RIP Philo

"Hard" Sci-Fi is dwindling in popularity

because the education system isn't equipping its audience with necessary undertanding:

There's still some really terrific stuff coming out but  Magikk's winning most of the bookstore shelfspace.

Svaha - Charles De Lint (Hi Tech Amerindians)
Emperor - Stephen Baxter (new, start of a Roman Britain series)
Galactic Pot-Healer - Philip K Dick (dystopian 1954)
Permalink trollop 
March 30th, 2007 10:19am
Has hard scifi ever been popular? And when it was did people really have a better grasp of phsyics? Seems unlikely to me. Perhaps writers should make interesting books with interesting people doing interesting things. I don't really care what kind of science is used.

Robin Hobb is perhaps my favorite offer of the moment. And that's because she can write.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 30th, 2007 10:26am
I think hard science fiction should make an effort to branch out to other areas besides physics.  Physics is boring.  Math, biology, engineering/architecture...those are good.  Greg Bear is good at that.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
March 30th, 2007 10:42am
Eh.  "Hard" SF has always been under threat, has always been "dwindling" in popularity.  And as others have said, it's the story that counts.

Whatever it is that makes people ask themselves "what if...?" and dream larger dreams is fine with me.  Be that Harry Potter, Hobbits and Wizards, Elves and Fairie, or Starships to Alien Worlds, or Wetware SF.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 30th, 2007 10:56am
The turn away from science to fantasy parallels mainstream society's abandonment of science and return to religion. Sputnik spurred the US along to "do more science" and more engineering. The lack of a challenge has allowed the US to get sloppy and lazy again.
Permalink Peter 
March 30th, 2007 11:23am
Read Titan by Stephen Baxter:

It seems to scarily correctly predict (except on to short a time scale) the way that the US is going.

The ironies are also mind-bending.  It's hard scifi (except last chapter) about space. The space stuff turns out to be unrealistic.  Meanwhile the unrealistic polemic about the earth, turns out to be frighteningly predictive.
March 30th, 2007 11:30am
The link in the above doesn't quite work, because of some bug in the board script, add another closing brace
March 30th, 2007 11:31am
Except the strict religionists don't like Harry Potter, either.

But yes, Sputnik was a harsh wake-up call that America was not doing enough to train our engineers or keep up in technology.  And yes, in these unbalanced budget, huge military expenditure, "invade them before they can attack us" days, we've lost our focus on the importance of manufacturing and technical excellence.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 30th, 2007 11:38am
I agree.

What I'm seeing on the bookstores is more of a "Harlequin SciFi".  Or maybe you could call the category "Space-suit Rippers"

"L'Nita's triple breasts heaved with passion as she watched Captain Robinson of Star Patrol skillfully maneuver his spaceship into the maintenance dock orbiting above Formulhaut-IV"
Permalink xampl 
March 30th, 2007 11:59am
Yup.  And for every 100 cliched Space Opera's, you may get one "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress".

Nothing new about that.  It pays the bills until you can reach greatness -- if you ever do.

Note that MOST of the SF from the "Golden Age" was originally published in "Pulp" magazines and paper backs.  It's never really had a "good" reputation.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 30th, 2007 12:37pm
i think another problem is that "hard" sci fi is getting harder to write.  it used to be that a degree in physics and astronomy could give you necessary tools to sit down and write a decent "hard" sci fi novel.  now you gotta have a firm understanding of computer science/nanotechnology, biology/genetics, quantum this and that, etc, etc.

by the time you've got the basic understanding of all these disciplines, you don't have enough room in your head to write interesting characters.

the "next best thing" is the semi-hard/flaccid sci fi that authors like robers j sawyer write.  there's some good hard science in there, but it's mostly fluffy speculation used to amaze the simple minded (compared to the top minds in these fields) readers.
Permalink Send private email Kenny 
March 30th, 2007 2:04pm
> i think another problem is that "hard" sci fi is getting harder to write.

You may be right. So our being smarter may make it harder to write convincing SF.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 30th, 2007 2:10pm
I don't think that hard science fiction is getting harder to write because of readers getting smarter or because the science is getting complex. It depends on the writer. As time passes all readers get smarter and writers, say thirty years earlier too, would've had a lot of science to understand if they wanted to know a lot before they started to write.

If you take Cameron and Spielberg, Spielberg, obviously, has the temperament to create hard SF. There would never be a scene in his movies like the way Di Caprio and Kate Winslet talk on the boat or the way when she's doing the narration telling that a woman's heart is full of secrets and all that. 'Saving Private Ryan' is not at all like that. 'Catch me if you can' is one of his lighter movies. Even then it wasn't as soft as the 'Titanic' or similar movies.

Those who write hard SF are also telling stories but the path the story takes seem to spring logically from a scientific fact or theory, real or imagined. They don't need to know a lot of science. But they should have a good scientific premise and not stray from it once they have one.

I think that the term 'hard' is unnecessary. It is just SF... which again has a lot of arguments as to what it is :)
Permalink Send private email Senthilnathan N.S. 
March 30th, 2007 9:10pm
The territory has mostly been covered, the worlds discovered. What permutation is there about time travel that hasn't been done? About AI robots? About multiple universes? About genetic mutation?

Sadly the art form is in decline. There will be more great SF writers, perhaps one better than all those who've preceded, but it won't be because of the science angle. There may be some new psychological/sociological twist to the science/technology, but it will be a small twist to an old SF idea.

It's not the first art for to do so -- Cervantes lampooned the dying medieval romance in his famous work.
Permalink Send private email strawberry snowflake 
March 30th, 2007 11:19pm

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