ly ignorant) Stories

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Fri Sep 6 18:50:30 BST 2013

On Fri, Sep 06, 2013 at 03:32:01AM -0400, Steve Osgood wrote:
> LMB: "Ta, L.  (Btw, if anyone has succeeded in defining and identifying
> "Hard
> SF" by anything _other_ than its emotional tone, I have not yet seen the
> argument.)"
> I'd grown up thinking the difference between hard SF and soft SF was how
> accurate/consistent/believable/non-magical the science was.

Yes, that's one of the standard definitions; the other is "make one big
change and explore the consequences".  Of course 'believeable' runs up
against how much science a viewer knows.

"diamond hard SF" is stuff that doesn't break any known laws of science,
though might be optimistic on engineering.  Pretty rare, but Robert
Forward and Greg Egan try it, though Egan also pushes boundaries others
don't.  Ken MacLeod's _Learning the World_ was close, with an odd drive,
and the Cosmonaut Keep series is too: a magical lightspeed drive, but
not FTL, so postulating new physics but not contradictory ones, unlike
all FTL fiction that ignories relativity and causality problems.

> Star Trek: hard SF. Doctor Who: soft SF.
> Westworld: hard SF. Star Wars: soft SF.

I don't think Trek is anything close to hard SF by any definition.  It's
hardly less soft than Doctor Who.

Star Wars might actually be more internally consistent than either,
though it sure ain't hard.

Don't know Westworld.

> Honestly, ma'am, your stuff falls into the hard SF bin for me.  The science
> has been sufficiently consistent and believable for me that it's background
> and setting rather than focus and distraction.  I can care about the

The 'science' is often deliberately the focus of hard SF!

I'd call her middling overall.  The replicators are used well and
interestingly -- probably the 'hardest' element over all -- and
wormholes are something physicists will talk about.  But the 5-space
jump pilot navigation is really weird, force fields and antigravity are
magic, and the warships go *really amazingly fast*.  Stunners and nerve
disruptors are charmingly vague.

Also that one book with the telepathy.

More usefully one might call her fairly hard on the biotech/sociology
interactions (replicators, quaddies, Taura, fast-penta limitations,
Kline Biosecurity) (I could see quibbling about whether haut
superstrength is plausible, or the bioweapons as described) and about
average on the general SF trappings.  Fairly standard props department,
as background for the stuff she cares about.

Points for the effect of stunners on law enforcement attitudes.

-xx- Damien X-) 

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