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Gap Soft Sci/fi
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
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.

Don't go by wikipedia! There's no authoritative definition for hard/soft sci fi at all! If you look at the article, the second and third definitions used aren't even cited, which means that they could be nothing more than reasoned out by whoever was editing the encyclopedia at the time. It's just something people talk about. Considered soft by who, after all? We don't know who conjured up 2/3 of those rules, since we can't see if the first source explained them (The link to the first source is dead too).

In fact, in the wikipedia article on soft sci-fi the paragraph after the one you quoted argues that there's no set definition for hard/soft sci-fi. So perhaps we shouldn't even go around saying "this is a hard sci-fi book" and "this is a soft sci-fi book." If you had a book which was mostly hard sci-fi, but tossed in FTL, would that automatically class it as soft sci-fi despite all the hard elements in the book?
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you that it's a label and it's subjective. Certainly some people consider it a negative label, while I don't. I could care less if any book is considered hard or soft sci-fi by anyone, personally.

Wikipedia may not be a faultless source, but in this case it's enough to show that there are some people who consider FTL to be outside the scope of hard sci-fi. I could quote some other sources, too.

SCIFIPEDIA wrote:
Some aficionados of hard science fiction claim that a story cannot be completely characterized as "hard SF" if it contains science fiction tropes such as faster-than-light travel or time travel, which contradict the currently known laws of physics.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
I agree with you that it's a label and it's subjective. Certainly some people consider it a negative label, while I don't. I could care less if any book is considered hard or soft sci-fi by anyone, personally.
Amen. I've never even thought about it. I think in terms of two completely different categories: good s.f. and bad s.f.

If the story and characters are secondary to the technology, that's bad. If the story is a character driven tale with technology as its context, that's good.

As kind of a middle ground, I do like stories that use technology to illustrate something meaningful (*or* nihilistic, dystopic, etc.) about the human condition, but I don't see that as about the technology or science itself. That's more about society's reaction to technology and science.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone who would call Foundation "soft" is out of their minds. (Dune I can buy though)

As far as I am concerned, Foundation is the benchmark for "hard" sci-fi.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
I agree with you that it's a label and it's subjective. Certainly some people consider it a negative label, while I don't. I could care less if any book is considered hard or soft sci-fi by anyone, personally.


I don't care all that much myself (probably since I prefer the softer stuff), but the term "soft sci-fi" is frequently just used as a put-down of authors who write it, but there's not a whole lot of consistency with how people define hard vs. soft. If an astrophysicist like David Brin writes sci-fi, it's always characterized as hard sci-fi, even though he uses FTL travel in his books and stuff like gravity generators, which are equally implausible. The same goes for a computer science geek like Vernor Vinge. I've only read one of his books (A Fire Upon the Deep), and it's filled with the typical hard sci-fi descriptions, but he uses all sorts of anti-gravity and gravity generating devices as well as FTL travel. But his stuff is hard sci-fi, whereas SRD's Gap drives are soft sci-fi.

On the other hand, SRD didn't use any artificial gravity devices. Instead, his ships have cores that spin on bearings to generate centripetal forces. That's much more "hard sci-fi," if you ask me, than using gravity generators. But since Donaldson doesn't have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, the Gap series gets put down as "soft sci-fi."

The thing is, if you want to tell a story with aliens in it (especially many different types), then you pretty much have to have some sort of FTL travel, assuming the story is set in this universe. So it is a necessary plot device for a lot of sci-fi stories, regardless of whether or not it's a plausible technology.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Post!

But it makes me want to talk about how much I love A Fire Upon the Deep ...
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, the use of the word "soft" to describe someone's science fiction is really the problem. The late George Carlin would point out that soft is just a word that we define, but we can't change the perception. I petition this group to come up with a more suitable term.

Speculative science is what SF really is. I'd suggest "high" (speculation) for less plausible science.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think that that is entirely fair. There is a substantial amount of fandom for works where real, hard science is the certerpiece and main point of the story. The "hard sci-fi" sub-genre is legit as far as I am concerned. People do produce works that qualify in that sub-genre, and fans do seek it out and appreciate it. (Though it's not to everyone's taste -- see Malik above.)

It'd be unfair to disqualify it.

I think we get into trouble where we call anything that's not hard sci-fi "soft sci-fi". Yeah, soft is the opposite of hard. But sci-fi that is not hard sci-fi is not the opposite, if you know what I mean. It's just different. It has a different thrust, a different direction. In fact, there are many different directions, too many to lump together as "soft".

Then again, its our culture that equates hard with good and soft with bad. That's also unfortunate.

Anyway ... if we define "soft sci-fi" as "what hard sci-fi fans call sci-fi that's not hard sci-fi", it's kind of okay.

Edit: Are you suggesting we have hi-sci-fi? Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
I don't think that that is entirely fair. There is a substantial amount of fandom for works where real, hard science is the certerpiece and main point of the story. The "hard sci-fi" sub-genre is legit as far as I am concerned. People do produce works that qualify in that sub-genre, and fans do seek it out and appreciate it. (Though it's not to everyone's taste -- see Malik above.)

It'd be unfair to disqualify it.
I wasn't discarding "hard" SF. I enjoy it, and the term fits.

wayfriend wrote:
I think we get into trouble where we call anything that's not hard sci-fi "soft sci-fi". Yeah, soft is the opposite of hard. But sci-fi that is not hard sci-fi is not the opposite, if you know what I mean. It's just different. It has a different thrust, a different direction. In fact, there are many different directions, too many to lump together as "soft".

Then again, its our culture that equates hard with good and soft with bad. That's also unfortunate.

Anyway ... if we define "soft sci-fi" as "what hard sci-fi fans call sci-fi that's not hard sci-fi", it's kind of okay.
Unless the point of using "soft" is to discredit it. Hence the suggestion of "high" SF.

Btw, how did the term, "high fantasy" originate?
wayfriend wrote:
Edit: Are you suggesting we have hi-sci-fi? Very Happy
Why not? High speculation isn't limited to science fiction. Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, my problems with the Gap tend to be more subtle things, like explosions with blast waves. (They require atmosphere) and his sometimes tenuous grasp of general relativity. (NOT special, he sometimes gets confused with the way G would work near a body with gravity. Being out of reach of gravity, coasting, and being in free fall [orbit] are effectively the same. Acceleration and gravity are also completely physically equivalent forces.)
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My main issue is with the Singularity Grenades. They would work from the mass at the moment of implosion. Since mass dictates the gravitational field, and the grenade doesn't add mass - just compresses it into a singularity, the weapon shouldn't create a field that expands out and drags everything into it. I get that it would do that at the end of Chaos and Order since the asteroids would add mass to the singularity . . . but when one is set off at Calm Horizons, Trumpet should not have had an issue escaping.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think little enough is known about black holes (the reside in the mystery area between quantum mechanics and classical physics) I can forgive him for that. Who knows? Maybe its feeding on the junk in Earth's orbit. (I thought it dissipated anyway didn't it? I'm in the middle of re-reading TDAGD)
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
I think little enough is known about black holes (the reside in the mystery area between quantum mechanics and classical physics) I can forgive him for that.


Enough is known that they don't suddenly start to suck everything in; if the Sun became a black hole the Earth wouldn't be pulled into it. It's field is equivalent to the mass at the start.

The Dreaming wrote:
Who knows? Maybe its feeding on the junk in Earth's orbit. (I thought it dissipated anyway didn't it? I'm in the middle of re-reading TDAGD)


There would have to be a large amount of junk in orbit for that to happen, as the hole would need to be swallowing matter almost constantly to gain in size enough to pull Trumpet back.

Yes, it did dissipate - 5.7s after its creation.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
Actually, my problems with the Gap tend to be more subtle things, like explosions with blast waves. (They require atmosphere) and his sometimes tenuous grasp of general relativity. (NOT special, he sometimes gets confused with the way G would work near a body with gravity. Being out of reach of gravity, coasting, and being in free fall [orbit] are effectively the same. Acceleration and gravity are also completely physically equivalent forces.)
Explosions with blast waves? I don't remember this in the story, but the explosion itself would have an external force of expanding matter which is expelled, wouldn't it? Which part of the story are you talking about? When did he treat acceleration different from gravity? I thought his problems with acceleration was that he underestimated the amount of force some of his decelerations would produce on the human body.

Quote:
Enough is known that they don't suddenly start to suck everything in; if the Sun became a black hole the Earth wouldn't be pulled into it. It's field is equivalent to the mass at the start.
While this is true at great distances, the force of gravity at the surface would be much, much greater. Mass isn't the only thing that determines the force of gravity, it's also how tightly it's packed together. The denser the mass, the closer you can get to the center of gravity, and gravity is indirectly proportional to the square of the distance (of the center of mass). So the ability to get closer would pay off geometrically (the force increasing geometrically).
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The explosion of Tranquil Hegemony for example, and the explosion of Beckman's lab are both said to have sub-light blast waves. Blast waves from explosions are actually sonic, believe it or not. It is the vibration of air that causes you to get knocked on your ass, and they travel at the speed of sound. (Which is why a very large explosion, like a nuke, would go Flash, Heat, then BOOM.) Of course, an explosion in space would still violently send matter out in all directions (probably VERY hot matter), and would shed tons of radiation. (Which heat is a form of remember, but radiative heat is very different from thermal heat.)
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I read that, I thought the author made it pretty clear that we were not talking about mundane blast waves such as are conducted by air, but an electro/magnetic/quantum/highscience emission, more akin to an electromagnetic pulse, that was caused by the nature of the thing that was exploding.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you wouldn't feel that as a physical, mechanical force. (Like Angus and company do). That would also travel at the speed of light, as everything you mentioned is a form of radiation. That word covers a much broader array of things than what we normally think of. Electromagnetism is light constant, just like all other radiation.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is Dune even really sci-fi?
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you ever read Dune?
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jacob Raver, sinTempter wrote:
Is Dune even really sci-fi?


Yes.
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