Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Science Fiction

Scifi has many variations. For instance, Star Wars could be classified as science fantasy whereas star trek could be classified as science fiction and Starship Troopers (book) could be called hard science.fiction. What are your favorites and what do you classify them as?


  1. So much good stuff out there; where do I begin?
    -John Ringo and Travis Taylor's fantastic Voyage of the Space Bubble series would be hard military science fiction. Take a company of Force Recon marines bombing around the galaxy in a rebuilt submarine, trying to learn astrophysics, xenobiology, and asteriod mining in between shootouts with alien monsters, add some real-world scientific theories and military tactics, and make it crazier.

    -John Ringo's debut series, the Legacy of the Aldenata, is perhaps best described as pure Humanity F*ck Yeah literature. While primarily military science fiction, there's a lot of cloak-and-dagger nonsense going on as well. The fun includes power-armored assaults, Nazi tank legions, sentient battleships (both wet- and vac-navy), Jesuit commandos, and ancient conspiracies, taking place from DC to the depths of space.

    -The Honor Harrington series is the trope-setter and epitome of space opera. Spanning seventeen books and a time period of 30 years so far, what started out as the Napoleonic Wars IN SPACE has become so much more.

    -I'd classify Mass Effect as hard science fiction. The incredibly in-depth background helps to make this epic one of the greatest franchises of all time.

  2. Very good observations! I especially agree with the Honor Harrington summary though admit I have not read either of the first two examples.

    Video games is another interesting topic and I am glad you bring it up.

    Where would you put Halo? What about Wing Commander?

  3. Have to disagree with some of the classifications here
    "science fiction" basically breaks down into two genres (hard science fiction) and (fantasy science fiction)
    Hard sci is anything mechamical and yes even the force belongs in that genre / fantasy scy fy is basically magic etc.
    some hard sci is more pure than others, heinlein asimov orson scott card, larry niven -

    Fantasy is harry potter, Van Helsings, dracula, frankenstein, werewolves, hobbits , Tolkein etc eetc etc etc (dont have much use for any of it)

    1. VolleyFire

      As I understand it the distinctions are Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Science Fantasy.

      Hard Science Fiction is something where the technology the author invents is researched to be as realistically possible as known science currently will allow. A determined and realistic effort to ensure things will follow the current known laws of physics and science is made. A good example is the works of Robert Forward a noted Physicist who wrote fiction.

      Science Fiction is one where the author tends to write technology in terms that could believably be possible by science but does not take the time to ensure that there is science behind it. An example is the warp drive or phazers in Star Trek. There is some feeling that these things could potentially happen however there is no attempt to make sure they follow physics. More leeway is taken. The author has no idea if it is possible but does not k now it to be impossible.

      Science Fantasy is where the author invents technology that he knows can’t exist. An example of this is the force in Star Wars or Psionics in Scanners however it can take the form of other things. For instance if the author were to use traveling in space by entering a black hole and somehow escaping this is something that would be as improbable although it would not be seen as Fantasy.

      Hope this helps

      Harry Potter and Dracula woulkd be fantasy. Frankenstein however (as written by Marie Shelly is a good example of 19th century science fiction. At the time written there were experiments that suggested electricity could revive dead tissue and this was what she based her work on. Written today it would be science fantasy because we now know it to be untrue science.

  4. My top 5 Sci-Fi Writers

    1) Cordwainer Smith - Absolutely fabulous writer, focusing more on high concepts of life past exploration and the downfalls of the benefits of science, such as longevity, and an exploration of uplifting. Really cool short story writer. He's hard to define as Hard or Soft.

    2) James White (Sector General) Since his death, James White has been hard to replace. A soft Sci-Fi writer, his main works focus on human/alien relations and the building of these relationship through the use of Medicine. It's a very positive look at the future of Sci-Fi, even through a couple of police actions, and is some of the best Sci-Fi I've ever read. The fact that Humans are not automatically Inferior or Superior, but just different, heightens my love of the series.

    3) Orson Scott Card - I admire the Ender Series, for it's exploration of head spaces. You could probably remove a lot of the sci-fi elements, and the stories would still stand up well. I'd classify the series as a whole as Hard Sci-Fi, and enjoy exploring the philosophical edges of the first Ender Series, and the more Suspense orientated Shadow books.

    4) Elizibeth Bear - Writer of the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy. Part Soft Sci-Fi, Part Fantasy, the Jacob's Ladder trilogy is a marvel, and a really good look at what a Generation Ship story should look like. I particularly like Grail, which offers an answer to "What happens when someone beats a generation ship to a new world, by hundreds of years?".

    5) Steven Moffat - Probably cheating a lot on this one. Steven Moffat is the head writer for Dr. Who, a soft Sci-Fi/Fantasy show if there ever was one. I admire him for his Twilight Zone abilities of creating spooky out of nothing, and his ability to generate fantastic ideas out of very ordinary things. Very imaginative, and it's hard to choose between him, Joss Weadon, and J. Micheal Straczynski as a 5th author here.

  5. Valley, that is true but Scifi has become much more expanded. You are talking a basic categorization of scifi as if I were talking about the difference between an eighteenth century sailing vessel and a planet. I am talking about subcategories here. The modern viewpoint is that each genre has multiple sub classifications wherein each body of theme resides. Thusly, when comparing Conan to Star Trek one sees the obviousness of the high level genres of fantasy and scifi but there are absolute differences in both works view and mechanics between say The Princess of Mars and Babylon Five. This then is when and why we break down into subcategories to attempt to further codify these types the same as we have species, genus, family, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom.

    An example thusly stated:
    StarWars and Dr. Who are subcategorized into Science Fantasy since they both contain elements of magic.
    Star Trek and to some degree.Babylon Five are Science Fiction Space Opera
    Aliens and ID4 would be more accurately described as hard scifi because they follow laws of physics that could be probable.

  6. ArmChairGeneral-
    John Ringo is a fellow Baen writer along with David Weber. They wrote a collaboration series together, all of which, like the HH series, is available for free on the internet.

    I'd put Halo in the middle of the hard/soft sci-fi continuum. There are whole articles about this sort of thing, but basically how hard a sci-fi franchise is depends on how much stuff the creators make up. Moh's Scale of Science Fiction Hardness is a commonly accepted way to grade this. Something like Gattica or The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress would be on the 'hard' end, while Star Trek (which makes up science practically every episode) would be on the 'soft' end. Most modern science fiction falls somewhere between the two extremes, inventing one or two scientific principles and then extrapolating from there to create consistent in-universe technology. For example, Mass Effect uses dark matter, aka 'element zero,' to create an entire universe of advanced technology based off that one assumption. So Halo, while based somewhat on the real world, makes up a number of technologies, that, while internally consistent, are never fully explained, thus placing it in the middle of the spectrum.

    Of course, then you come to those authors who completely blur the lines between fantasy and science fiction. For example, you mentioned Conan earlier as being an example of fantasy. However, the original stories were a part of the Cthulhu mythos, and so the magic and monsters of Conan were usually the result of advanced aliens and extraterrestrial monsters. Other offenders in this category include Steven Brust's Dragaeran novels and Warhammer Fantasy.

  7. Robert J Sawyer is one of my favorite authors. He's usually on the hard end, and he has the science chops to make sure that the science is accurate. Still, he doesn't fall into the trap that his science is more important than the characters. Mindscan, Starplex and the Neandrathal Parallax triolgy (Hominds/Humans/Hybrids) are among my favorites.

    As for genre, SF is sort of a meta-genre, as I've seen SF fantasy, SF romance, SF mystery, etc. Then you can layer the varying levels of hardness on top of it.

    Star Wars is interesting, as without the force, it's pretty hard SF. A lot of the elements are plausible. Except for the Gungans.

    1. Philo

      I still would not classify Star Wars or Star Trek for that matter as HArd Science Fiction.

      Hard Science Fiction uses elements such as Joe Haldeman in the Forever War that incorporates time dilation in space travel (the fact that if yhou travel at .1 % g for a few moths decades will pass on earth.

      Or the works of Robert Forward which also use Time dilation but when he uses time travel or star gates he explains the science as to how it works and follows scientific theories. True Hard science fiction is hard to write.

      The author really has to know his physics and chemistry and still be able to spin a good story despite the technical detail.

      By the by I think the best Hard Science fiction writer to date is still Jules Verne. He kept up and the scientific jouurnals of his day, used the knowledge well in his stories. From Earth to the Moon was so accurate that he nearly predicted much of the Nanas moon lunches. For m the place the rocket left, how large the capsule was to how much force was needed.

    2. Of course it's all a scale. And the finger-wiggling wizards definitely prove that it has a runny yolk. But I should say that without the force, it's mid-scale SF.

    3. Star Trek is close. The warp idea is a sound one built on actual physics. I am attending a discussion on it tomorrow at MOSH with a physicist who is an expert in sci fi. I am very excited!

  8. The gungans weren't so bad. Jarjar that's another story.

  9. Also, note that hard SF is often perceived to be serious. Demolition Man (the Stallone/Snipes/Bullock movie) has a lot of silly moments in it, but all of the science is a plausible outgrowth of current technology.