Hope this forum is still being used :)
After reading some of the other threads I went to the TV Tropes site and read the Mohrs' Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness article (link) which discusses how "hard" or "soft" particular sci-fi's are. Just thought that a discussion concering this would be interesting; how hard do people like their sci-fi, how hard do they make it, and do they put soft elements in a hard story, or vice-versa?
I'll start, with a shameless plug. My story MechKnight is set in a future-Europe patterned politically and socially after the Catholic Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire (a fairly soft element) without any nuclear fusion, time travel, bionics, widely and commonly used genetic engineering etc. (relatively hard) that nevertheless has weapons-grade lasers (a little soft) and 'mechs (pretty floppy, really . . .) I like to think it is harder than it is soft (mainly due to the fact that I have tried to explain technology at least in my head, and always give little nods to weapons and armor technology that is current. So, for example, anti-armor missiles are shaped charges, and the armor is reactive armor, spaced armor, and armor containing dilatant layers and so forth. The 'mechs are also driven rather than being controled by thought-waves or something.
I was intrigued by this notion - how hard do we like our sci-fi, and how hard do we write it? And can there be soft elements (generally speaking, less plausible ones) which are justified because of the "rule of cool" or because it is the central theme of the work? As an example from my own story, the softest element is the presence of the 'mechs despite all the problems that would cause. But that is the focus of the story - it is a tale about 'mechs in order to basically tell a story about quasi "knights" in a world with pseudo-modern morals and mores, rather than a quasi-mediaeval world.
Anyway, I'd welcome any comments or discussion!2/16/2009 #1
I try to base my SF hardness/softness based on one factor: Avoiding softness and ensuring hardness in my science should not get in the way of the story being entertaining.2/16/2009 #2
"Avoiding softness and ensuring hardness in my science should not get in the way of the story being entertaining."
I think that you have neatly encapsulated what I was trying to get across in a single sentence! (My excuse is I've been involved in some stupid flame war for most of the day which started because I was trying to be a nice guy, so I am distracted.)
A follow-up question, if you will; do we think that "soft" elements are often put in place for the purpose of telling an entertaining story? That is, do we have a "hard" universe in which the "soft" bits allow us to actually write a story rather than a reference book.2/16/2009 #3
I think a soft element arises because some element of the story or setting requires it. The quintessencial example of that would be FTL travel. It's a very soft "science" no matter what the setting is. You can't really justify it, only handwave it. But if you're going to travel outside of a single solar system, it's a necessity. Hardness is to assist suspension of disbelief; softness is to facilitate your story's ability to happen. Or to make things awesome. (Think about Jedi and lightsabers, hyperspace/Warp/any other FTL travel, and various substances and metals and such that act in impossible ways)2/16/2009 #4
I got most of my sci-fi knowledge from very, well, not necessarily soft sources, I guess it depends on how you define it, I've never heard of this scale before, but I learned from Douglass Adams, Doctor Who, (a bit of) Battle Star Galactica. I like my entertainment mixed with science, but my knowledge of science is limited so I don't pursue stuff too complicated for me to understand. A line I really like goes something along the lines of "at a certain level, there is no difference between science and magic" and I think to the everyday person that's true.3/12/2010 #5
I abide by The Rule Of Cool, which means that my works are pretty soft. You can almost gurantee that there will be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens in my stories.4/05/2011 #6
I am an old fashioned hard sci fi fan. There is a great deal of eminently laudable soft sci fi out there, but I love westerns in space. For me sci fi is about the ever expanding frontier and the cultures that develop when they are light years away form the mores of their parent cultures. It is the endless possibilities inherent in exploration, and all of the romance and danger of exploring the unknown. If I want magic I will read fantasy.10/06/2011 #7
@ Anna Cate: That's True! Arthur C. Clarke said that "Magic is just science we haven't discovered yet." that quote of his was also featured in the movie "Thor" which was released early last year. :)8/31/2012 #8
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