Hard Sci-Fi vs Soft Sci-Fi

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I am a passionate sci-fi fan because of the specific ideas and themes the genre allows authors and readers to experience. It is unique among the literary scene for focusing specifically on a discipline(s) present in every aspect of our lives; that from which we can't escape: SCIENCE. Sci-Fi is typically split into two categories: Hard SF(the more technical, fact-oriented category) and Soft SF(the more conceptual and fantastical of the two). They both deal with science in different ways, with differing results. I was wondering what you guys think are the merits of each and which you prefer, as well as how you think they deal with scientific subjects.
 

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  • #2
DaveC426913
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I prefer hard sci-fi like Niven but not military stuff like Pournelle. I think hard sci-fi tends to suffer for character development though.
 
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Ryan_m_b
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I've been a huge SF fan all my life and to be honest I've completely turned off the Hard/Soft classification. Half the time it doesn't even seem to be consistently applied (Niven and Asimov are frequently regarded as "hard" even though their stories involve FTL, human-like aliens and a bunch of other impossible tech) and the other half it's a way for fans to dismiss the works other's like.

I have a pretty simple metric for determining if something is good science fiction or fantasy: whatever new science/magic is in the setting it should be used consistently and the implications on the universe should be considered. Obviously interesting story, good writing and characters all count too but they aren't specific to making something good science fiction.
 
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I've been a huge SF fan all my life and to be honest I've completely turned off the Hard/Soft classification. Half the time it doesn't even seem to be consistently applied (Niven and Asimov are frequently regarded as "hard" even though their stories involve FTL, human-like aliens and a bunch of other impossible tech) and the other half it's a way for fans to dismiss the works other's like.

I have a pretty simple metric for determining if something is good science fiction or fantasy: whatever new science/magic is in the setting it should be used consistently and the implications on the universe should be considered. Obviously interesting story, good writing and characters all count too but they aren't specific to making something good science fiction.
I think a better application of the terms would be to use them to denote the detail the author uses when explaining a concept, be it fictional or based in reality along with, as you said, consistency. That way "hardness" is measured by how it deals with "science" as a method or "way of thought" instead of just mentioning a bunch of recent real life scientific discoveries in order to be "hard". I'd like to see the terms abandoned altogether, however this probably won't happen. They are somewhat useful. I do agree that it's a shame when people dismiss books like Dune because they aren't "hard" enough.
 
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I found Dune a total nonsense... The planet is a desert, because some being steals the water, but when it grows up and became sand worm, water is lethal poison to it...
Lasers blow up shields, but they dont use laser mines against an army... Precognition is also pretty wild.
 
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DaveC426913
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I found Dune a total nonsense...
I found it to be nonsense for very different reasons. Five times I tried to read it. Couldn't get past page 40 without falling asleep.
 
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Ryan_m_b
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I liked dune, particularly the later books (not the awful versions written by Brian Herbert). It did have a lot of plot devices that were a bit nonsensical but there was an interesting story and universe there.
 
  • #8
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I prefer hard sci-fi like Niven but not military stuff like Pournelle. I think hard sci-fi tends to suffer for character development though.
A lot of this is subjective, but I would not say that character development suffers with hard sci-fi. That will depend, of course, on where the author puts his/her focus.

Alastair Preston Reynolds has received a lot of attention and I find his writing does a good job with character development. That being said, Reynolds puts a lot of effort in to literary descriptions; perhaps a little too thick now and then. However, his descriptions do an excellent job of painting or providing a feeling of what is going on.

My own writing preference is a very strong foundation with science — as much as I can with a fiction novel. However, I really enjoy character development and spend a lot of time getting into the head of some of my characters.
 

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