'Hard' vs. 'Soft' Science Fiction

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Boreas, Jan 25, 2016.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

  2. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    My opinion of how they differ is simply the amount of science involved. The Honor Harrington stories are soft because the science is common and not new or essential to the plot. Peter Hamilton's books involve new science and revolve around the new science and it's application, and the people responsible for creating the new science are prominent characters.
     
  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    You're saying PFH writes hard sf? I think of him as lying much closer toward the opposite end of the spectrum.
     
  4. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    I didn't realize you had posted a reply to me. Tell me, how much of PH have you read? And then give me a couple examples of hard sf, and not some obscure books but fan favorites. Don't mention Gibson or Stephenson or Reynolds.
     
  5. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I've read his works set in the Confederation universe: the Nights Dawn trilogy + the collection A Second Chance at Eden. I've also read his Commonwealth duology, Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.

    Some fan favourite hard sf works would be:

    Arthur C. Clarke
    2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama, Fountains of Paradise, Earthlight, Fall of Moondust (and more, though NOT Childhood's End)
    Isaac Asimov
    The Gods Themselves is his best example of hard sf
    Poul Anderson
    Tau Zero
    Hal Clement
    Mission of Gravity
    Larry Niven
    Ringworld and The Integral Tree / Smoke Ring (and many more)
    Robert L. Forward
    Dragon's Egg / Starquake
    Kim Stanley Robinson
    Red Mars / Green Mars / Blue Mars (I've not read these, but I've recently read 2312 which is full-on hard sf & also visionary)
    Gregory Benford
    Timescape
    Carl Sagan
    Contact
    Michael Crichton
    The Andromeda Strain (you can also watch Robert Wise's excellent adaptation)
    Greg Bear
    Eon, which is the most famous of his novels, but he's written tons of hard sf (even his first novel Hegira, which reads like fantasy, is hard sf to the max)
    Stephen Baxter
    Raft & Flux (from his Xeelee sequence + most of his output)
    Peter Watts
    Blindsight / Echopraxia
    Vernor Vinge
    The Peace War / Marooned in Realtime
    Stanislaw Lem
    Fiasco (don't know if this is a fan favourite, but it's definitely one of mine)

    Every single thing that Greg Egan has ever written - he's one of the reigning kings of hard sf for me. Try his collections Axiomatic and Luminous.
    Pretty much everything by James P. Hogan.
    Catherine Asaro - I've not read any of her novels yet, but she supposedly writes space opera with a serious dose of hard sf and lots of romance.
    Not read Linda Nagata either, but she's also supposed to be a very good hard sf writer.

    Most of Neal Stephenson's works are not hard sf, though he did enter that territory with Anathem and especially Seveneves.
    Have not read any William Gibson, so can't say.
     
  6. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Thanks Boreas. I've read a few. Your recs always are worth checking out. I say PH because there are so many advanced science capabilities of the characters and their time(s) and universe. It starts with (for me) wormholes discovery by Nigel and Ozzie and leads to explosive growth and discovery scientifically and in travel. It's just simply a scientific advances-fueled series.
     
  7. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Which ones have you read?

    It's true that PFH plays around with tech and incorporates transhumanist elements like many other sf authors, but there's no real effort to keep close faith with scientific verisimilitude. Of course, even in hard sf, it's fine to introduce one or two mcguffins and then keep the plot internally consistent afterwards, but even given that, PFH doesn't come anywhere close to being a hard sf writer for me. Alastair Reynolds also writes mostly space opera, but for many of his works, you can safely say that there is an attempt at keeping real faith with what's possible at current levels of knowledge (even with speculations). Not utilising FTL in his Revelation Space universe is already a huge plus in my book.

    I really think you should watch Robert Wise's super adaptation of Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. That is in an excellent movie. Out of the books listed above, I think you should check out Poul Anderson's Tau Zero and Vernor Vinge's duology The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime. MiR is my favourite Vinge novel, I think (followed by his space opera A Deepness in the Sky). Definitely also pick up Greg Egan's collection Axiomatic. I don't think you'll like the first story (it actually reminded me of a math class on Metric Spaces I took during my third year, though it's about a drug), but his tales are pretty cutting edge with wild speculations and their human ramifications. If you like Axiomatic, then pick up the next collection Luminous and go to his novels from there.
     
  8. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I will check them out.
     
  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Just curious, which ones are the ones you've already read?
     
  10. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Yes, thank you.
     

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