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Gap Soft Sci/fi
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:52 pm    Post subject: Gap Soft Sci/fi Reply with quote

So I was running today in (82F/29C) temperatures... 9K, for a 4ourty year-old... I was happy... but I was thinking as my heart laboured to keep me breathing....

Fact is the state of the environment, and a slight lack of KW interaction, made me think.. just what's so soft about SRD's science of the future?

I've read this complaint in reviews... and I just don't see the problem. Relativity (Einstein's) is addressed in the differences in tach v tard space. I don't recall any specific Newtonian problems, and even the exotic issue of sub-light communications (via quanta in crystals) is dealt with quasi-scientifically (albeit far beyond what is conceivable today)

discuss... time for my drunk (deutschland won the semi's butt) to go to bett..


bis tsaeter meine freunden....

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just my uninformed opinion, but I think that hard science fiction is when the science is the story, and the characters are throw-ins. Soft science fiction would then be when the characters don't take a back seat to the science. By that definition, the Gap cycle is definitely soft.

It's not really insulting to be soft science fiction. Is it?

Edit: found this in the wik.

Quote:
The term first appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s and indicated SF based not on engineering or the "hard" sciences (for example, physics, astronomy, or chemistry) but on the "soft" sciences, and especially the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and so on).[1] Another sense is SF that is more concerned with character, society, or other speculative ideas and themes that are not centrally tied to scientific or engineering speculations. A third sense is SF that is less rigorous in its application of scientific ideas, for example allowing faster-than-light space travel in a setting that otherwise follows more conservative standards.

I guess I was thinking of the second case.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose I had the third definition in mind. Interesting.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say that the Gap fits the category "allows faster-than-light space travel in a setting that otherwise follows more conservative standards" pretty well, too.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't have anything specific right now in mind, but I recall many instances while reading the first two books (I gotta get the third!) where I said to myself, "Asimov would be rolling over in his grave if he could read this!"

All in all, though, I don't mind, since I myself am more concerned with character and story than rigorous application of scientific principles.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In general I was very impressed with how he had the gap drive to deal with interstellar travel but at the same time maintained the painful (relative) slowness of interplanetary travel, acceleration-deceleration etc. I am no physicist so I would not bother to check whether he got his G-force figures etc. right; I simply do not care.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Gap is soft and flabby compared to hard sci-fi. Read some Reynolds if you want hard sci-fi. Things are difficult and much more elaborate than the gap drive. It still holds up in some respects, but the details are lacking.
I don't want to come over as a hater of this series as I feel he was on to a thread that just did not quite get there. I ultimately find the books too unpleasant to read. maybe a re-read in a while, but I think not.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roynish wrote:
The Gap is soft and flabby compared to hard sci-fi. Read some Reynolds if you want hard sci-fi. Things are difficult and much more elaborate than the gap drive. It still holds up in some respects, but the details are lacking.


Does that really matter to you? Honestly, I could care less about the technical details of how an interstellar drive works. When it comes down to it, it's always just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo if you ask me. The 'how' of sci-fi technology is usually pretty uninteresting to me. What I think is important are the implications of the technology.

I did think that SRD's description of how the ship's memory storage worked was pretty interesting. It's pretty rare to have someone try to describe solid state chemistry in a sci-fi novel. Most of the writers who go into elaborate details are ex-physicists, and all you get is physics, physics, physics, blaaa-blaaaa-blaaaaa.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

::Points at previous post::

Couldn't agree more.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fact that SRD didn't even try to explain how the gap drive actually worked (the history of its invention notwithstanding) makes the Gap series a soft sci-fi series.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Soft? Hard? They're the same to me. I've read stories that worked hard to explain the science, and some went so far as to trivialize the story. I've read stories that were science fiction in setting only, for the purpose of telling a romance, mystery or (insert other type) tale, and some forgot that "science" required some form of logic.

In both cases, if the story suffers, in logic or pace, it's not good. Otherwise, it's all good.

The Gap is simply an excellent story in which the science fiction plot devices mesh well with the rest.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Farm Ur-Ted wrote:
Roynish wrote:
The Gap is soft and flabby compared to hard sci-fi. Read some Reynolds if you want hard sci-fi. Things are difficult and much more elaborate than the gap drive. It still holds up in some respects, but the details are lacking.


Does that really matter to you? Honestly, I could care less about the technical details of how an interstellar drive works. When it comes down to it, it's always just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo if you ask me. The 'how' of sci-fi technology is usually pretty uninteresting to me. What I think is important are the implications of the technology.



It does to me. I do care about the details of interstellar drive. The details should be as authentic as possible in order to truly capture my imagination to qualify as escapism.

However, without much physics academia to speak of, I really can't smell the bullshit anyway.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dunno. I mean, I have read a lot of Reynold's stuff and I have to admit the technology is amazing. Incredible imagination most of the time. But even though I do enjoy the story, I usually don't think it's the characters always turn out that well. The pig criminal guy, for instance, was a pretty typical "bad guy gone good" and some of the time there wasn't really that much reason for those kinds of developments to occur. And other characters would get well developed and have their stories finished, but instead of just passively leaving the story they'd get random terrible, gruesome ends in the next book.

But as a Reynolds fan, I would recommend Ken Macleod. I've only read two of his books, Newton's Wake and Learning the World, but both kicked ass. Learning the World in particular has some really nice surprises, although the use of internet blogs felt more like a "let's use some kind of technology that's prolific right now just cuz, but in a kinda bland way."
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
The fact that SRD didn't even try to explain how the gap drive actually worked (the history of its invention notwithstanding) makes the Gap series a soft sci-fi series.


How can you explain an impossible technology?

I don't recall Asimov explaining the FTL in Foundation, I don't recall Nivin explaining it in Ringworld, and I don't recall Pohl explaining it in gateway. (All of the above are considered Hard sci-fi writers) Honestly, I prefer no explanation to a ludicrous one. There is a reason we don't *have* FTL travel.

Honestly, the Gap does a better job of bringing us into a visceral, physically real universe than any of the other books I've mentioned. It may be soft because it's story and character driven rather than being a simple exploration of technology, but I hardly think that's a weakness.

I honestly feel that the Gap stands up to "Hard" sci-fi. It's just easy to dismiss because Donaldson isn't a sci-fi *writer* per se.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
wayfriend wrote:
The fact that SRD didn't even try to explain how the gap drive actually worked (the history of its invention notwithstanding) makes the Gap series a soft sci-fi series.


How can you explain an impossible technology?

I don't recall Asimov explaining the FTL in Foundation, I don't recall Nivin explaining it in Ringworld, and I don't recall Pohl explaining it in gateway. (All of the above are considered Hard sci-fi writers) Honestly, I prefer no explanation to a ludicrous one. There is a reason we don't *have* FTL travel.

Honestly, the Gap does a better job of bringing us into a visceral, physically real universe than any of the other books I've mentioned. It may be soft because it's story and character driven rather than being a simple exploration of technology, but I hardly think that's a weakness.

I honestly feel that the Gap stands up to "Hard" sci-fi. It's just easy to dismiss because Donaldson isn't a sci-fi *writer* per se.


Great post.

The fact of the matter, and some people are really missing the point, is that Donaldson is telling a story. FTL is so far, an impossibility, so to argue about the Gap drive is rather pointless. I could go on about other errors he has made, but so what? He's not presenting the series to further science or to explore issues in science; he's exploring issues of redemption and identity . . . soft sci-fi versus hard sci-fi is a moot point.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
wayfriend wrote:
The fact that SRD didn't even try to explain how the gap drive actually worked (the history of its invention notwithstanding) makes the Gap series a soft sci-fi series.


How can you explain an impossible technology?

I don't recall Asimov explaining the FTL in Foundation, I don't recall Nivin explaining it in Ringworld, and I don't recall Pohl explaining it in gateway. (All of the above are considered Hard sci-fi writers) Honestly, I prefer no explanation to a ludicrous one. There is a reason we don't *have* FTL travel.

Honestly, the Gap does a better job of bringing us into a visceral, physically real universe than any of the other books I've mentioned. It may be soft because it's story and character driven rather than being a simple exploration of technology, but I hardly think that's a weakness.

I honestly feel that the Gap stands up to "Hard" sci-fi. It's just easy to dismiss because Donaldson isn't a sci-fi *writer* per se.


That's exactly how I feel. There are tons of sci-fi books with FTL travel. Do they all really have to go through the charade of explaining how it happens? And is one book better because it does a better job of hand-waving than another does? Personally, I don't think so. Ringworld is a great example of a book that just lets you know FTL travel exists, but doesn't bother to explain it. My own feeling is that if you did have FTL travel in the far future, 99.99% of the people wouldn't have a clue how it worked anyway. Can't you tell a story from the perspective of someone who uses the technology without understanding it? I think so. Hell, at least half the people who get in their cars in the morning and drive to work don't have a clue how their cars work. Every time you read a contemporary book, you don't get an explanation of the internal combustion engine.

I do understand that if the story is about making technological break-throughs, then giving explicit descriptions of how things work is important. But for most stories, I just don't see it as being necessary.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Can't you tell a story from the perspective of someone who uses the technology without understanding it? I think so.

Indeed, one of the finest pieces of science fiction, Jack Vance's Tales of Dying Earth, uses this as a major theme. In fact, Vance carries it to the point where you can't tell the difference between magic and tech; my personal theory is that there's no such thing as magic in Vance's books, just technology no one understands.

I don't think we need to rule against books that fully/partially explain FTL technology and whatever else. Personally I don't know enough physics to distinguish the plausible explanations from the implausible ones most of the time (which says more about my high school's physics class than it does about me) but we don't necessarily need to see a lack of it as a flaw.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm pretty sure that wormholes are the only plausible FTL theory currently popular in physics. I'm also pretty sure the energy requirements are ludicrous though.

That being said, our current understanding of physics isn't nearly as complete as some would lead you to believe.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, FTL travel can't be reasoned out. Which is why, according to the wikipedia definition (see upthread), stories with FTL are often considered "soft".

But there's nothing wrong with being soft sci-fi! It's not a disparaging comment! There's no requirement that sci-fi strive to be "hard" in order to be good, either.

Personally, I find hard sci-fi rather boring - it can be like reading an account of accounting practices. Interesting, but ultimately unmoving. Dune is maybe the rare exception for me.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is Dune really that 'hard'? The way of travelling across the Universe by way of folding space with the help of mélange (IIRC the method of travel) does not sound too much different from the Gap-drive to me.
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