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Click Ticker
2007-Dec-12, 04:18 PM
Wonder if anyone can help me out.

I'm interested in reading a true "hard" sci-fi. My requirements are as follows:

We should have the technology available today. Things can be made up to a degree - but they need to be possible.

Everything should be possible within the realm of what we know about the laws governing the universe today. If we can't go some place then we just can't go. But we could communicate (granted this would take years back and forth) and observe - given a large enough telescope.

The only real changes would be in priorities. If we lived in a society where national defense and public welfare were very low in terms of the national budget - but space exploration and discovery were the highest of priorities. So we spend trillions of dollars a year to discover all we can, but have less of a safety net for social ills and we aren't very secure (or we just don't fight so much).

Any books along those lines? I know of "Contact" - but the whole worm hole travel and the ending were a bit too far out there for what I'm looking for. I thought the Discovery special showing a probe exploring life on a hypothetical extra-solar earth like planet was very cool and in line with what I'm looking for. Even if we discover life on another planet - the odds of it being intelligent (or what we would recognize as intelligent) would be very low. I base this on the billions of years life has existed on earth relatively few years we would have been able to make any attempts to communicate with any of our ancestors. If we would've "discovered" earth 3 million years ago - there would have been no life that we could have reasonable and informative communication with.

Or would the consensus be that I'm looking for the most boring book ever? Or do I have to get to writing?

eburacum45
2007-Dec-12, 05:03 PM
Voyage by Stephen Baxter is about the hardest SF I have read- it uses 1980's technology to get to Mars.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_%28Stephen_Baxter%29

The trouble with very hard SF is that the time scales of exploration are so long that you can't have a main central character who gets to travel around in space and visit several planets- people don't live long enough.

I suspect that will change- either there will be successful life extension technology, or cryostasis or some other form of hibernation; but that means you have gone beyond the 'diamond hard' into the speculative; there 'will' be developments in technology, but we just don't know what they will be, yet.

So Diamond Hard SF is rather limited in scope, because it can only describe the near future. Beyond that, speculation must occur. Technologies like genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, fusion technology, materials technology, all will have some impact- and that impact may be so great that the future becomes entirely unpredictable and -well- unexpected.

Doodler
2007-Dec-12, 05:05 PM
The Ring Of Charon and The Shattered Sphere were pretty close to the mark for hard scifi.

CodeSlinger
2007-Dec-12, 05:11 PM
Whenever people mention hard sci-fi, Kim Stanley Robinsons' Mars trilogy immediately comes to mind. Chronicles the terraforming and settling of Mars. The science was pretty solid, IIRC. But frankly, it wasn't all that interesting; I abandoned it about half-way through the series. YMMV.

An example of hard sci-fi I enjoyed much more was Allen Steele's Orbital Decay. It's set in the near future, so near it's almost not sci-fi. Very entertaining yarn.

ggremlin
2007-Dec-12, 06:05 PM
I would suggest "Footfall" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. All human technology is current or doable given a free hand.

mike alexander
2007-Dec-12, 06:13 PM
Is there any reason you can't feather the edges of physics or chemistry a bit?

One problem with hard SF is that it can go out of date. Clarke's "A Fall of Moondust" is a good example of hard SF that got hurt by vacuum cementing. Ignore that and it's very compelling. Also try his "The Fountains of Paradise".

tdvance
2007-Dec-12, 06:17 PM
Hard to find SF that is THAT hard--if it's too realistic, it becomes less entertaining, and most writers do want to sell their books (imagine a book: Arthur Dent wakes up, puts on his slippers, walks to the restroom, washes his face in hands, goes to the bathroom, realizes he has to wash his hands again because yet again he did it in the wrong order, brushes his teeth, yada yada yada--the only reason that plot-snippet "sold" in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish is that it was illustrating why such passages wouldn't sell!) . Niven is generally considered "hard SF", but there is still lots of likely-impossible stuff based on made-up science, like hyperspace, various psychic phenomena (which Niven himself once said was phooey, but he put it in for entertainment value) and so on.

For really hard SF, you might try the "ancient" authors, like HG Wells and Jules Verne--who made up very little (but still made some mistakes in what they thought was science, like Verne getting free fall all wrong).

Heinlein is mostly hard SF, though again, he extrapolated technology of his time and didn't always get it right, and he had to make up some things, like pretending there were no paradoxes when two twins communicated psychically instantaneously despite the fact that one was traveling near the speed of light.

Ilya
2007-Dec-12, 06:38 PM
Of the books already mentioned, I would not recommend any.

Human technology in "The Ring Of Charon" and "The Shattered Sphere" is fairly realistic, but alien technology is not. I like both books, but they may not be what OP wants.

"Voyage" is terribly depressing. If you are a fan of anti-utopias, you may like it.

I could not stand the political preaching in Kim Stanley Robinsons' Mars trilogy. Never read "Orbital Decay".

"Footfall" was published in 1983, but had not aged well IMO. I like to think of it as 1950's SF story upgraded to 1980's, and set in 1990's. Events, both technological and political, had already overtaken it.

One near-future hard SF writer I would recommend is Charles Sheffield -- who is unfortunately not writing any more due to being dead. "Cold as Ice", "Dark as Day", "Aftermath" and "Starfire". Although they do "feather the edges" of biology. (Sheffield had quite a few "far out" books also.)

Alastair Reynolds is my new favorite SF writer. He is an astrophysicist, so his books are definitely "hard SF" but tend not to be in near future (and get softer the farther they are in time). "Pushing Ice" is a good near-future example.

Ben Bovas's "Solar System" series is rock-hard, but absolutely awful in all other respects, IMO.

Swift
2007-Dec-12, 06:38 PM
I'd recommend Rocheworld by Robert Forward. A little stretch of current technology, but Dr. Forward had a PhD in Physics, so this is pretty hard stuff.

danscope
2007-Dec-12, 06:43 PM
Hard to find SF that is THAT hard--if it's too realistic, it becomes less entertaining, and most writers do want to sell their books (imagine a book: Arthur Dent wakes up, puts on his slippers, walks to the restroom, washes his face in hands, goes to the bathroom, realizes he has to wash his hands again because yet again he did it in the wrong order, brushes his teeth, yada yada yada--the only reason that plot-snippet "sold" in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish is that it was illustrating why such passages wouldn't sell!) . Niven is generally considered "hard SF", but there is still lots of likely-impossible stuff based on made-up science, like hyperspace, various psychic phenomena (which Niven himself once said was phooey, but he put it in for entertainment value) and so on.

For really hard SF, you might try the "ancient" authors, like HG Wells and Jules Verne--who made up very little (but still made some mistakes in what they thought was science, like Verne getting free fall all wrong).

Heinlein is mostly hard SF, though again, he extrapolated technology of his time and didn't always get it right, and he had to make up some things, like pretending there were no paradoxes when two twins communicated psychically instantaneously despite the fact that one was traveling near the speed of light.

**********
Hi, Still, You have to love reading Robert heinlein . His perception of the internet and the PC alone are worth the price of admission.
I believe he is superb.
Best regards, Dan

Disinfo Agent
2007-Dec-12, 06:52 PM
Anything by Jules Verne.

Nineteen Eighty Four.

captain swoop
2007-Dec-12, 06:57 PM
Hal Clement

Ilya
2007-Dec-12, 07:19 PM
Niven is generally considered "hard SF", but there is still lots of likely-impossible stuff based on made-up science, like hyperspace, various psychic phenomena (which Niven himself once said was phooey, but he put it in for entertainment value) and so on.

For years I could not understand why Larry Niven is widely regarded as "hard SF writer", when he clearly is not. Just a week or two ago I found the answer.

Apparently, the state of hard SF in mid-60's -- when Niven first began publishing, -- was so abysmal that the mere fact of him thinking through the implications of whatever tooth fairy he introduced into the story was enough to give Niven a "hard" rating. Most writers at the time did not think about implications -- like Kurt Vonnegut's story where sex is eliminated by making everyone lose all sensations below waist... and nobody ever trips, walks into corners, or sits down on anthills? Niven always cared about whatever logically followed from a given premise -- even if the premise itself was ridiculous.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-12, 07:30 PM
The summary I read on Stephen Baxter's "Voyage" seems to be the closest to what I'm looking for. The summary I read indicated it was an alternate history of what might have happened had we kept the same focus and drive on the space program that got us to the moon in the 1960's.

Now change the setting to today - continue the focus to extra-solar planet discovery and making it the #1 global priority. Let's say we still had a cold war and the race was on to be the first to discover an earth like planet orbiting another star - sparing no expense. A discovery war rather than a military war. Rather than US vs. USSR - have allied blocks join in their funding efforts to encourage discovery. We would of course need an outside motivator in addition to the battle to the be the 1st. Perhaps both sides independently discover an inbound asteroid which both sides believe is outside the technological capabilities of the others discovery range. So they're in a race for pride at the surface and survival at the core. But what they do discover ....

Hmmm... if only I could write a coherent page or four hundred.

Edited to add: Never mind the asteroid. Been done and focus would shift to destroying the inbound object. Some other secondary, highly important motivator that tells both sides we may need some option besides earth in a century or two.

Ilya
2007-Dec-12, 07:32 PM
The summary I read on Stephen Baxter's "Voyage" seems to be the closest to what I'm looking for. The summary I read indicated it was an alternate history of what might have happened had we kept the same focus and drive on the space program that got us to the moon in the 1960's.

Oops! When I called "Voyage" a dystopia, I was thinking of "Titan" by the same author.

Still, I find "what might have beens" also fairly depressing.

Actually, everything Baxter writes is depressing.



We would of course need an outside motivator in addition to the battle to the be the 1st. Perhaps both sides independently discover an inbound asteroid which both sides believe is outside the technological capabilities of the others discovery range. So they're in a race for pride at the surface and survival at the core. But what they do discover ....


Try "Eater" by Greg Benford.

Disinfo Agent
2007-Dec-12, 07:44 PM
The Hammer of God, by Arthur C. Clarke, is not one of his best known novels, but it's pretty readable, and seems to be the sort of thing you're looking for.

And if you've never read his 2061, you might like it (no guarantees there, though).

Larry Jacks
2007-Dec-12, 08:14 PM
I always thought some of James Hogan's earlier works were pretty hard science fiction.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-12, 08:46 PM
Heinlein is mostly hard SF, though again, he extrapolated technology of his time and didn't always get it right, and he had to make up some things, like pretending there were no paradoxes when two twins communicated psychically instantaneously despite the fact that one was traveling near the speed of light.

Since we haven't got any way to test that idea, we don't actually know that it's "wrong." We can only speculate based on what we think might lead to a paradox.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-12, 09:13 PM
Heinlein was almost certainly wrong, if General Relativity applies to telepathy; perhaps telepathy simply fails to work when a paradox is set to occur (which would be often, if a ship travelling nearly-as-fast-as-light was involved).

Ilya
2007-Dec-12, 09:16 PM
Since instantaneous (FTL) telepathy is magic, arguing whether Heinlein was wrong or not is as meaningless as arguing whether dragon's fire can melt steel or not.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-12, 09:16 PM
A lot of stuff in Jules Verne may be inacurate because, heck, he couldn't know any better, but we do have much of what he talked about today.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-12, 09:18 PM
Heinlein was almost certainly wrong, if General Relativity applies to telepathy; perhaps telepathy simply fails to work when a paradox is set to occur (which would be often, if a ship travelling nearly-as-fast-as-light was involved).

As I said, not testable without either telepathy or FTL communication.

Not that it wouldn't rock if we could. (Or even were in a position to do so; that is, having a near-lightspeed ship at our disposal.) But since Heinlein's "torchship" used total-conversion, it's a much outside the DHSF rules as telepathy.

SkepticJ
2007-Dec-12, 09:19 PM
Most of Neal Stephenson's novels fit what you're looking for. The Diamond Age or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer doesn't quite fit though, since it takes place in the mid 21st Century and features early nanotechnology (though a very realistic portrayal of it).

Disinfo Agent
2007-Dec-12, 09:20 PM
A lot of stuff in Jules Verne may be inacurate [...]I never got the impression, reading him, that a lot of what he wrote was wrong. A little, yes; of course. Which science fiction writer never got anything wrong -- only those that never wrote about the future, and even then...

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-12, 09:52 PM
As far as getting stuff wrong - one of the things I find amusing about older sci-fi is some of the things they don't consider.

Stranger In A Strange Land - Stephen Baxter. The item that really jumped out at me was everyone lighting up cigarettes or cigars in hospitals or at the office. Just seems so obviously wrong these days. Not that it has anything to do with hard sci-fi. Just one of those cultural things that wasn't even given a second thought in 1961.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-12, 10:02 PM
I never got the impression, reading him, that a lot of what he wrote was wrong. A little, yes; of course. Which science fiction writer never got anything wrong -- only those that never wrote about the future, and even then...
Me either, but I have a tendency to overapologize.

Ilya
2007-Dec-12, 10:23 PM
As far as getting stuff wrong - one of the things I find amusing about older sci-fi is some of the things they don't consider.

Stranger In A Strange Land - Stephen Baxter. The item that really jumped out at me was everyone lighting up cigarettes or cigars in hospitals or at the office. Just seems so obviously wrong these days. Not that it has anything to do with hard sci-fi. Just one of those cultural things that wasn't even given a second thought in 1961.

A nit -- "Stranger In A Strange Land" was by Heinlein, not Baxter.

Graybeard6
2007-Dec-12, 10:29 PM
If you really want to know about hard science fiction ("sci-fi" can't be hard), I recommend "The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF" (David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, eds.) TOR, 1994.
It contains ~70 stories (and three essays) by authirs from Poe & Kipling to Gibson & Benford.

mike alexander
2007-Dec-13, 12:09 AM
As Ted Sturgeon commented, "The hell with the science if it isn't good fiction."

Fiction that isn't going to feel dated by subsequent discoveries or improvements in technique has to make some guesses. If you are willing to enter the author's universe, instead of looking for mistakes, you'll tend to have more fun reading.

And while it's been a long while since I read "Time for the Stars", the whole point of the story as I recall was discovering that telepathy was, in fact, instantaneous, and the ramifications in physical law of that discovery. All the adventure in the middle of the book was either filler, engaging counterplot or misdirection depending on your viewpoint.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-13, 01:07 AM
Hard to find SF that is THAT hard--if it's too realistic, it becomes less entertaining, and most writers do want to sell their books

I completely disagree. An entertaining story is an entertaining story at any tech level. Saying SF is "less entertaining" without Wondertech is like saying Fantasy stories can't be very good without elves. Plenty of them are, just as plenty of engaging, well-written science fiction stories have foreseeably conventional technology and realistic physics.

ADDED: And of course the converse is also true. A story can be totally realistic hard SF and still utter crap.

Van Rijn
2007-Dec-13, 01:18 AM
One near-future hard SF writer I would recommend is Charles Sheffield -- who is unfortunately not writing any more due to being dead. "Cold as Ice", "Dark as Day", "Aftermath" and "Starfire". Although they do "feather the edges" of biology. (Sheffield had quite a few "far out" books also.)


I also recommend Sheffield. I was very sad, for selfish reasons, when he died. He was one of my favorite current writers. There just aren't that many science fiction writers these days that I really like to read. He had some stories that assumed only known physics, though he did have others that added FTL and so forth.

Van Rijn
2007-Dec-13, 01:30 AM
For years I could not understand why Larry Niven is widely regarded as "hard SF writer", when he clearly is not. Just a week or two ago I found the answer.

Apparently, the state of hard SF in mid-60's -- when Niven first began publishing, -- was so abysmal that the mere fact of him thinking through the implications of whatever tooth fairy he introduced into the story was enough to give Niven a "hard" rating. Most writers at the time did not think about implications -- like Kurt Vonnegut's story where sex is eliminated by making everyone lose all sensations below waist... and nobody ever trips, walks into corners, or sits down on anthills? Niven always cared about whatever logically followed from a given premise -- even if the premise itself was ridiculous.

Well, that gets into what you mean by "hard SF." In my mind, a story is "hard SF" as long as a writer follows known physics, except for those items he specifically identifies (for example, FTL). In those cases, the hard SF writer will place rules on what the introduced idea can do, the more limitations the better. Larry Niven does that just fine. The one that bothers me is James P. Hogan, who is sometimes called a hard science fiction writer, but cheats with physics.

Bearded One
2007-Dec-13, 03:27 AM
Well, that gets into what you mean by "hard SF." In my mind, a story is "hard SF" as long as a writer follows known physics, except for those items he specifically identifies (for example, FTL). In those cases, the hard SF writer will place rules on what the introduced idea can do, the more limitations the better. Larry Niven does that just fine. The one that bothers me is James P. Hogan, who is sometimes called a hard science fiction writer, but cheats with physics.
Hogan is a strange one. I enjoyed many of his earlier books even though he tended to make up his own physics. He created his own model and then wrote stories around that model. He always seemed to be pro-science and aggressively supported the scientific method, but in the case of his fiction he applied that method to a set of self-created physics. Basically, he created his own Universe with it's own laws, but tended to stay true to those laws. I never had a problem with that, Niven does something similar.

I haven't yet read his later works, but many have claimed he "jumped the shark" (is that the right phrase). Some things on his webpage have got me wondering about where he really stands on some issues.

I don't necessarily mind a writer twisting or even making up physics to tell a story, as long as they stay true to the laws they establish and we both (the writer and I) realize that this is fiction. I've been starting to wonder if maybe Hogan really does believe some of this stuff. :(

OTOH... Arthur C. Clarke has always been a hard SF writer, and I believe he wrote his first novel in the '40s.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 04:08 AM
A nit -- "Stranger In A Strange Land" was by Heinlein, not Baxter.

Odd thing is - this occurred to me when I was in the car. I had responded to a post about "Voyage" earlier and used the same author. I'm actually reading this book right now - so I shouldn't get the authors name wrong. And they shouldn't smoke in hospitals.

The other oddity was Heinlein not envisioning a future where men and women were more equals in the work place. He has them as nurses or secretaries or the "woman behind the man". Even the strong women have to be secret about it and do their work behind the scenes. All subservient roles to the men they take care of.

Off topic - but I started it.

As far as some of the negatives on hard Sci-Fi - I don't disagree. I don't want all the fiction removed from all science fiction. I guess ever since I saw that discovery channel series - I've been hoping there was a really good book with a similar premise.

Startrekker
2007-Dec-13, 04:10 AM
While not space centered, Peter Hamilton's Greg Mandel books (at least some of them) were pretty reasonable.

Personally Carl Sagan's Contact is my favorite "hard" sci -fi and is really as hard as go in that category.

The problem with the sci-fi you are looking for is that while it might be interesting now, in 20, maybe even 10, years it could very well be outdated.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 04:20 AM
And if you've never read his 2061, you might like it (no guarantees there, though).

I read most of it. Never really grabbed me for whatever reason. Probably would help if I had read 2001 and 2010 before hand - but I am familiar enough with those stories (and they weren't on the library shelf at the time).

I read one Larry Niven book after hearing about his "hard sci-fi". I picked the wrong one. He was all over the place spoofing every Mars story ever written. Some "time machine" that wasn't a time machine, but actually transported people to fictional places written in literature. Not at all what I was expecting when I picked out one of his books. I can't recall the name of it.

I'm almost ashamed to admit it on this board - but I haven't met a Crichton novel that I didn't enjoy. I know a lot of people here don't like his books - but he does write a quick read that a person with three young kids can get through 50 - 100 pages after bed-times are done and the kitchen is cleaned up. I also liked the "Bourne" series by Ludlum - but that has little to do with Sci-Fi (or the "Bourne" movies for that matter - other than the lead character shares a name and poor memory).

Noclevername
2007-Dec-13, 05:01 AM
I read one Larry Niven book after hearing about his "hard sci-fi". I picked the wrong one. Sounds like one of the Svetz series, probably Rainbow Mars.

If you want Niven at his most Hard-Science, check out The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring. Humans on a STL starship had colonized one of the weirdest liveable environments in the universe, then fallen back to barbarism and forgotten their roots.

Van Rijn
2007-Dec-13, 06:01 AM
Hogan is a strange one. I enjoyed many of his earlier books even though he tended to make up his own physics. He created his own model and then wrote stories around that model. He always seemed to be pro-science and aggressively supported the scientific method, but in the case of his fiction he applied that method to a set of self-created physics. Basically, he created his own Universe with it's own laws, but tended to stay true to those laws. I never had a problem with that, Niven does something similar.


Not similar. Niven lets you know what he's doing. If he has a mystery where teleportation is important, he let's you know about it before he springs the mystery on you.



I haven't yet read his later works, but many have claimed he "jumped the shark" (is that the right phrase). Some things on his webpage have got me wondering about where he really stands on some issues.


Hogan jumped the shark in Inherit the Stars.




OTOH... Arthur C. Clarke has always been a hard SF writer, and I believe he wrote his first novel in the '40s.

I agree that he is a hard science fiction writer - as are Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, etc. But they all introduce FTL and other things that aren't within the realm of known physics.

Van Rijn
2007-Dec-13, 06:07 AM
Sounds like one of the Svetz series, probably Rainbow Mars.

If you want Niven at his most Hard-Science, check out The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring. Humans on a STL starship had colonized one of the weirdest liveable environments in the universe, then fallen back to barbarism and forgotten their roots.

Destiny's Road would be another one assuming only known physics, although not as interesting as those stories.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-13, 08:45 AM
I thought the Discovery special showing a probe exploring life on a hypothetical extra-solar earth like planet was very cool and in line with what I'm looking for.
The National Geographic programmes about Aurelia and the Blue Moon are very good.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurelia_and_Blue_Moon
They represent the sort of realistic sci-fi I would like to read more of- but of course they are not stories, just speculative non-fiction. It is quite difficult to find narrative fiction with that kind of hard speculative science- but you could always write it yourself...

JonClarke
2007-Dec-13, 09:40 AM
James Gunn's The Listeners is even more hard SF than Contact, and still well worth reading more 30 years after it was written.

I agree that Baxter's alternative future in Voyage is excellent. It's probably by favourite hard Mars novel.

Jon

Paul Beardsley
2007-Dec-13, 11:58 AM
I prefer my SF to be at least moderately hard. Come to that, I prefer most fiction to be "plausible if you don't look too close" (unless it's Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magic realism or the like).

For instance, I will happily read or watch a story about a rampaging monster, but I get very annoyed if it goes from very small baby to very large car-stomper without any explanation for the increase in mass.

However, I have two issues with SF that is based entirely on knowns:

1. Unless it is set in the near future (or, in the case of Baxter's excellent Voyage, a might-have-been past or present), the author is working on the basis that nothing unexpected is going to happen in science. To put this in perspective, one of H.G. Wells' rivals could have written a story about someone steadily accelerating to lightspeed and beyond without any time dilation effect, and that would have been both hard SF and wrong.

2. Whereas the science may be spot on, sometimes (though not always) the characters behave in a way that undermines the credibility. Someone mentioned Hal Clement, which made me think of a novel of his which has bothered me for decades.

The novel is Ocean On Top. It features a heavy fluid medium at the bottom of the ocean. Human beings, after a simple (but irreversible) operation, can breathe freely in this fluid, so they can live lives as mer-creatures, swimming around far below the sea.

So far so good. I have no idea if such a medium is possible, but I am happy to assume it is.

But then one character accidentally makes another one laugh. The other goes a bit convulsive, looks ill, then writes on his writing pad something along the lines of, "Please don't do that again. It is very dangerous - potentially fatal - to laugh with this dense fluid in your lungs."

So, for the rest of your life you can swim around underwater, but you can never laugh again. To my mind that is way, way too high a price for anything. Yet it is never discussed after that brief explanation.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 01:21 PM
Sounds like one of the Svetz series, probably Rainbow Mars.

Rainbow Mars is it. With limited reading time and expecting something different - it was rather disappointing.


but you could always write it yourself...

Maybe a childrens book with pretty pictures. I'll have to learn how to draw.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 01:27 PM
The National Geographic programmes about Aurelia and the Blue Moon are very good.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurelia_and_Blue_Moon
They represent the sort of realistic sci-fi I would like to read more of- but of course they are not stories, just speculative non-fiction. It is quite difficult to find narrative fiction with that kind of hard speculative science- but you could always write it yourself...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_Planet

This is the show I saw. OH! I should have check there first.


It was based on the book Expedition, by sci-fi/fantasy artist and writer Wayne Douglas Barlowe, who was also executive producer on the special. It premiered on May 14, 2005.

Looks like my search is over. Thanks for all the help!

Rats - after reading the commentary and reviews at Amazon - the book doesn't appear to mirror the special as close as I had hoped. Plus it's more of a picture book with story commentary. Not a real novel that a person could immerse themselves in and imagine their own pictures.

Ilya
2007-Dec-13, 02:20 PM
The other oddity was Heinlein not envisioning a future where men and women were more equals in the work place. He has them as nurses or secretaries or the "woman behind the man". Even the strong women have to be secret about it and do their work behind the scenes. All subservient roles to the men they take care of.

That occured to me as soon as I saw KaiYeves' post re: smoking. Specifically, I thought about Henlein's "All You Zombies". One thing I found very amusing in that one: there is a guild of professional comfort women for the spacemen. When Heinlein wrote "All You Zombies", the idea that sex is a natural need that must be met whether a man is married or not was scandalous, and the idea of a class of women who are trained to meet that need a very progressive one. Yet it never occured to Heinlein (not at that time, anyway) that women may do same jobs in space as men, and people would simply form couples.

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 02:37 PM
That occured to me as soon as I saw KaiYeves' post re: smoking. Specifically, I thought about Henlein's "All You Zombies". One thing I found very amusing in that one: there is a guild of professional comfort women for the spacemen. When Heinlein wrote "All You Zombies", the idea that sex is a natural need that must be met whether a man is married or not was scandalous, and the idea of a class of women who are trained to meet that need a very progressive one. Yet it never occured to Heinlein (not at that time, anyway) that women may do same jobs in space as men, and people would simply form couples.

Two minor points - the smoking observation was mine - but KeiYeves' does always have interesting input so it was an easy mistake to make. Every once in a great while I have a post that gets referenced by others. I hate to lose credit on the rare occasion that it occurs.

As far as "comfort women" - Heinlein likely got the idea from Japanese military brothels during WWII. Except many of those women didn't exactly volunteer for the posi... err ... career choice.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women

Disinfo Agent
2007-Dec-13, 02:55 PM
I read most of it. Never really grabbed me for whatever reason. Probably would help if I had read 2001 and 2010 before hand - but I am familiar enough with those stories (and they weren't on the library shelf at the time).In the case of 2061, not having read the previous novels should have helped you like it, IMO. :D

If even so it didn't do anything for you, I guess it's hopeless. Take a look at Hammer, though. It's more readable; 2061 has a zigzagging narrative at the beginning that I found off-putting.


The other oddity was Heinlein not envisioning a future where men and women were more equals in the work place. He has them as nurses or secretaries or the "woman behind the man". Even the strong women have to be secret about it and do their work behind the scenes. All subservient roles to the men they take care of.I wouldn't call it odd. It's what Heinlein was like. He never completely shook off the patriarchical mentality of the time he was born.


When Heinlein wrote "All You Zombies", the idea that sex is a natural need that must be met whether a man is married or not was scandalous [...]Was it? Or was it, rather, officially condemned, while unofficially condoned, even expected?

eburacum45
2007-Dec-13, 03:00 PM
Clarke has an odd style of writing in some of his novels; a chapter is often just a short vignette, often with a humorous twist in the final sentence. I quite like it, but it does break the flow up a little.

Disinfo Agent
2007-Dec-13, 03:12 PM
Clarke has an odd style of writing in some of his novels; a chapter is often just a short vignette, often with a humorous twist in the final sentence. I quite like it, but it does break the flow up a little.I don't think it's a question of his writing style, exactly. To be more precise, I think Clarke had different writing styles throughout his career. In the first part of it, he usually wrote in a very linear, chronological fashion, with few characters. Occasionally, he would stray from what was expected, but only to make some clever effect of surprise. Very agreeable.

In the mid-seventies, though (he seems to have begun with The Fountains of Paradise and Imperial Earth, which, nonetheless, are still quite readadble), he started experimenting with non-linear forms of narrative: more characters, with interweaving parallel actions taking place, and time jumps every now and then. I think that was a mistake for him. Other writers, of different literary persuasions, can pull it off well, but "modernist" narratives are not for the kind of stories he writes, or the kind of writer he is.

The book 2061 would never have been a masterpiece, but it could at least have been more enjoyable to read, if Clarke hadn't followed those flights of stylistic fancy. In my most cynical moments, I wonder whether such devices were not merely ways to conceal the poverty of content of his later stories, and add suspense by thoroughly confusing the readers.

Ilya
2007-Dec-13, 03:55 PM
Was it? Or was it, rather, officially condemned, while unofficially condoned, even expected?

If something (anything) is officially condemned, while unofficially condoned, then being OPEN about it is by definition scandalous. It means you are flouting society's hypocrisies/unwritten rules.



[Edited:] If something is condemned both officially and (by majority of population) unofficially, then openly advocating it is worse than scandalous, although I am not sure which adjective fits.

Swift
2007-Dec-13, 03:58 PM
Well, that gets into what you mean by "hard SF." In my mind, a story is "hard SF" as long as a writer follows known physics, except for those items he specifically identifies (for example, FTL). In those cases, the hard SF writer will place rules on what the introduced idea can do, the more limitations the better. Larry Niven does that just fine. The one that bothers me is James P. Hogan, who is sometimes called a hard science fiction writer, but cheats with physics.
IIRC, Issac Asimov said "if you break one law of physics, its science fiction; if you break all of them, its fantasy".

Click Ticker
2007-Dec-13, 04:13 PM
IIRC, Issac Asimov said "if you break one law of physics, its science fiction; if you break all of them, its fantasy".

I'm more inclined to think that if the story has no basis in actual historical events and none of the characters really exist - you can have a true science fiction story without breaking a single law of physics.

I agree with Asimov to the extent that what he describes could still be considered "hard sci-fi" as long as the author is consistent.

I think planet of the apes would apply as it includes the effects of relativity in interstellar space travel. Did they ever really go FTL in that story - or just a high percentage of c? I must admit - I've never read a translated version of the original book the movie's were based on.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-13, 06:58 PM
I'm more inclined to think that if the story has no basis in actual historical events and none of the characters really exist - you can have a true science fiction story without breaking a single law of physics.


That would describe the majority of fictional stories ever told. For it to be science fiction, there has to be some science, scientific principle, technology, or future speculation of some kind involved.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Dec-13, 07:36 PM
I think planet of the apes would apply as it includes the effects of relativity in interstellar space travel. Did they ever really go FTL in that story - or just a high percentage of c? I must admit - I've never read a translated version of the original book the movie's were based on.
I thought they stated that they were travelling at close to c rather than FTL, thus getting time dilation.

It's been said by many others, but I cannot accept the absurdity of the language issue. That is, the apes speak English, but Taylor doesn't realise he's on Earth until he sees the Statue of Liberty.

AFAIK the films are nothing like the book, but I've not read it.

Halcyon Dayz
2007-Dec-13, 07:51 PM
I think planet of the apes would apply as it includes the effects of relativity in interstellar space travel. Did they ever really go FTL in that story - or just a high percentage of c? I must admit - I've never read a translated version of the original book the movie's were based on.

High percentage of c.
The book is different. The Planet of the Apes is not set on Earth.

I'm not sure you can call the book science fiction though, hard or otherwise.
It is satire/social commentary, with the apes as metaphors for people.
Pierre Boulle used SF attributes as a literary device to get an outside observer/disruptive factor into that world.

It's a matter of definition but for me science fiction doesn't only need to have science in it, the science must be essential.
IOW, if you can cut out the science without basically changing the story, it isn't SF. (IMHO)

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-13, 09:32 PM
As far as some of the negatives on hard Sci-Fi - I don't disagree. I don't want all the fiction removed from all science fiction. I guess ever since I saw that discovery channel series - I've been hoping there was a really good book with a similar premise.
I started on a story called Endurance 2114 about an expedition to Mars that gets into some trouble and has to survive, but ran out of ideas. I tried very hard to get everything right.
Maybe you can finish the story and then say "Now there is a book like that, and I know, because I wrote it!"

Jason
2007-Dec-13, 11:46 PM
Rats - after reading the commentary and reviews at Amazon - the book doesn't appear to mirror the special as close as I had hoped. Plus it's more of a picture book with story commentary. Not a real novel that a person could immerse themselves in and imagine their own pictures.
The special was based on the book, not the other way around, and it's not really a novel, no. There are some narrative aspects to it but it's really just a description of an alien ecology rather than a novel.

Bearded One
2007-Dec-14, 12:24 AM
Not similar. Niven lets you know what he's doing. If he has a mystery where teleportation is important, he let's you know about it before he springs the mystery on you.

Hogan jumped the shark in Inherit the Stars.

I actually liked that series. You just have to view it as happening in some sort of alternate reality :razz:

In his book The Genesis Machine he expounds on the physics he created for the Ganymeans in the ITS series. It's been a while but I believe a big part of it had to do with gravity being caused by particles self annihilating. I forgot the detaills, as you state it is made up physics. He does try to stay consistent though and emphasizes the scientific method within the physics he creates.



OTOH... Arthur C. Clarke has always been a hard SF writer, and I believe he wrote his first novel in the '40s.


I agree that he is a hard science fiction writer - as are Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, etc. But they all introduce FTL and other things that aren't within the realm of known physics.

Clarke tried pretty hard to stick to hard science. His only novel, to my knowledge, that had FTL was his first novel, along with his later rewrite of it. Some of his short stories implied it, but that was usually to set the stage for whatever point he was making. Some of his stories are intentionally twisted a bit such as the ones in the Tales from the White Hart collection. He did seem to have a thing for inertialess drives/effects though. The original Rama had it and so did 3001.

Van Rijn
2007-Dec-14, 12:29 AM
It's a matter of definition but for me science fiction doesn't only need to have science in it, the science must be essential.
IOW, if you can cut out the science without basically changing the story, it isn't SF. (IMHO)

There's an old example that I think goes back to Galaxy magazine. As I recall, it shows a comparasion between two scenes, each about a paragraph long. In the first one, the hero jumps out of his rocket and has a shootout with martians, using his trusty ray gun. In the second, the hero jumps off his horse and has a shootout with indians, using his trusty revolver. Of course, the point is that there is no real difference in the scenes.

Still, sometimes the presentation matters. When I saw Star Wars the first time, I didn't consider it to be real science fiction. It could easily have been done as a historical fantasy, with an evil wizard on a horribly powerful ship created by a powerful empire, boy wizard coming into his abilities, etc. It was the look of the movie that drew me in, not the (fairly simple) story.

Ilya
2007-Dec-14, 12:48 AM
I like the definition of "science fiction" in this essay/post:

http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/sf/explode.htm

Noclevername
2007-Dec-14, 01:29 AM
Science fiction is, to my mind, an inclusive rather than exclusive term. Star Wars is fantasy, but it's fantasy with spaceships, 'droids and lasers. So it's also science fiction. Pigeonholes are for the birds.

Halcyon Dayz
2007-Dec-14, 03:41 AM
Still, sometimes the presentation matters. When I saw Star Wars the first time, I didn't consider it to be real science fiction. It could easily have been done as a historical fantasy, with an evil wizard on a horribly powerful ship created by a powerful empire, boy wizard coming into his abilities, etc. It was the look of the movie that drew me in, not the (fairly simple) story.
I'm not sure even Lucas calls Star Wars SF.
I certainly don't.
(So there. :p :lol:)
I'm not saying it's bad, or not entertaining, but it's not what I look for.


I like the definition of "science fiction" in this essay/post:

http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/sf/explode.htm
Professor Delaney is always insightful but what I call SF would just be a sub-set of his.
The techniques he describes can also be used in non-traditional fantasy.

The only definition that seems to work for everyone is I know it when I see it.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-14, 07:10 AM
From http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/sf/explode.htm
"The door deliquesced."
Hah! I like that...
Obviously a nod to Heinlein's famous "The door dilated."

I wonder how many other examples of that type of sentence could be found.
In OA it would be something like "The door un-fogged."

eburacum45
2007-Dec-14, 02:21 PM
"Eater" by Greg Benford.
Ah yes. A dying person falls into a black hole. Very upbeat. (Actually, it is more positive than it sounds).

Dave Mitsky
2007-Dec-14, 03:06 PM
The summary I read on Stephen Baxter's "Voyage" seems to be the closest to what I'm looking for. The summary I read indicated it was an alternate history of what might have happened had we kept the same focus and drive on the space program that got us to the moon in the 1960's.

Now change the setting to today - continue the focus to extra-solar planet discovery and making it the #1 global priority. Let's say we still had a cold war and the race was on to be the first to discover an earth like planet orbiting another star - sparing no expense. A discovery war rather than a military war. Rather than US vs. USSR - have allied blocks join in their funding efforts to encourage discovery. We would of course need an outside motivator in addition to the battle to the be the 1st. Perhaps both sides independently discover an inbound asteroid which both sides believe is outside the technological capabilities of the others discovery range. So they're in a race for pride at the surface and survival at the core. But what they do discover ....

Hmmm... if only I could write a coherent page or four hundred.

Edited to add: Never mind the asteroid. Been done and focus would shift to destroying the inbound object. Some other secondary, highly important motivator that tells both sides we may need some option besides earth in a century or two.

You may want to have a look at Jem by Fred Pohl.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/...k-pohl/jem.htm

http://www.frederikpohl.com/work3.htm

Dave Mitsky

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-15, 12:18 AM
Science fiction is, to my mind, an inclusive rather than exclusive term. Star Wars is fantasy, but it's fantasy with spaceships, 'droids and lasers. So it's also science fiction. Pigeonholes are for the birds.
Mythology as inspired by Lucas' long love of Joseph Cambell's books.
But the escape pod the droids were in always looked somewhat like Apollo hardwear to me.

HenrikOlsen
2007-Dec-15, 10:47 PM
It's been said by many others, but I cannot accept the absurdity of the language issue. That is, the apes speak English, but Taylor doesn't realise he's on Earth until he sees the Statue of Liberty.
That's the movie.
In the book it isn't Earth at all, and he has to learn their language before he can communicate in a meaningful way.

Spoiler:
In the end he does return to Earth to find that it's now taken over by apes as well.

And as a frame around it all, the story is actually his diary, found in space by people who think the story is too fanciful.
After all who has ever heard about intelligence in humans?
Everyone knows that only apes are intelligent.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-16, 12:24 AM
Speaking of movies, the objection holds even more true for the stinkbomb POTA remake with Marky Mark. He goes from a space station where people are experimenting with genetically enhancing the intelligence of chimps, gorillas and orangutans to a planet with chimps, gorillas and orangutans who have human intelligence, and who speak english, and he still doesn't make the connection until he sees the (miraculously still functional) space station on the planet.

Seems like his character needed some IQ enhancement as well.

JohnBStone
2007-Dec-16, 01:48 AM
I would suggest Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix) or Greg Egan (Luminous) or Charles Stross (Accelerando) as hard SF starting points to see what you like. Also Orion's Arm is an online RPG setting with fiction that you could try.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-16, 02:17 AM
Orion's Arm gets a little speculative with the exotic physics and AIs, I think. Many of the concepts they use are based on unproven theories, and a few already outdated ones. So I would definitely put it in the "have to discover new laws of physics to work" category* as far as realism is concerned, although they are extremely consistent as far as how they apply the laws of physics established as real in that universe.

*EDIT: In this case, it would be the "have to find proof of currently speculative hypotheses to work" category. Which technically a lot of other good hard-sf falls into as well.

Chuck
2007-Dec-16, 02:46 AM
The Truth Machine (http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Machine-James-Halperin/dp/0345412885/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197771697&sr=1-1) and The First Immortal (http://www.amazon.com/First-Immortal-Novel-Future/dp/0345421825/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197772249&sr=1-1) by James Halperin

Rollback (http://www.amazon.com/Rollback-Sci-Fi-Essential-Books/dp/0765311089/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197771890&sr=1-2), Illegal Alien (http://www.amazon.com/Illegal-Alien-Robert-J-Sawyer/dp/0441005926/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197772618&sr=1-14), and Calculating God (http://www.amazon.com/Calculating-God-Robert-J-Sawyer/dp/0812580354/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197771890&sr=1-8) by Robert J Sawyer

eburacum45
2007-Dec-17, 09:48 AM
Orion's Arm gets a little speculative with the exotic physics and AIs, I think. Many of the concepts they use are based on unproven theories, and a few already outdated ones. So I would definitely put it in the "have to discover new laws of physics to work" category* as far as realism is concerned, although they are extremely consistent as far as how they apply the laws of physics established as real in that universe.

*EDIT: In this case, it would be the "have to find proof of currently speculative hypotheses to work" category. Which technically a lot of other good hard-sf falls into as well.

We are editing the site at the moment to get rid of some of the technologies which seemed feasible in 2000 when we started the project, but now seem less feasible. Robert Forward's Diametric Drive and Hugo de Garis' Femtotechnology look less likely than they once did, so we are removing those. However Adam Getchell has come up with some nice maths to describe wormholes, so we are sticking with them for now.

It seems very likely that an advanced civilisation would have some science and technology that no-one in our present day Earth culture has yet anticipated; this technology is the 'unknown unknowns' that make any accurate prognostication impossible.

Basically, if you don't make some stuff up, you are just as inaccurate as if you do, because the future will almnost certainly have some technology that no one has even dreamed about yet.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Dec-17, 10:40 AM
Basically, if you don't make some stuff up, you are just as inaccurate as if you do, because the future will almnost certainly have some technology that no one has even dreamed about yet.
That's what I said. And nobody took any notice. (Moan, mutter, nobody listens to me...)

mike alexander
2007-Dec-17, 03:07 PM
How odd; I'd have sworn it was me who suggested that. Anyhow, Paul is correct. Extrapolation without innovation usually ends up with skyports for airliners sporting twenty engines on each wing, flying above cities whose gleaming sterility looks like the insides of God's refrigerator (I'm assuming God keeps a neat fridge).

Or maybe pastiches, or might-have-beens. A GOOD example of the latter is Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise, which barely scratches the coating of implausibility but keeps you turning pages because it is a crackling good yarn.

danscope
2007-Dec-17, 06:22 PM
Well, that's it, isn't it? A cracklin good yard with some plausibility and .....
some wishfull thinking. That's why I love science fiction. But I should like at least "some" plausible science.
Best regards, Dan

Noclevername
2007-Dec-17, 10:20 PM
Basically, if you don't make some stuff up, you are just as inaccurate as if you do, because the future will almnost certainly have some technology that no one has even dreamed about yet.

Well, since the OP was about SF that is consistent with today's knowledge, that limits it to near-future scenarios. So that's what I was trying to stick with. Speculative science is fine, but it doesn't fit the definition given in the OP:

We should have the technology available today. Things can be made up to a degree - but they need to be possible.

Everything should be possible within the realm of what we know about the laws governing the universe today. If we can't go some place then we just can't go. But we could communicate (granted this would take years back and forth) and observe - given a large enough telescope.

The only real changes would be in priorities. If we lived in a society where national defense and public welfare were very low in terms of the national budget - but space exploration and discovery were the highest of priorities. So we spend trillions of dollars a year to discover all we can, but have less of a safety net for social ills and we aren't very secure (or we just don't fight so much).


So that leaves out OA and a lot of other things that could be classed as "hard science fiction".

mike alexander
2007-Dec-17, 11:00 PM
Yes, well.

It was probably better when the genre was referred to as 'scientific romance'. At the realistic end it merges into the technical manuals of Tom Clancy, at which point I tend to lose interest.

I freely admit to occasionally daydreaming about piloting a radium-powered airship across dying sea-bottoms under the hurtling moons of Barsoom.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-17, 11:07 PM
That is why I suggested that only near-future SF or parallel world SF can really have diamond hard science.

What would be nice would be a realistic, in depth, warts and all description of the conquest of the Solar System using reasonable technology; it probably could all be done with chemical rockets and solar-electric ion craft. Even assuming nuclear propulsion is straying beyond the realms of reliably realistic technology, really. With a great deal of effort and expense colonies could be set up on Earth, Mars, Titan, Ceres, Callisto; but the terribly harsh conditions of deep space would probably result in a lot of death and suffering.

But during this period technology on Earth would surely not stand still, especially information technology; so the pioneers would surely find that a wave of smart machines would follow them to the outer worlds (or in many cases precede them) and start doing the things that humans do, but with less fuss. That, to me, is when the conquest of space starts getting interesting- and also when it stops being diamond hard SF.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-17, 11:38 PM
What would be nice would be a realistic, in depth, warts and all description of the conquest of the Solar System using reasonable technology; it probably could all be done with chemical rockets and solar-electric ion craft. Even assuming nuclear propulsion is straying beyond the realms of reliably realistic technology, really. With a great deal of effort and expense colonies could be set up on Earth, Mars, Titan, Ceres, Callisto; but the terribly harsh conditions of deep space would probably result in a lot of death and suffering.



Hmm, adventure, danger, and discovery. Sounds like you could write a lot of interesting stories in such a setting, even given the sad lack of hyperdrives and force fields. ;)

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-17, 11:50 PM
Hmm, adventure, danger, and discovery. Sounds like you could write a lot of interesting stories in such a setting, even given the sad lack of hyperdrives and force fields.
I'd read it!

stutefish
2007-Dec-18, 12:33 AM
With a great deal of effort and expense colonies could be set up on Earth, Mars, Titan, Ceres, Callisto; but the terribly harsh conditions of deep space would probably result in a lot of death and suffering.
But isn't this a failure of extrapolation? Given what we know about the voids between the planets--the resource scarcity, the radiation levels, the extremely short distance between "viable" and "everybody dies"--why would anybody sing up for "a lot of death and suffering"?

Heck, given what we know about Mars, Titan, Ceres, and Callisto, why would anybody sign up for the "great deal of effort and expense" to establish colonies?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-18, 12:53 AM
But isn't this a failure of extrapolation? Given what we know about the voids between the planets--the resource scarcity, the radiation levels, the extremely short distance between "viable" and "everybody dies"--why would anybody sing up for "a lot of death and suffering"?

Heck, given what we know about Mars, Titan, Ceres, and Callisto, why would anybody sign up for the "great deal of effort and expense" to establish colonies?

Given what was known about the hardships of crossing the ocean, the wild animals, and Indians, why would anybody leave the comforts of Europe to come to America? It'll never happen.

Delvo
2007-Dec-18, 01:57 AM
This land was at least a place where people and other animals and plants could live: the same old atmosphere, rules of ecology, and such that they were already familiar with.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-18, 03:13 AM
This land was at least a place where people and other animals and plants could live: the same old atmosphere, rules of ecology, and such that they were already familiar with.

Yes, but it still had conditions unfamiliar to the settlers. None of the barriers to life in space are unsolveable. And there are hundreds of thousands who have expressed strong interest in living in space or on other planets, hardships and all. And a great many very smart people working on ways to make that possible. With so many dedicated to it, eventually some will do it. Especially since much of the generation currently growing up has already been intruduced to the concept and know it is physically possible. It requires no breakthroughs of technology or new laws of physics.


stutefish asked the question, "why would anybody sing up[sic] for "a lot of death and suffering"?

Well, the settlers who came here knew they'd face a lot of death and suffering. Suffering is part of life, and you face death driving to work every day. There are a great many people who would take the opportunity to try to build a liveable place for themselves and their families offworld. If you think it's too risky, stay home.


EDIT: So to answer the question, no, it's not an unrealistic scenario for Hard Science Fiction. It's an extrapolation of many people's present goals for the future, of the ends that a great many people are are working towards.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Dec-18, 09:26 AM
Given what was known about the hardships of crossing the ocean, the wild animals, and Indians, why would anybody leave the comforts of Europe to come to America? It'll never happen.
Reading this (and Delvo's reply, and your reply to Delvo's reply) I get the analogy but I don't think it works.

It took guts to cross the Atlantic and the continent, but it didn't take a comparable investment in money and technological research. It takes more than a pioneering spirit to head off to check out those lakes on Titan - you also need the rocket power to get there in a reasonable amount of time, and you need to take everything with you to survive - there's no prospect of some Titanian chief's daughter teaching you how to grow corn properly (or how to generate new oxygen, for that matter).

For cowboys to be colonising the solar system, huge technological changes would be needed - possibly some science changes too.

Alasdhair
2007-Dec-18, 06:50 PM
At least we know that Mars, Titan, Ceres and Callisto are there, which is more than can be said of America before Leif Ericsson ...

stutefish
2007-Dec-18, 07:23 PM
The analogy to exploring the New World only makes sense if you can demonstrate clear economic or lebensraum benefits from sending people into space or to colonies on other bodies in our solar system. Where's the promise of better trade routes? Where's the vast mineral wealth to be extracted and returned to the homeworld at a great profit? Where's the expanses of human-habitable terrain suitable for hunting and gathering and farming and herding?

The analogy to exploring the Arctic and Antarctic partly works, because some people are driven to personall explore new places with their own bodies. Certainly there will be some few enthusiasts who will look to deep space and other planets the same way some people look at Mt. Everest and extreme skydiving and the like.

But a great part of why the Arctic and Antarctic were explored by human beings was because human beings were the most cost-effective and capable research probes available at the time, and because the civlizations promoting the exploration were impatient to wait another several hundred years for better robotic probes to be developed.

Now the situation is reversed: It'll be another couple hundred years (maybe; personally, I think it'll be a lot sooner than that, but nobody else seems to share my view) before human explorers can realistically go where all our interplanetary probes are already able to go, and even when they get there they'd still be outperformed by the automated devices they bring with them (and which could have been sent robotically at a fraction of the cost and risk).

eburacum45
2007-Dec-18, 07:54 PM
The reason why people will want to go - will need to go - will be to stake a claim to these territories. The solar system does contain vast wealth- hundreds of oceans worth of water (almost all in frozen form), carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen galore for life support, metals in abundance, and most importantly a billion times as much energy as is available on Earth.

Sending robots to an object may be enough to start the exploitation process, and in theory I expect that the exploitation of the Solar System could occur without any human intervention. But that would require the development of extremely smart, autonomous devices- and we could probably get humans out there to stake a claim and start the process within a few decades.

The Outer Space Treaty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty) prohibits any nation or organisation from claiming any celestial body; the Treaty states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”.
This treaty effectively prevents the kind of exploitation that is necessary to develop the Solar System, and could (and perhaps should) be replaced by an agreement where such claims of sovereignty are possible.

I expect that the best test of such a claim would be the presence, not of robot devices, no matter how smart, but of humans in the flesh.

mike alexander
2007-Dec-18, 10:07 PM
But there is already plenty of water on earth. We have carbon to (literally) burn. Plenty of energy reaches the earth's surface as it is, if we ever want to actually collect and use it. I find it very hard to justify the idea of resource collection a billion miles away when it would be at least as easy to do it right here.

Seriously, staking a claim to Titan?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-18, 10:46 PM
Reading this (and Delvo's reply, and your reply to Delvo's reply) I get the analogy but I don't think it works.


You're pushing the analogy too far, I think. No, the situations are not identical. But the mentality of pioneers-- willing to go into a harsh evironment and adapt it for their own survival and their family's, so that they can have their own "lands" and society-- is the same.

For cowboys to be colonising the solar system, huge technological changes would be needed - possibly some science changes too.

No, "cowboys" are not the kind of people who will do well in space.
And some technology/ecology will need to be engineered and adapted to the specific conditions, but no new breakthroughs in science are needed.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-18, 11:50 PM
"O" my, Paul!

Noclevername
2007-Dec-19, 12:18 AM
The Outer Space Treaty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty) prohibits any nation or organisation from claiming any celestial body; the Treaty states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”.
This treaty effectively prevents the kind of exploitation that is necessary to develop the Solar System, and could (and perhaps should) be replaced by an agreement where such claims of sovereignty are possible.

(bold mine)


Actually, the OST applies to nations, not to private citizens or groups. And not even to all nations. But I agree, it's an outdated product of Cold War politics and should be abandoned and replaced with a more workable document that allows for expansion, industry, and settlement in space.

Not that it's really enforceable as it is. At present, no one is in a position to stake a meaningful claim on any off-Earth body. Nor is anyone in a position to drive them off it if they can somehow do so.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-19, 02:14 AM
I want to see Chinese, and Brazilian, and Indian ships up there staking claims, and the ESA, NASA and the Russians too; and even more I want to see private enterprise involved. Because there will be a market for all this stuff, but not on Earth.

We have enough of almost everything to support our population for the foreseeable future, despite what some environmentalists believe; and very little of the space based economy will ever come down to Earth (unless we start building space power systems, which probably isn't necessary).

No; space based resources will be used in space, to support a future space based civilisation. The nitrogen, methane and organics found on Titan will be exported to nitrogen and carbon poor locations, such as the Moon, and eventually the artificial colonies that will be built around the system.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-19, 02:17 AM
Here is Anders Sandberg, recounting his vision (http://orionsarm.com/whitepapers/vision.html) of a colonised Solar System:
Soon the solar system will change beyond recognition. Surrounding the Earth space habitats with their own artificial ecospheres will orbit in vast bands. Within each there is room for millions of people to shape their own culture. Similar, but even vaster habitats are being wrought by the material of the asteroid belt and the cometary nuclei. Slowly a sphere is being formed by millions of habitats, solar power collectors and other devices around the sun drinking its life-giving energy and radiating communications of all kinds. In the end most of the solar output will be used by life rather than dissipate into the cold of space.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-19, 07:59 AM
Here is Anders Sandberg, recounting his vision (http://orionsarm.com/whitepapers/vision.html) of a colonised Solar System:
Soon the solar system will change beyond recognition. Surrounding the Earth space habitats with their own artificial ecospheres will orbit in vast bands. Within each there is room for millions of people to shape their own culture. Similar, but even vaster habitats are being wrought by the material of the asteroid belt and the cometary nuclei. Slowly a sphere is being formed by millions of habitats, solar power collectors and other devices around the sun drinking its life-giving energy and radiating communications of all kinds. In the end most of the solar output will be used by life rather than dissipate into the cold of space.


:clap::clap::clap:
Now, that's what I'm talking about.

stutefish
2007-Dec-19, 08:15 PM
The reason why people will want to go - will need to go - will be to stake a claim to these territories. The solar system does contain vast wealth- hundreds of oceans worth of water (almost all in frozen form), carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen galore for life support, metals in abundance, and most importantly a billion times as much energy as is available on Earth.
I agree that the Solar System has many dense concentrations of resources besides Earth.

What I object to is the failure of extrapolation that prevents your scenario from being--in my opinion--"hard" SF.

Firstly, it seems to me that while other planets and moons do have some abundant resources, it would almost certainly cost more to return them to Earth than those resources would actually be worth on arrival. This is why I think the analogy to Columbian-style exploration as a search for newer, more profitable trade routes doesn't work. We have already conducted our Columbian exploration of the Solar System (without using human explorers to any great degree, incidentally). And what we've learned is that at our current and projected levels of technology, offworld mining simply isn't going to be profitable to us here on the homeworld. This might change on a grand scale, where interplanetary combines with access to as-yet-impossible energy sources are able to leverage economies of scale to serve thriving and productive colonies on several worlds at a profit. But such a scenario would probably not be "hard" SF, unless you can make a reasonable extrapolation between where we are now and where the story requires us to be in the future.

The "hard" part is that where we are now, and where we'll be in the near future, there's no economic reason for humans to stake claims offworld.

On the other hand, these dense resource concentrations would certainly be profitable to any colonists living on or near them, where they could significantly reduce the transportation costs. But in this case, you need to extrapolate from our current situation a scenario in which it would be cheaper--financially, emotionally, psychologically, biologically--for a person to choose to live on Mars or Titan or Europa, or a space station.

The "hard" part here is that we are thoroughly optimized for life on the surface of the third planet of this particular star. One G, a certain amount of atmospheric radiation shielding, a certain amount of electromagnetic radiation shielding, a certain atmospheric composition, etc. As we are now, human colony anywhere else in the universe will be more expensive to operate, because it will have to artificially reproduce certain conditions that are naturally-occuring in our "home" environment.

Then there's the capital investment cost of setting up such a colony in the first place.

Even if someone was convinced that they could make a Titan settlement viable and self-sufficient, who would pay the high startup costs of transporting the construction materials, tools, etc. to Titan and setting everything up? Unless you've solved the "hard" problem of unprofitable interplanetary trade I discussed above, the Titan colony isn't going to be able to offer any Earthbound investors a return on their investment. Research organizations would likely prefer to spend their money developing better robots, increasingly more sophisticated artificial creatures that--unlike humans--are optimized for their offworld environments.

"Deep space" habitats--i.e., anything outside the Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere, and not at the bottom of another gravity well--are even worse, from a "hard" perspective. There's nothing about human biology that's optimized for the radiation and gravity conditions of deep space. There's no convenient dense concentrations of resources. Even solar energy drops off relatively quickly with distance from the sun.

When I spoke of a "failure of extrapolation", I meant that to me, the most reasonable extrapolation would be to extrapolate from our current disinterest in establishing space stations and colonies at great cost and great risk of life, that in the future we will also be disinterested in doing so.

It seems to me that for "hard" SF to portray a future of space stations and colonies on other planets and moons, it must first explain the significant changes to human biology and/or technology that are prerequistes to such a future, using "hard" extrapolation techniques.

Personally, I look at the great strides we're currently making in biomedical research, especially in the areas of man-machine interfaces and genetic engineering; and at the similar rate of advance in nanotechnology; and at humanity's history of ingenuity and ever-accelerating technological advancement... I look at these things and extrapolate that within the next hundred years it will be cheap and easy for private citizens to craft custom bodies for themselves, and to construct and launch deep space vehicles and habitats, and to design and deploy colony-building apparatus suited to almost any environment in the solar system. And that, once the main hurdle of human biological optimization has been cleared, we will indeed see all that you predict, because plenty of people will absolutely want to live in space, or on Titan, or in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, or beneath Europa's crust, or inside a hollowed-out asteroid, or in transit to Alpha Centaur--if it's cheap and easy.

This idea that significant numbers of people will want to do it when it's expensive and difficult and risky? Maybe a few wealthy extremophiles will try it just for fun...

Noclevername
2007-Dec-19, 11:21 PM
Firstly, it seems to me that while other planets and moons do have some abundant resources, it would almost certainly cost more to return them to Earth than those resources would actually be worth on arrival.

Well, there's you're problem. As has already been pointed out earlier, getting them to Earth isn't the goal. Using them in space because it's far cheaper than shipping materials up from Earth is the goal. Using these already-there resources will enable us to build, station researchers, and eventually live in space, while relying less and less on Earth.

The colonial age is over. Our economy works quite differently now than it did in the pre-industrial Age of Sail; as Buckminster Fuller put it, the ratio of information to materials continues to improve. So comparisons between the settlement of space and the settlement of the Americas by Europeans can only be metaphorical. We won't be sending back gold, slaves, or tobacco.

eburacum45
2007-Dec-20, 12:13 AM
IIt seems to me that for "hard" SF to portray a future of space stations and colonies on other planets and moons, it must first explain the significant changes to human biology and/or technology that are prerequistes to such a future, using "hard" extrapolation techniques.


Oh there are plenty of ideas out there about the ways in which human biology could be changed, and about the types of technology which might be developed to exploit the Solar System; but when will they be available? If genetic engineering, self-replicating devices and/or hard nanotech are available before the exploration of the outer Solar System starts in earnest, then all well and good; but that doesn't mean we should wait for them.

Ordinary humans, using easily foreseen near-future tech, could and should go out there to explore and prepare the ground for the more advanced colonial efforts which should follow. Gerard K O'Neill has made a number of reasonably detailed plans to start this process, Robert Zubrin, Geoffrey Landis and others have done similar studies; these plans generally do not include hypertechnology and could be put into practice reasonably soon.

greenfeather
2007-Dec-20, 02:08 AM
I'm interested in reading a true "hard" sci-fi. My requirements are as follows:

We should have the technology available today. Things can be made up to a degree - but they need to be possible.
Or would the consensus be that I'm looking for the most boring book ever? Or do I have to get to writing?

Stephen Baxter's TITAN definitely fits the bill for "hard SF" because it is basically about how NASA has degenerated to a parody of itself. Therefore a handful of astronauts decide to launch an over-the-top, ill-conceived mission to Titan, almost as a "last gasp' for NASA. I assume the politics of the space program are pretty much as they really are.

Nevertheless I wouldn't recommend this book if you have any kind of issues with depression, anxiety, futility, angst etc because it is really a depressing, pointless book. The only message I can get out of it is that humans are not meant for space travel or exploring other worlds. There isn't one moment of exaltation or wonder in this book.

Oh yeah and as for Robinson's MARS trilogy, it is my favorite "awful book/series to hate that won a Hugo, proving that the Stupid People Rule theory extends even to the SF communty".

A few books I liked. I really liked Ben Bova's MARS because in addition to the tedium, claustrophobia, tension and just plain misery of exploring an un-liveable planet... there is also something interesting. Although you will have to read the sequel RETURN TO MARS to really learn more about it.

Someone else didn't like Bova's solar system books, but I liked JUPITER. Hey... any book that has alien life forms on Jupiter has to be good. I dont' care what kind of cheesy sub-plots the author throws in.

Also, Benford wrote something called THE SUNBORN. An expedition goes to Pluto and discovers some very interesting lifeforms at the edge of the solar system. Interesting Lifeforms=Good. I can forgive almost any other literary sins if it has Interesting Lifeforms. I mean Interesting ones. Not just cornball Space Invaders.

I would love to find realistic SF about some of the exoplanets and the unusual kinds of life "as we dont' know it" that could exist in some of the extreme environments.

stutefish
2007-Dec-20, 02:24 AM
Oh there are plenty of ideas out there about the ways in which human biology could be changed, and about the types of technology which might be developed to exploit the Solar System; but when will they be available? If genetic engineering, self-replicating devices and/or hard nanotech are available before the exploration of the outer Solar System starts in earnest, then all well and good; but that doesn't mean we should wait for them.
I'm not saying we should wait for them; simply that we probably will wait for them. Or rather, not so much wait for them as pursue them enthusiastically and exploit them to the uttermost limits of our imagination.


Ordinary humans, using easily foreseen near-future tech, could and should go out there to explore and prepare the ground for the more advanced colonial efforts which should follow. Gerard K O'Neill has made a number of reasonably detailed plans to start this process, Robert Zubrin, Geoffrey Landis and others have done similar studies; these plans generally do not include hypertechnology and could be put into practice reasonably soon.
I don't think the technologies I described are any more "hyper" than the technologies necessary to build the kind of megastructure O'Neill describes. I think they're easily forseen and will be put into practice reasonably soon. Indeed, I expect that advances in one area--materials science, experimental lunar mining bases, etc.--will ease the requirements in the other area. As O'Neill structures become easier to build, less extreme modification of human biology will be necssary. And as human biology becomes easier to modify, less complete reproductions of the terrestrial environment will be necessary.

But I will gladly stipulate that an SF story along strictly O'Neillian lines would be quite "hard", based on what little I have seen of his work so far. Indeed, nothing would make me happier than to discover that such endeavors aren't nearly as difficult as I imagined.

And now, having recently received a substantial gift certificate to the retailer of my choice--'tis the season, etc.--I'm off to see about acquiring some of the studies you mentioned, and learn more about the future you advocate. Thanks!

Ilya
2007-Dec-20, 05:24 PM
Stephen Baxter's TITAN definitely fits the bill for "hard SF" because it is basically about how NASA has degenerated to a parody of itself.

I believe OP was asking for fiction... :)

MG1962A
2007-Dec-21, 09:16 AM
Stephen BAxter's Raft is an interesting thought exercise. I got the chance to ask him about the book many years ago. He said he wanted to muck around with changing physical parametres of the universe and running with the results.

While it does not count as true hard science, it does have a wonderfully consistent internal environment

Noclevername
2007-Dec-27, 12:14 AM
Stephen BAxter's Raft is an interesting thought exercise. I got the chance to ask him about the book many years ago. He said he wanted to muck around with changing physical parametres of the universe and running with the results.

While it does not count as true hard science, it does have a wonderfully consistent internal environment

Actually, the problem I had with the science in RAFT was that it was inconsistently applied; the lifeboat dives into a massive gravity well surrounded by breatheable air, and it doesn't get any thicker or harder to move through? But the writing is so engaging that I didn't think of that until after I'd finished the book. (And I've seen it pointed out that opening the door while moving a that speed in an atmosphere would probably send the lifeboat tumbling randomly too.)

Click Ticker
2008-Jan-07, 02:38 PM
Currently enjoying Stephen Baxter's "Evolution". Each stage in the advance of mankind is a small peak into what we might find on another planet supporting life. That's how I'm choosing to view the passages anyway. Considering "intelligent life" has been present on this planet for such a brief pinpoint in time relative to the totallity of history - I'm inclined to think that our first encounter with another life bearing world is unlikely to include contact with an "intelligent" species.

I found the speculation on an intelligent dinosaur species of particular interest. Of course, as their tools were not yet made of stone - we having no fossil record confirming or denying their presence. Interesting method for overcoming the whole lack of lips obstacle to intelligent communication.

Alasdhair
2008-Jan-07, 07:18 PM
In that case, Harry Harrison's "Eden" books may be of interest; his Yilané were developed with Jack Cohen (who later contributed to the Science of Discworld and Larry Niven's Legacy of Heorot

Noclevername
2008-Jan-08, 11:30 PM
I don't think the technologies I described are any more "hyper" than the technologies necessary to build the kind of megastructure O'Neill describes. I think they're easily forseen and will be put into practice reasonably soon. Indeed, I expect that advances in one area--materials science, experimental lunar mining bases, etc.--will ease the requirements in the other area. As O'Neill structures become easier to build, less extreme modification of human biology will be necssary.

Actually, O'Neill type "mega" structures aren't necessary. A rotating, well-shielded space station could have been built with technology from the 1960s, if we'd had an infrastructure built to do so. It's not so much technical advancements as mere physical obstacles that keep us from having orbital habitats now; there's just not enough materials, workers and transportation in the right places. If we had those, we wouldn't need nanotech to make viable colonies. The engineering needed to manufacture them has been largely worked out, some of it decades ago, by O'Neill and others.

3rdvogon
2008-Jan-09, 02:30 PM
Currently enjoying Stephen Baxter's "Evolution". Each stage in the advance of mankind is a small peak into what we might find on another planet supporting life. That's how I'm choosing to view the passages anyway. Considering "intelligent life" has been present on this planet for such a brief pinpoint in time relative to the totallity of history - I'm inclined to think that our first encounter with another life bearing world is unlikely to include contact with an "intelligent" species.


I very much agree with that and have said similar things in other threads on this forum I would not be suprised to if we ever are able to examine other life bearing planets in our galaxy then for every one found with a civilisation there are a 100 with just "wildlife" and for every one world with multicellular organisms there are at least 100 with just bacteria.

Click Ticker
2008-Jan-10, 07:13 PM
I very much agree with that and have said similar things in other threads on this forum I would not be suprised to if we ever are able to examine other life bearing planets in our galaxy then for every one found with a civilisation there are a 100 with just "wildlife" and for every one world with multicellular organisms there are at least 100 with just bacteria.

I would add an even further filter saying technologically advanced intelligent life would even by more rare. We've been making tools for over a million years. Some rudimentary communication and very basic self-awareness could be argued as intelligent life at any point along that time line. We've been able to record history for about 9,000 years. We've been able to survive short trips outside the atmosphere for about 50 years.

Given the evolutionary time scales involved - I would suggest that your numbers are quite optimistic. Of course, were it not for mass extinction events - it is possible intelligence could have emerged as a favorable survival trait much earlier. Then again - it's also possible life on this planet could've stumbled along as walnut brained dinosaurs indefinetly without a mass extinction event giving mammals a reproductive edge.

All this is for another thread - I suppose.

eburacum45
2008-Jan-10, 07:39 PM
If and when a civilisation starts to spread on an interstellar scale it will be found in more than one system. A civilsation which manages to spread throughout a large portion of the galaxy might become the most common form of life in that portion- this would skew the results considerably.

Although the majority of planets in that portion may have originally have had microbial biospheres, once they have been colonised they will probably hold quite sophisticated, possibly artificial or modified biologies.

Abbadon_2008
2008-Jan-10, 11:07 PM
Hard science is difficult for a fiction writer. When writing about futuristic situations and gizmos, set in exotic settings, 'hard' science' often must give way to 'plausible' and 'theoretical' science.

If I were to walk into a room full of tech-heads and asked 'What do you guys think about Faster-Than-Light travel?'...half of them would laugh me out of the room for talking such nonsense. The other half would argue among themselves about how it could be done.

Since SF readers already know what FTL does -- allowing us to travel between stars and across vast distances very quickly -- I see no reason to belabor the details of 'how or 'why' FTL works. I assume my readers already know something about hyperdrives, warp drives, jump drives, and other types of drives that do essentially the same thing.

I try to find a happy medium between 'plausible' and 'hard' science. All our current theories are subject to change, so who's to say what will be 'realistic' 400 yrs from now? We'll have better computers, new energy sources, new propulsion systems, and we will have re-written the science books a half dozen times.

Though I love technobabble, I curb my urge to rely on it when telling a story.
I think technology, no matter how grand it may be, is still flawed.

There will come a time when the Chief Engineer will tell the Captain "The engines are off-line, and I can't fix them."

Period. No go. Cancel shore leave, beak out the playing cards, and call for a tug. You're not going anywhere for a while.

eburacum45
2008-Jan-10, 11:27 PM
We'll have better computers,
Probably the one thing which most sci-fi writers underestimate. Computing could go in two directions; increasing sophistication, and decreasing scale- in fact it will probably go both ways, and we will be constantly surrounded by streams of data and by smart machinery. Probably far smarter than ourselves.

new energy sources, Thare are already some remarkable energy sources out there, the greatest of which is the Sun (in our neighbourhood at least). What could improve on the sources we already know about? Well, if we could cause baryonic matter to convert itself into energy at our command, the energy from the Sun would be put in the shade.

new propulsion systems, Before we start thinking about new systems, perhaps we should look at the potential of some of the theoretical systems which haven't yet been built- like antimatter engines or beam-rider ships. Some promising stuff there.
... and we will have re-written the science books a half dozen times. Now that is the difficult part- the 'unknown unknowns' which are almost guaranteed to make any prognostication hopelessly inaccurate. But as a note of caution- we can't expect the 'unknown' laws of the universe we haven't found yet to go in our favour- there was no (known) light-speed limit until Mr Einstein came along, and any new paradigm shift could make the prospects for space travel worse, not better.

.

Van Rijn
2008-Jan-10, 11:46 PM
Probably the one thing which most sci-fi writers underestimate. Computing could go in two directions; increasing sophistication, and decreasing scale- in fact it will probably go both ways, and we will be constantly surrounded by streams of data and by smart machinery. Probably far smarter than ourselves.


Some authors are doing a little better with computers these days. But back in the '80s, I'd tell people that there was better stuff in Byte magazine (a now gone computer magazine) than Analog magazine (still existing hard science-fiction magazine). The fact is that most of the authors weren't familiar with the technology, and either would have a "person in a box" (a computer that just acts like a person) or a computer that, supposedly centuries in the future, lacked capabilities that were already being demonstrated in prototype form. One point often missed was the growing importance of modelling and simulation.

ravens_cry
2008-Jan-11, 01:01 AM
For all you 'diamond hard' sci fi fans, I offer what has to be the hardest sci-fi possible, 'Space' by James A. Michener. It is a lot of fun, but I have to say, all ye super hard fans lack...imagination.
Science Fiction is in many ways a sub-genre of 'speculative fiction'. Fine, then lets speculate. Sure there are cliches, like hyperdrive and blasters. But if it only follows the rules considered 'possible' then it is missing out on a lot.
As well, new discoveries can make it look dated, quaint. Lets say a Jules Verne contemporary wrote a story about men that by dividing the indivisible, enormous energy was released. Far more then could be ever be released by gunpowder, gun cotton or dynamite. You super hard's would be all over him, saying, "You can't split the atom, the very name means indivisible!"
Science Fiction, despite all its well meaning pretension, is fiction, it is about story. If you can make a good story with known physics fine, if you can make a good story about hyperdrive and blasters, fine. If you have preferred sub genre, fine. But remember, your not the only fish in the sea.
As well, 'true' used the way it is used in the title of this thread is almost a dirty word, it implies this form of whatever thing mentioned is the only 'real' form. It implies separation, and superiority.
I don't like that one bit.

SkepticJ
2008-Jan-11, 07:00 AM
It is a lot of fun, but I have to say, all ye super hard fans lack...imagination.

Not at all. Having to work within limits and trying to find technical ways around barriers spurs innovation.

Fantasy, theoretically, should be the most creative of the literary genres. But it's not. Most of it is set in pseudo-European settings and rehash the same things over and over and over again. There are breakouts, now and then, but why is most of it so much alike?


Science Fiction is in many ways a sub-genre of 'speculative fiction'. Fine, then lets speculate. Sure there are cliches, like hyperdrive and blasters. But if it only follows the rules considered 'possible' then it is missing out on a lot.

Probably the appeal of hard SF is that soft SF is so clichéd, and hasn't really come up with anything new in a long time. Whereas hard--and by hard I mean plausible--SF authors working within known physics--or theoretical physics that could be true--come up with new things all the time.

Known physics is a vast playground. It's only a failure of the imagination that lets the world become boring.

ravens_cry
2008-Jan-11, 08:39 AM
Ah..but what is known, is anything in science 'known'? Theoretical Science is basically finding a self consistent lie that works until we find an inconsistency, and then we think up another lie.
What I am saying is that 'True' hard Sci-fi can be so hard, it isn't science fiction anymore. A typical romance novel follows all the laws of physics (except maybe the laws of attraction ;) ) but we don't hold a romance novel as a paradigm of hard science fiction.
Science Fiction HAS to be experimental, otherwise, it is afraid. And if science fiction, the way we reach out to touch the stars that we know in our hearts that we ourselves shall never grasp, is afraid, then something is very wrong.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Jan-11, 11:20 AM
Fantasy, theoretically, should be the most creative of the literary genres. But it's not. Most of it is set in pseudo-European settings and rehash the same things over and over and over again. There are breakouts, now and then, but why is most of it so much alike?
One reason is that if you posit that magic work and you try to make the story work in our days, it will be quite difficult to make it consistent with our everyday experience unless you use the shortcut of having all magic happen in parallel to normal life, as done in the Potter books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter) and Neverwhere (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neverwhere).

If you place it in medieval Europe, you have it in a place where a belief in magic was already integral to society, so you wouldn't have to change how things are believed to work, which means less need to be inventive on that part and thus more time to focus on characters and plot.

In some ways, by having the fewest limits, I expect fantasy to be the least creative genre.

It's the limits that drive creativity not the possibilities.
When you can there's no need to think, it's when you can't you have to be inventive.

jamesabrown
2008-Jan-11, 06:19 PM
Oops! When I called "Voyage" a dystopia, I was thinking of "Titan" by the same author.

Still, I find "what might have beens" also fairly depressing.

Actually, everything Baxter writes is depressing.


I agree. I found Titan horribly depressing, and have never picked up anything else he's written for fear of encountering the same thing.

But with the exception of the final chapter, it was a very realistic SF novel, imo.

KaiYeves
2008-Jan-11, 08:40 PM
One reason is that if you posit that magic work and you try to make the story work in our days, it will be quite difficult to make it consistent with our everyday experience unless you use the shortcut of having all magic happen in parallel to normal life, as done in the Potter books and Neverwhere.
I actually had a series of stories about a Kim Possible-eque young secret agent who talked to ghosts. They started off very fantastic, with her fighting wizards and looking for Incan stones that give power over nature, ect. I moved in a more realistic direction later, doing stories where she stopped terrorists at the Olympic Games and joined an expedition to study shipwrecks in the Black Sea, but I still considered the old stories canon. Then I realized that I myself didn't believe the same person could encounter both snake-man mutants and ground contollers on the Phoenix mission, so there was no way any reader would. I have put the series on haitus for a while to work on other projects as a result of this.

Van Rijn
2008-Jan-11, 09:14 PM
I agree. I found Titan horribly depressing, and have never picked up anything else he's written for fear of encountering the same thing.

But with the exception of the final chapter, it was a very realistic SF novel, imo.

Baxter never writes light and happy stories, but in my opinion, Titan was an exception even for him. I found it much less interesting than many of his other stories, and very depressing. That's a book I won't pick up a second time, or recommend.

Click Ticker
2008-Jan-11, 09:22 PM
For all you 'diamond hard' sci fi fans, I offer what has to be the hardest sci-fi possible, 'Space' by James A. Michener. It is a lot of fun, but I have to say, all ye super hard fans lack...imagination.
...
As well, 'true' used the way it is used in the title of this thread is almost a dirty word, it implies this form of whatever thing mentioned is the only 'real' form. It implies separation, and superiority.
I don't like that one bit.

From the perspective of the OP (who's perspective I happen to be a great authority on), being in the mood for a diamond hard sci-fi book at the moment and looking for suggestions - doesn't mean I "lack imagination" or have any opposition to imaginative and fantastic science fiction. Sometimes I'm in the mood for those. Sometimes I like a good thrillerIt just happened that at the time I wrote that post - I was wanting to get suggestions for a science fiction book that could actually happen. I have noted a couple of suggestions, but I'm currently in the midst of reading Evolution by Stephen Baxter - so perhaps next time I get to the library, I'll check on the other suggestions.

When I indicated "true" - I didn't view it as a dirty word. I viewed it as a fictional book about the potential of space exploration as limited by the known physical laws of the universe and the very limits of current technical knowledge. In other words - this stuff is fantastic, scientific AND it could actually happen if we were willing to pony up the cash and invest the time.

As far as "Space" goes - I'll look into that. Thanks for the title.

SkepticJ
2008-Jan-11, 11:52 PM
Ah..but what is known, is anything in science 'known'? Theoretical Science is basically finding a self consistent lie that works until we find an inconsistency, and then we think up another lie.
What I am saying is that 'True' hard Sci-fi can be so hard, it isn't science fiction anymore. A typical romance novel follows all the laws of physics (except maybe the laws of attraction ;) ) but we don't hold a romance novel as a paradigm of hard science fiction.


Yes. It's known that light travels at 299,792,458 meters per second in a vacuum. It's known that nothing with mass can reach or exceed the speed of light. It's known that angular momentum is conserved. It's known that matter can be turned into energy, and energy to matter. It's known that you can't get energy from nothing--you can't make perpetual motion machines that output power.
It's known that there are finite limits to how strong, heat resistant etc. a material can be... and on and on.
It's extremely unlikely that any of these or millions of other observations are in error.

That's because a typical romance happens now. Set it in the future, with more advanced technology (speculative, but within known physics. For example: extremely fast quantum computers, realistic nanotechnology etc.) and it's SF. At least until such things come to pass.

The Diamond Age is the story of a little girl growing up. There's no ray guns, aliens or even mention of space travel. What makes it SF is the world she lives in.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Jan-12, 11:42 AM
Ah..but what is known, is anything in science 'known'? Theoretical Science is basically finding a self consistent lie that works until we find an inconsistency, and then we think up another lie.
I have to agree with SkepticJ's answer to this. I would add that use of the word "lie" here is itself malicious, mistaken or idiotic - I'm not sure which in this instance but I'll guess at "mistaken". We know that there is always the possibility that a new piece of data will not fit our existing model, but until that happens (and it doesn't always happen) we use the existing model because it's the best we've got. There is no intent to deceive.

[Edited to add: Further to my earlier reply, I came across the following piece by the excellent Richard Dawkins in his essay collection A Devil's Chaplain. It could have been written for the above quote, and others like it: "Scientists tend to take a robust view of truth and are impatient of philosophical equivocation over its reality or importance. It's hard enough coaxing nature to give up her truths, without spectators and hangers-on strewing gratuitous obstacles in our way... Truths about everyday life are just as much - or as little - open to philosophical doubts as scientific truths. Let us shun double standards."]


What I am saying is that 'True' hard Sci-fi can be so hard, it isn't science fiction anymore.
A story about a mission to Europa or one of the other moons of giant planets could be based entirely on known and understood scientific principles, and still be very exciting and fascinating. In point of fact, the mystical and/or transcendental elements that crop up at the end of, say, Mission to Mars are typically the least interesting, and in fact can ruin the story.


Science Fiction HAS to be experimental, otherwise, it is afraid. And if science fiction, the way we reach out to touch the stars that we know in our hearts that we ourselves shall never grasp, is afraid, then something is very wrong.
I am glad there is experimental SF. I am glad I can choose between hard SF, "way out" SF, straight fantasy, and other genres entirely such as detective fiction and historical fiction and any others that grab my interest.

Some very interesting points have been raised on this thread. Fantasy should indeed be one of the richest genres, but there is way too much sameness. It reminds me of the claims made about Doctor Who - "It's an infinitely flexible format that can go anywhere and anywhen and allows any kind of story!" the fans claim, but there are way too many stories about aliens trying to invade or destroy the Earth.

I think too much freedom can be a problem. In Star Trek, Blake's 7 and The Tomorrow People, our heroes can just teleport or beam into any location, which pretty well negates any kind of danger... so writers have to patch over this problem by having ad hoc mentions of "some kind of field which prevents the teleport from working".

Noclevername
2008-Jan-12, 07:51 PM
Fantasy should indeed be one of the richest genres, but there is way too much sameness.
Yes, but that's not an inherent quality of fantasy, just crappy writing. There are nonstandard fantasy worlds out there, you just need to dig them out from under a pile of mediocre D&D-inspired hacks.


In Star Trek, Blake's 7 and The Tomorrow People, our heroes can just teleport or beam into any location, which pretty well negates any kind of danger... so writers have to patch over this problem by having ad hoc mentions of "some kind of field which prevents the teleport from working".

Not necessarily a "patch" but a logical outgrowth. If someone invents teleportation technology and it becomes as common as it is in sci-fi, someone else who doesn't want uninvited guests will quickly be frantically hard at work on ways to deny teleporters from dropping in uninvited. Certainly the military anti-teleport research budget alone will be huge.

KaiYeves
2008-Jan-12, 08:26 PM
Interesting new avatar, Paul. Probably what I'd look like in ten years if I grew my hair out.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Jan-12, 08:38 PM
Yes, but that's not an inherent quality of fantasy, just crappy writing. There are nonstandard fantasy worlds out there, you just need to dig them out from under a pile of mediocre D&D-inspired hacks.
Agreed - the likes of Philip Pullman (surprisingly underrated on this site), Roger Zelazny, and Robert Holdstock spring to mind. China Mieville is supposed to be very good, as is George R.R. Martin, although I've only read his SF, and not recent at that.

Oh, and John Whitbourn - good fantasy and a nice chap.


Not necessarily a "patch" but a logical outgrowth. If someone invents teleportation technology and it becomes as common as it is in sci-fi, someone else who doesn't want uninvited guests will quickly be frantically hard at work on ways to deny teleporters from dropping in uninvited. Certainly the military anti-teleport research budget alone will be huge.
Granted, but in the examples I cited - particularly Blake's 7 - you could picture the writers struggling to come up with excuses for not using the teleport. "Er, there's electrical activity in the upper atmosphere. Or two Federation ships just appear at random and the Liberator has to move out of teleport range to avoid them, leaving two characters stranded on the planet's surface..."

Paul Beardsley
2008-Jan-12, 08:50 PM
Interesting new avatar, Paul. Probably what I'd look like in ten years if I grew my hair out.

Let's meet up in 2018 then, Kai!

Incidentally, the current avatar is Liz Fraser out of The Cocteau Twins.

mike alexander
2008-Jan-14, 11:45 PM
So much of modern fantasy seems to be written by the pound, with names that sound like Welsh sausages or a particularly juicy eruction. And too many Capital Letters. And Quests for the Azure Ring of Eternity (First volume of the exciting new trilogy, The Commonality of the Azure Brotherhood!).

Maybe why I like Terry Pratchett so much. I really don't give a fart in a phone booth whether Llorg'tchann captures the Seventh Stone of the Diadem, but I emote deeply with Captain Vimes' underpaid Watch.

Noclevername
2008-Jan-15, 06:25 AM
Pretentious fantasy writing is at least as old as modern fantasy. Just look at some of the early (pre-Tolkein) writers, and of course once JRR started writing about the One Ring, everybody tried to copy the most successful fantasy franchise by throwing in Big Names, Big Quests for the Golden MacGuffin, and exotic-sounding words in created laguages, usually not nearly as well thought out as the original.

Wolf1066
2008-Nov-11, 04:33 AM
G'day and apologies if I've resurrected too old a thread but I found this thread by chance which introduced me to this forum.

For me, "hard science fiction" needs to have scientific principles resolve the problem - which means a story set in the early 1800s would be science fiction if the protagonist(s) revolved the problem by the novel and innovative - possibly groundbreaking - application of science or some new invention.

Internal consistency is important for me if strange new technology is created to drive the story - e.g. The Alderson Points in Niven and Pournelle's Mote In (Around) God's (Murcheson's) Eye stories. They wanted the ability to travel/send messages quickly (or they'd never have such a wide-ranging empire if limited to STL travel) but still have an unexplored pocket (Alderson Point beneath a star's surface, can't be accessed until a decent shield is developed...)

Niven's always struck me as a "Technology Suggests Technology" person (in fact, he's said pretty much that) - that Star Trek-style teleportation would automatically suggest matter replication etc. And he tends to aim for at least internal consistency if not hard science in his stories - like his teleportation systems are short-range relays with momentum-damping systems in place to prevent the conservation of momentum turning the teleported people into a bloody smear on the wall, floor or even ceiling!

Sure, there's some pretty "OUT THERE" stuff, what with Pak Protectors, stasis fields, Reactionless drives, Ringworlds etc (and he had to come up with some means to stop the Ringword colliding with its own star) but there is at least a consistency and things work well internally. Even his fantasy (Magic Goes Away) works on rules (depletion of "Mana").

Technology also suggests social changes, and I think Niven is one of those who portrays that well and still leaves you in no doubt that you're still dealing with humans - like a character reminiscing how he and his mate mocked up a giant robot out of standard servos and foam polystyrene and set it "walking" north on the Southbound sliding pavement at the same speed as the pavement (holding its place relative to the buildings) then sat back to watch the panic at rush hour - stuff we can't do yet but, given readily available standardised servos and controllers and a few chunks of polystyrene (and a moving slidewalk), it is possible that human nature is such that some bugger'd do that.

I want to live long enough to be able to do that.

As far as the TV fare goes, Babylon 5 had more hard SF (OK, so they have jump gates and hyperspace, strange aliens and technobabble minerals) than Star Trek (which blatantly ignored physics right, left and centre - space craft that drive like cars and slow to a halt when the drives stop working!)

Sub-light speeds only, accelerate-to-speed, coast, fire-retros-to-decelerate, match orbits stuff for all ships - speed on exiting "hyperspace" (whether by jumpgate or jumb-field generators on-ship) is the same as speed on entering. Flights in-system take hours and require acceleration/deceleration cycles. PPGs (with a logic behind them - ionised gas won't rupture hulls) - for all you have to suspend belief a bit and trust that they've worked out problems of firing a plasma weapon in a gaseous atmosphere by then - are far superior to ST's "stun guns" (that conveniently stop the person in their tracks without the risk of any secondary harm that could befall a person who has been suddenly rendered unconscious mid-stride!)

Oh, and no frigging "screw the "conservation of momentum" crap, let's teleport from orbit to a planetary surface" - and don't get me started on the episode where they could not teleport a person to the bridge (for which they probably have detailed schematics and deck plans) lest they accidentally materialise them in the midst of a desk or chair - yet they have no difficulty in beaming them down to the surface of an unknown planet obscured by thick clouds without teleporting them halfway into a tree/rock/large-nasty-monster (who ignores the command staff to kill unfortunate buggers in red shirts...)

I'm prepared to let certain things slide - "presumably they've solved the issues with this/discovered hyperspace by then" so long as there's a consistency - like B5's jump technology or Niven/Pournelle's Alderson Points and logical premises are followed through.

eburacum45
2008-Nov-11, 08:05 AM
...speed on exiting "hyperspace" (whether by jumpgate or jumb-field generators on-ship) is the same as speed on entering. Now there's an interesting thing to consider. If the speed you have when you come out of hyperspace is the same as the speed you had when you entered it, what is that speed measured with respect to? In other words, what is your frame of reference?

If a ship jumps from Sol to Barnard's Star, for instance, but keeps the same motion as it had in the Solar System with respect to the Galactic Centre, then it will come out of hyperspace at 90km/s with respect to Barnard's Star. That is greater than the escape velocity for that star- if you didn't decelerate pretty sharpish you would be flung out of the system.

darkhunter
2008-Nov-11, 04:43 PM
Now there's an interesting thing to consider. If the speed you have when you come out of hyperspace is the same as the speed you had when you entered it, what is that speed measured with respect to? In other words, what is your frame of reference?

If a ship jumps from Sol to Barnard's Star, for instance, but keeps the same motion as it had in the Solar System with respect to the Galactic Centre, then it will come out of hyperspace at 90km/s with respect to Barnard's Star. That is greater than the escape velocity for that star- if you didn't decelerate pretty sharpish you would be flung out of the system.

I always thought of it as relative to the point you emerged from hyperspace.

eburacum45
2008-Nov-11, 05:51 PM
Well, that may be the case, but in that case then momentum is not conserved globally.

Ilya
2008-Nov-11, 07:12 PM
Now there's an interesting thing to consider. If the speed you have when you come out of hyperspace is the same as the speed you had when you entered it, what is that speed measured with respect to? In other words, what is your frame of reference?

If a ship jumps from Sol to Barnard's Star, for instance, but keeps the same motion as it had in the Solar System with respect to the Galactic Centre, then it will come out of hyperspace at 90km/s with respect to Barnard's Star. That is greater than the escape velocity for that star- if you didn't decelerate pretty sharpish you would be flung out of the system.
Niven's hyperspace does exactly that.

eburacum45
2008-Nov-11, 08:14 PM
However the wormholes in OA do not conserve momentum. The space inside a hole is locally normal, and momentum conservation applies there- but once you get to the other end, your frame of reference is defined according the local mouth of the wormhole, so you acquire a new velocity with respect to the centre of the galaxy. Wormholes need not conserve momentum globally - probably a reason why they don't exist in reality.

Wolf1066
2008-Nov-11, 10:45 PM
I always thought of it as relative to the point you emerged from hyperspace.
That's the way it seemed to be portrayed in B5 - they would emerge from the jump gate (or newly-opened jump point) at the speed they were doing when they entered it - and the vector was in line with the centre of the gate (which would be a change because the gates are orbiting something and therefore they would not always be aligned in the same directions relative to one-another)

One thing that was ignored was speed-of-light related delays for radio transmissions. Even if there was no delay between relay stations in hyperspace (nothing says electromagnetic waves like light, radio etc are limited to 3x10^8m/s in hyperspace even though it might take a ship a week to do the Eps Eri - Sol run) there would still be a lag between Earth and the Jumpgate (out near Jupiter, IIRC) - that was blissfully ignored in the interests of keeping the pace of the series going.

Delvo
2008-Nov-12, 03:53 AM
The mouth of the wormhole/jumpgate could be moving...

Wolf1066
2008-Nov-12, 04:52 AM
The mouth of the wormhole/jumpgate could be moving...
Doubtless it would be. The Eps Eri gate seems to be in orbit around Eps Eri 3 - as is the Babylon 5 station as the gate always seems to be the same distance and location relative to Bab 5 (probably just some cinematic expedience, of course) while the Sol gate is somewhere near/beyond Jupiter though it's not explained if it's orbiting the sun or some planetary body. Both of those gates are very obviously moving.

There are holes - as you can expect for a series that's designed to be enjoyed without bogging the average viewer down in too much hard science - but there's a lot more hard science evident in the B5 franchise than in ST.

I also loved the way that ships in B5 move as though they're in space - in three dimensions rather than as if they are driving on roads. The only nod towards boundless space ST-TOS managed was two ships at different altitudes relative to one another, like a game of "3D" chess. B5 had ships coming in at all angles from all quarters - aerial dog-fight with a lot more room to move.

The thing that really killed ST for me was the movie where they went back in time to pick up whales. It wasn't the appalling, typically-ST, mucking about with time, so much as when the alien probe knocked out systems entering near-Earth space.

A large ship was approaching a space station at a steady speed - despite the fact its impulse drives were on - and the probe killed all power to the ship and the station. The drive lights went out, the ship's lights went out, as did the lights on the station...

And the ship slowed to a halt near the station like a car running out of gas.

Ye cannae change the laws of physics, Jim! But ye c'n sure as heck ignore 'em.

Contrast that with attempting to grapple an out-of control Soul Hunter ship before it smashes into the Babylon station (and they were getting ready to blow it out of the sky if it got too close)

I'm prepared to suspend disbelief to a certain degree when dealing with future technologies that we do not wot of, but I do like a degree of internal consistency.

Niven's "Known Space" has things that we cannot build but there are consistencies - like limits of the GP hulls and what that told Bey of the Puppeteer Homeworld.

I feel jumpgates/wormholes to be highly unlikely - but I'm prepared to accept them as part of a fictional work provided it's evident that the writers put some thoughts into the ramifications and don't just use them as a "in one bound, Jack was free" mechanism.

As a plot device, they can be useful to enable swift transport and therefore allow large empires to be formed, wars to be fought (in B5, they are gateways to a repeater network to enable radio transmissions to cross light years in a useful timespan) trade and commerce to thrive. They also have inherent limitations to work around and side-effects on society etc.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-12, 10:13 AM
Another excellent post from Wolf. (In other words, I agree with every point in it!)

I would sum up my feelings on the matter with a few observations:

In fiction, you can make anything up, but the difference between good fiction and poor fiction is (among other things) that the author of the good fiction thought things through.

Sometimes, in the interest of good drama, it is right and proper to suspend a law of physics... but more often than not you're better off getting it right. The example of the spaceship slowing to a halt because it has lost power is less dramatic than the more accurate alternative: a spaceship pilot declaring, "We've lost power... we can't slow down!"

When something thought to be impossible happens in a science fiction story, it is either because the author has made a conscious decision to waive a certain law of science, or it is because the author is ignorant. It is almost always obvious which of these is the case.

Delvo
2008-Nov-12, 03:50 PM
Doubtless it would be. The Eps Eri gate seems to be in orbit around Eps Eri 3 - as is the Babylon 5 station as the gate always seems to be the same distance and location relative to Bab 5 (probably just some cinematic expedience, of course) while the Sol gate is somewhere near/beyond Jupiter though it's not explained if it's orbiting the sun or some planetary body. Both of those gates are very obviously moving.I meant to also include the ones opened by ships in the middle of nowhere, not just the ones attached to "stationary" (orbiting) gate mechanisms.

tdvance
2008-Nov-12, 06:13 PM
Related--I recently read the Niven essay, "Building the Mote"--The Alderson Drive and the Langston Field were both invented by Dan Alderson, Cal-Tech physicist. They assume a modification to General Relativity that is still consistent with observations--and Niven claims there are a couple pages of differential equations not published in the "Mote" books. What's required is a parallel universe and a fifth force that dominates that universe the way Gravity dominates ours.

Niven didn't explain in the essay how they got around things like the inconsistencies inherent in instantaneous travel.

Niven/Pournelle made the wise, I think, decision to start wtih the technology: Langston Field and Alderson Drive, and its limitations, then write the story based on those limitations. So, for example, the Mote being close to a red supergiant was needed to keep humans from having been there before, it was behind the Coalsack so as to be reasonably close to Earth while still invisible to Earth, etc.

Wolf1066
2008-Nov-12, 07:57 PM
Niven/Pournelle made the wise, I think, decision to start wtih the technology: Langston Field and Alderson Drive, and its limitations, then write the story based on those limitations. So, for example, the Mote being close to a red supergiant was needed to keep humans from having been there before, it was behind the Coalsack so as to be reasonably close to Earth while still invisible to Earth, etc.
Enough speed of travel to maintain an empire but a damned good reason why not all of our "back yard" has been explored (until such time as you can take a ship into a sun...)

Ilya
2008-Nov-13, 05:17 PM
Enough speed of travel to maintain an empire but a damned good reason why not all of our "back yard" has been explored (until such time as you can take a ship into a sun...)
Also, Langston Field allows a Galactic Empire blatantly based on 19th Centurty Britain -- complete with Naval Tradition, and barely-literate recruits, and teenage midshipmen, and cannon broadsides (ok, laser broadsides), and all but rum and buggery, -- to make sense.

mike alexander
2008-Nov-13, 05:50 PM
Also, Langston Field allows a Galactic Empire blatantly based on 19th Centurty Britain -- complete with Naval Tradition, and barely-literate recruits, and teenage midshipmen, and cannon broadsides (ok, laser broadsides), and all but rum and buggery, -- to make sense.

Excellent point, Ilya. I remember when the book first came out, and Spider Robinson's Galaxy review started with "What we have here is a brand-new Stutz Bearcat."

The book was placed in the universe of Pournelle's Second Empire, and I think that greatly limited things that could have been done (Not that I don't think it wasn't a good read; it was). But it's space opera. Very good space opera, to be sure. The human characters are for the most part two-dimensional, if not downright stereotypes (Kutuzov, Sinclair). Planets are single political entities. It was almost as if they hung a sheet of human culture in the background so the Moties, who were much more interesting, could be explored in depth.

tdvance
2008-Nov-13, 06:22 PM
Also, Langston Field allows a Galactic Empire blatantly based on 19th Centurty Britain -- complete with Naval Tradition, and barely-literate recruits, and teenage midshipmen, and cannon broadsides (ok, laser broadsides), and all but rum and buggery, -- to make sense.

In the same essay, Niven even addressed the "19th Century Britain"--he said, he's going for the "possible" under the circumstances and while he thought more likely it would be different names besides "Duke", "Count", etc, he figured it would be easier to just use those terms than make the reader translate anyway (of course, the same excuse could be used for Star Trek aliens....). The Naval Tradition he said was a consequence of the fact that Langston Fields can partially fail, so a handful of people on the ship could die (as opposed to space as we know it where it's usually all or nothing for a ship), so there's a need for lots of redundancy in the crew, drill to keep them occupied, etc.

Ilya
2008-Nov-13, 06:24 PM
Pretentious fantasy writing is at least as old as modern fantasy. Just look at some of the early (pre-Tolkein) writers, and of course once JRR started writing about the One Ring, everybody tried to copy the most successful fantasy franchise by throwing in Big Names, Big Quests for the Golden MacGuffin, and exotic-sounding words in created laguages, usually not nearly as well thought out as the original.
This is hysterical.

Fantasy Writers Exam (http://www.strolen.com/guild/index.php?topic=4557.0) -- how to tell if your fantasy is BAD.

I especially like Number 26: Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like "The Blasted Lands" or "The Forest of Fear" or "The Desert of Desolation" or absolutely anything "of Doom"?

I can think of some fantasy novels that meet half or more points on this list. Mel Odom comes to mind.

Ilya
2008-Nov-13, 06:30 PM
The Naval Tradition he said was a consequence of the fact that Langston Fields can partially fail, so a handful of people on the ship could die (as opposed to space as we know it where it's usually all or nothing for a ship), so there's a need for lots of redundancy in the crew, drill to keep them occupied, etc.
That's what I meant. I think I read that essay at some point...

mike alexander
2008-Nov-13, 09:32 PM
This is hysterical.

Fantasy Writers Exam (http://www.strolen.com/guild/index.php?topic=4557.0) -- how to tell if your fantasy is BAD.

I especially like Number 26: Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like "The Blasted Lands" or "The Forest of Fear" or "The Desert of Desolation" or absolutely anything "of Doom"?

I can think of some fantasy novels that meet half or more points on this list. Mel Odom comes to mind.

I liked 28, I think it was: First novel in a trilogy.

SAABMaven
2008-Nov-14, 12:31 PM
Loved Dune in High School, it was just a trilogy back then, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Frank Herbert & Robert Heinlein helped me to think in new directions (along with Fred Nietzsche). Despite the mind-numbing experience of moving on to college and being forced to regurgitate canned interpretations of literature, books such as theirs taught me to love reading.

These days I occasionally reread books such as Time Enough for Love and The Cat that Walks Through Walls; they are classics. Recently Spider Robinson completed Heinlein's last book, Variable Star. I can't think of anyone who could have pulled it off, not even Varley (you know when it's 100% Spider writing, but it's excellent and moving, particularly the description of the music).

Stanislaw Lem, especially Solaris, after watching the original Tarkovski film, Solaris. It's hours long, but I have watched it three times. (The George Clooney remake misses the point, avoid it.) Also loved Stalker, which leaves what the aliens look like, to your imagination. Andrei Tarkovski is a great film director, I think he's better than Kubrick; but Andrei Arsenivich did his creative work back when we were supposed to hate anything from the SU and support Osama. The former wasn't well known in the West, nor translated. There is a huge wealth of creative output from the former SU... it's worth learning Russian just to watch the films. (Операция ы !)

Couldn't stand any type of fantasy, ever. Am gratified that my local book store (local means 20km of muddy roads and handbrake turns and not daring to slow down) combines the Fantasy with the Harlequins and other romantic fluff, and the section 'Speculative Fiction' stands on its own.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-14, 08:07 PM
Welcome to BAUT, SAABMaven...

...and if this first post is indicative of your writing style, let's hope you stay here a long time!

SAABMaven
2008-Nov-14, 10:37 PM
Welcome to BAUT, SAABMaven...

...and if this first post is indicative of your writing style, let's hope you stay here a long time!

Thank you, sir.

eburacum45
2008-Nov-14, 10:44 PM
Stalker is remarkable, not least because they really exist nowadays;
http://pripyat.com/en/photo_gallery/users_album/1/1835.html

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-14, 11:14 PM
You are welcome!

We are different in that I love (some) fantasy, but we are similar in that I love Tarkovsky's films. I've seen Solaris at least twice, and read the book twice too. There was never any remake with George Clooney, that was just a bad dream that a lot of people (including me) had for some reason. But there was an excellent audio version about a year back.

This year I got Stalker for my birthday. My wife found it unsatisfying, but that was her own fault - I've been trying for 15 years to persuade her to read Roadside Picnic! I found it fascinating that we never got to see the meat grinder in operation - and we weren't even TOLD what it was supposed to do until after it had failed to do it!

Robonaut
2008-Nov-24, 04:46 PM
Allow me to add to the lament for good, plausible, near-future sci-fi.

After reading Rendezvous with Rama early this year, I went on a bit of a hunt to find a similar book. You would think that, considering what a classic "Rama" is, there would be dozens of imitators out there. But I could find nary a one worthy of the name (well, I take that back, I did find one, All Judgement Fled by James White).

Maybe I'm in the minority, but any story sent more than, say, a century in the future loses almost all interest for me because I always find it impossible to believe any of the changes in human civilization that are proposed.

tdvance
2008-Nov-24, 06:14 PM
Lots of near-future SF, though they're usually called "technothrillers".

If you mean near-future but has a far-future feel (e.g. via alien visitation/invasion) there's some of that too.

Sometimes the far-future changes are meant to be a plausible extrapolation, but sometimes they are merely meant to illustrate something. The main reason for having SF is to ask "what if" in an extraordinary situation, and far-future societies are a way of doing that.

Robonaut
2008-Nov-24, 09:06 PM
Lots of near-future SF, though they're usually called "technothrillers".

I really should have added "that focus on space exploration".




Sometimes the far-future changes are meant to be a plausible extrapolation, but sometimes they are merely meant to illustrate something. The main reason for having SF is to ask "what if" in an extraordinary situation, and far-future societies are a way of doing that.

Oh, I know that what's they're supposed to do, but that makes them too much like Utopia or Gulliver's Travels. I still consider such books sci-fi, but they're sci-fi books which put the author's political/social views before the science, and that doesn't really appeal to me a lot of the time. I'd prefer to read a more dispassionate portrayal of what a future society might be like.

Van Rijn
2008-Nov-24, 11:04 PM
Maybe I'm in the minority, but any story sent more than, say, a century in the future loses almost all interest for me because I always find it impossible to believe any of the changes in human civilization that are proposed.

Interesting. The problem I have with many stories set a century or more in the future is that, in my opinion, they usually don't show enough change. Too often, their technology (and the effects of the technology) is little different from today, with the exception of one or two wild bits (like an FTL drive) thrown in.

It's a tricky problem, because stories that I consider more interesting from the technology/societal change point of view tend to be harder to identify with.

3rdvogon
2008-Nov-25, 01:52 PM
Interesting. The problem I have with many stories set a century or more in the future is that, in my opinion, they usually don't show enough change. Too often, their technology (and the effects of the technology) is little different from today, with the exception of one or two wild bits (like an FTL drive) thrown in.


Yes that often gets to me too. They throw in FTL and or Time Travel plus a few energy weapons just to round things off but then their computers are often not much smarter than today (limited AI if any) and all too often they fail to address how humans themselves are likely to have changed a century or more from now - Total mastery of DNA allowing the elimination all virus infections, elimination of genetic disorders, greatly extended lifespans, nanotech implants that allow direct brain machine/network interfacing. That is only a small list of things that could be on the cards for the future, all of them are going to have massive implications for future human societies and unlike FTL drives they do not require inventing a whole new physics.

I guess the problem is having a group of perfectly formed humans, (with no physical defects or metal prosthetics) who look 25 but are over 100 years old. Who along with the wisdom and patience gained from a century life experience, are also backed up by enhanced mental abilities and an ability to retreive instantly almost any scrap of human knowledge, all makes for a bunch super smart self controlled boring characters which your average present day teen audience cannot relate to.

Ara Pacis
2008-Nov-25, 02:42 PM
I guess the problem is having a group of perfectly formed humans, (with no physical defects or metal prosthetics) who look 25 but are over 100 years old. Who along with the wisdom and patience gained from a century life experience, are also backed up by enhanced mental abilities and an ability to retreive instantly almost any scrap of human knowledge, all makes for a bunch super smart self controlled boring characters which your average present day teen audience cannot relate to.

The problem with SF based on those assumptions is that it's harder to create dramatic conflict. There could be conflict, but a lot of writers don't know how to create conflict if they assume the future is that well managed. Unless, of course, they create a limitation or failure of the utopia by some sort of implausible weakness by means of a MacGuffin, like kryptonite, or they twist the story to have a Dark Secret that reveals the happy future as a lie. I guess most writers can't imagine that people who are rich and healthy can have conflict unless it is of the bickering spoiled brat variety. In that case, they wouldn't be writing Sci-Fi but instead writing sitcoms that are merely set in the future or in space.

3rdvogon
2008-Nov-25, 05:26 PM
I guess most writers can't imagine that people who are rich and healthy can have conflict unless it is of the bickering spoiled brat variety. In that case, they wouldn't be writing Sci-Fi but instead writing sitcoms that are merely set in the future or in space.

Yes well of course even scientists can bicker about theories and principles. Even in the sort of future where humans have perfect bodies and perfect intellects they are still likely to come to different conclusions about new scientific evidence. For example if such a human society were to detect the presence of advanced alien life in a "nearby" star system even they would probably develop conflicting points of view as to what to do about it. In fact because the individuals in such a human society would have life-spans running into centuries the implications could be more interesting, after all, a two way radio dialog within the lifetime of a single future scientist would become possible. For humans able to live for 600 or more years, even the possibility of sending out a manned expedition to the other star system at sub-c velocities might be feasible. Though whether it would be sensible, cost effective or safe would be another matter. So for intelligent writers there would be differing ideas to exploit. The trouble is this conflict would probably be polite and cerebral rather than a bar brawl and that would bore the MTV generation.

What it really comes down to is that old phrase "dumbing down" - lets just please the masses and not try to enlightent them. After all nobody is going to bother to write something aimed at satisfying the members of this and similar forums?

Ilya
2008-Nov-25, 06:10 PM
I guess the problem is having a group of perfectly formed humans, (with no physical defects or metal prosthetics) who look 25 but are over 100 years old. Who along with the wisdom and patience gained from a century life experience, are also backed up by enhanced mental abilities and an ability to retreive instantly almost any scrap of human knowledge, all makes for a bunch super smart self controlled boring characters which your average present day teen audience cannot relate to.

Or how about different people having different ideas on what "perfectly formed" means? Resulting in different strains of humanity, perhaps unrecognizably so? Say, people who went for brain-to-brain connection group consciousness regard with revulsion people who went for individual genetic augmentation, and both of them regard with revulsion those who went for drastic cyborg implants? Great potential for conflict, perhaps conflict even theoretically unresolvable.

It has been done, but I am surprised it is not being done more often.

Ilya
2008-Nov-25, 06:12 PM
After all nobody is going to bother to write something aimed at satisfying the members of this and similar forums?

Bruce Sterling, Peter Watts, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, to lesser extent Ken MacLeod... All of them seem to be making money.

3rdvogon
2008-Nov-25, 11:52 PM
It has been done, but I am surprised it is not being done more often.

Whether you follow that line or the example I posed earlier, either way it does offer considerable potential for intelligent writers. Especially as it is some form of situation similar to this which is likely to face our species over the next couple of centuries. Increasingly our technologies are going to effect what it means to be human. Rather than the Star Trek model of a society of ordinary unenhanced humans riding around in exotic unobtainium Star Ships, it is much more likely that in a couple of centuries there will be exotic humans instead. What passes for a human two centuries from now will probably be more different from humans alive today than we are from Homo Erectus.

Maybe what the writers don't like so much is the idea that our species in its current form is due for extinction, not by some earth shattering catastrophe but simply because we are over due to be replaced by something better. Too many writers, producers and directors feel the need to justify the continued existence of humans as they are now rather than sign up to the idea that something better might take over. Which is why whenever they write about some superior form of human they have to write into it some serious flaw that justifies the continued existence of our present inferior form. Speaking personally I have long envied the biological advantages and enhancements that the humans of the 22nd century are likely to enjoy. I have no regrets that by that time the present form of our species will be going the way of the dinosaurs.

stutefish
2008-Nov-26, 12:35 AM
I think that there might be a case of "the perfect is the enemy of the good". Too much change, and your story bogs down in detailing all the minutiae of What Might Be. Your readers either get bored with chapter after chapter of you setting the stage and making sense of all the changes, or they get baffled by chapter after chapter of bizarreries and grotesques for which they have no contemporary reference frame.

Better to pick one or two changes to focus on, ignore or gloss over all the others, and develop a coherent story based on close study of certain implications. You spend the minimum time necessary to set the stage and create a sense of wonder, and then you accompany the reader down the path to the story's natural and satisfying conclusion.

Ara Pacis
2008-Nov-26, 04:32 PM
Yes well of course even scientists can bicker about theories and principles. Even in the sort of future where humans have perfect bodies and perfect intellects they are still likely to come to different conclusions about new scientific evidence. For example if such a human society were to detect the presence of advanced alien life in a "nearby" star system even they would probably develop conflicting points of view as to what to do about it. In fact because the individuals in such a human society would have life-spans running into centuries the implications could be more interesting, after all, a two way radio dialog within the lifetime of a single future scientist would become possible. For humans able to live for 600 or more years, even the possibility of sending out a manned expedition to the other star system at sub-c velocities might be feasible. Though whether it would be sensible, cost effective or safe would be another matter. So for intelligent writers there would be differing ideas to exploit. The trouble is this conflict would probably be polite and cerebral rather than a bar brawl and that would bore the MTV generation.

What it really comes down to is that old phrase "dumbing down" - lets just please the masses and not try to enlightent them. After all nobody is going to bother to write something aimed at satisfying the members of this and similar forums?

I disagree. Popular SF doesn't have to be Dumbed Down SF. That thought appears to be an elitist attitude I often see with regard to SF (or any genre, actually). The fact of the matter is, most of the people who know science don't know how to write fiction (good, marketable fiction, that is). On the other hand, most of the people who know how to write fiction don't know science. Good fiction is based on the resolving problems inherent in the human condition and if the SF setting resolves those problems, then there can't be much conflict. Sure, fictional scientists can argue about whether there particle X is this or that, but it's as boring as the ol'e "Tastes Great/Less Filling" tv ad. You can't make a good story out of it. At best, it's an instigator or a MacGuffin for a real conflict.

Of course, if the SF setting doesn't wholly resolve the problems of the human condition, then there can be real conflict in the story. But again, the people who can foresee these issues are even rarer than people who know science AND know how to write fiction. Meanwhile, the people who write popular fiction will just take present reality and set it in an environment with flashing lights, rounded corners and lots of titanium paint.

Ilya
2008-Nov-26, 07:51 PM
Whether you follow that line or the example I posed earlier, either way it does offer considerable potential for intelligent writers. Especially as it is some form of situation similar to this which is likely to face our species over the next couple of centuries. Increasingly our technologies are going to effect what it means to be human. Rather than the Star Trek model of a society of ordinary unenhanced humans riding around in exotic unobtainium Star Ships, it is much more likely that in a couple of centuries there will be exotic humans instead. What passes for a human two centuries from now will probably be more different from humans alive today than we are from Homo Erectus.

Maybe what the writers don't like so much is the idea that our species in its current form is due for extinction, not by some earth shattering catastrophe but simply because we are over due to be replaced by something better. Too many writers, producers and directors feel the need to justify the continued existence of humans as they are now rather than sign up to the idea that something better might take over.
Or they are hesitant to write about characters modern audience can not identify with. I remember reading a review of Ian Banks' "Consider Phlebas", which complained that "people do not act like people." The reviewer was astute enough to understand that Banks' post-humans MUST behave differently from humans, as they do not have the same neurological and hormonal wiring, but complained it made for a difficult read. "How can you empathize with a character whose basic motivations are alien?"

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-27, 07:48 AM
The fact of the matter is, most of the people who know science don't know how to write fiction (good, marketable fiction, that is). On the other hand, most of the people who know how to write fiction don't know science.
I don't think this is true. At least, not completely true.

People who do science have to be able to communicate ideas, and as a result it is not uncommon to find scientists who are very articulate and who care about their English.

Science fiction stories are often ideas-based, and so the scientists who come up with the ideas find that the story almost writes itself.

I am grossly exaggerating and oversimplifying, of course, but the fact remains that there is a lot of well-written SF by authors who know their science.

One author who I don't think has been mentioned yet is Greg Egan. Prolific, very readable, and very clever.

Ara Pacis
2008-Nov-27, 08:08 AM
All - most = some

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-27, 09:43 PM
All - most = some

Yes, I am quite aware of this. My point being, knowledge of science is likely to contribute towards one's storytelling ability.

To back this up, I have read a lot of SF stories by people who are disdainful of getting the science right. They tend to be lacking in the storytelling department too.

In other words, the "some" is bigger than one might expect from the above equation.

I do not think this is coincidental.

Ara Pacis
2008-Nov-28, 05:48 AM
More so with books than with films and TV, which are the worse offenders.

matthewota
2008-Nov-29, 07:58 PM
Read Geoff Landis' works in SF. He writes the hard stuff.

ravens_cry
2008-Nov-30, 04:00 AM
I think the very best hard science fiction, not only goes into either the plausible consequences of an impossibility, or of known theoretical physics, but on the characters who have to love in the world created by this. Because, like it or not, stories are about people. These people can be quite alien, they don't have to be homo sapiens human, but they should be more then just things that things happen to. At least in the novel form, the short story can handle a story based on near pure ideas better. But a novel needs more then just the idea, it needs 3 dimensional characters, who seem to love, live and live on. Can science fiction do this? Yes, I think it can.

Ara Pacis
2008-Nov-30, 06:46 AM
Another reason for bad Science Fiction is that writers may write on an island. They don't want to discuss their assumptions about technology in order to keep their plot secret. Depending on the medium, there can be a lot of money potentially at stake. Now, a decent writer usually knows that give 20 writers the same basic assumptions and you're end up with 21 totally different stories, but the reliance of lesser writers on twists and surprises and shininess of their tech may lead them to keep their assumptions quiet.

I'm actually interested in talking about space tech for a near futuristic, but realistic setting for a series of stories I'd like to write. I wonder if it'd be a good idea to talk openly and get feedback and something of a consensus, possibly one that multiple authors could use, or should I keep it to myself and potentially make a mistake in some simple physics?

Paul Beardsley
2008-Nov-30, 12:00 PM
In my experience, SF writers generally don't steal each other's stories. Two writers might discuss an idea, then go away and produce different takes on the idea - takes that potentially complement each other. Or one might not be interested in writing a story himself, but might be interested in suggesting possible implications of the idea. The phrase "bounce ideas off someone" comes to mind.

In the mid-90s I edited an SF magazine. I was sent some stories that made me wish I'd written them, but I never felt any temptation to steal them. I did get one story which I rejected because it was horribly, insanely* flawed but it did contain some awesome imagery. I genuinely believe I could make that story work, but I would not consider doing this without getting the original author's permission - and I don't have his contact details any more.

*A character found himself at the top of the Eiffel Tower and had to get down to the ground. He could not take the stairs because the wind was too strong, so he did a parachute jump instead.

danscope
2008-Dec-01, 04:34 AM
If anyone would like to write science fiction, they should do well to consider reading the great works of Robert Heinlein. Of course, he had an advantage with his naval background. They don't call him ...
" The Dean of Science Fiction " for nothing.

Best regards,
Dan

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-01, 06:52 AM
If anyone would like to write science fiction, they should do well to consider reading the great works of Robert Heinlein. Of course, he had an advantage with his naval background. They don't call him ...
" The Dean of Science Fiction " for nothing.

Best regards,
Dan

I have more of his books than any other author. Of course, he made mistakes from time to time, but a good student will learn from that.

Paul Beardsley, I'm thinking more along the lines of film than books WRT the issue of stealing ideas. It may not be especially common, but the fear might be common among new writers, an interpretation I got from Straczynski's book on Scriptwriting.

tdvance
2008-Dec-01, 06:48 PM
I remember Heinlein's writing advice: replace all intestinal Latin words with gutty Germanic words.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Dec-01, 08:36 PM
Paul Beardsley, I'm thinking more along the lines of film than books WRT the issue of stealing ideas. It may not be especially common, but the fear might be common among new writers, an interpretation I got from Straczynski's book on Scriptwriting.
Fair point. I do not know much about writing for film.

Wolf1066
2008-Dec-05, 08:31 PM
Yes that often gets to me too. They throw in FTL and or Time Travel plus a few energy weapons just to round things off but then their computers are often not much smarter than today (limited AI if any) and all too often they fail to address how humans themselves are likely to have changed a century or more from now - Total mastery of DNA allowing the elimination all virus infections, elimination of genetic disorders, greatly extended lifespans, nanotech implants that allow direct brain machine/network interfacing. That is only a small list of things that could be on the cards for the future, all of them are going to have massive implications for future human societies and unlike FTL drives they do not require inventing a whole new physics.

I guess the problem is having a group of perfectly formed humans, (with no physical defects or metal prosthetics) who look 25 but are over 100 years old. Who along with the wisdom and patience gained from a century life experience, are also backed up by enhanced mental abilities and an ability to retreive instantly almost any scrap of human knowledge, all makes for a bunch super smart self controlled boring characters which your average present day teen audience cannot relate to.
The enhanced lifespans are touched on lightly in Niven's Known Space stories - boosterspice, organ transplants. It seems to be a fashion thing, though.

I agree, the big thrust seems to be enhancing and extending our lives, yet that's seldom addressed in futures where we've apparently cracked the problems of the lightspeed barrier (FTL travel in some form) and conservation of momentum (teleporters). Star Trek has both yet, according to the TNG episide Relics, Scotty was artificially suspended in a jury-rigged transporter for 75 years and then revived. The story puts his total age at 147 years, making him an ancient 72 in biological terms. You'd think that by the time ST is set, Scotty would still be bouncing about on the original ship while Picard et al. are doing their thing (and if Picard looks that old, I'd put him at around 1000 and far more experienced than that Kirk greenhorn...)

Compare that with the opening of Ringworld where Loius Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday before heading off on his adventure. Admittedly, it took me a few minutes to come to grips with a 200-year-old protagonist with the physique of a thirty-something, but I adjusted and had little trouble relating to a virile "young" adventurer with over 150 years' experience in travelling, surviving, general adventuring etc.

Delvo
2008-Dec-06, 02:30 AM
I took Scotty's age to be in years of actual life lived, not counting the "suspended" time.

I find the FTL barrier rather depressing, not just for the limits it places on fiction writing, but also for what it means for real life as well. Sticking to it does open up possibilities in fiction that having FTL drives wouldn't allow; for example, I once came up with a story in which, after several rounds of colonization from star to star the slow way, one planet which was already occupied by human descendants ended up with a second batch arriving years and years later from a different direction. But it's still more con than pro. I also don't think really long life spans fix it, because that still wouldn't make the journey seem brief, and it forces you to extend the stories' time span so much that you end up running into the even more depressing fact that the stars will start going out.

This might be a large part of what knocked me out of coming up with my own SF stories anymore.

djustdee
2008-Dec-06, 01:31 PM
Heya,

When it comes to hard sci-fi I have two perennial favorites.

Syne Mitchell (http://www.synemitchell.com/) writes excellent hard science fiction. Especially, the novels End in Fire and Technogenesis.

I cannot recommend the War Against The Chtorr series by David Gerrold enough. It is the absolute best alien invasion book I have ever read. The alien species were designed in consultation with reproductive biologist Jack Cohen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Cohen_(scientist)) and are unlike anything I had ever read before.
A Matter for Men (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/david-gerrold/matter-for-men.htm)
A Day For Damnation (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/david-gerrold/matter-for-men.htm)
A Rage For Revenge (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/david-gerrold/rage-for-revenge.htm)
A Season For Slaughter (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/david-gerrold/season-for-slaughter.htm)

Dee

Ilya
2008-Dec-06, 06:10 PM
The alien species were designed in consultation with reproductive biologist Jack Cohen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Cohen_(scientist)) and are unlike anything I had ever read before.
A nit -- Chtorr is not an alien species, it's an alien ecosystem, with symbiosis raised to the level never seen on Earth. And that's what makes Chtorr so unique.

djustdee
2008-Dec-06, 07:45 PM
Heya,


A nit -- Chtorr is not an alien species, it's an alien ecosystem, with symbiosis raised to the level never seen on Earth. And that's what makes Chtorr so unique.

This is true but you don't discover that fact until book 3-4 and I didn't want to give it away.

Dee

Doodler
2008-Dec-16, 02:04 PM
Human technology in "The Ring Of Charon" and "The Shattered Sphere" is fairly realistic, but alien technology is not. I like both books, but they may not be what OP wants.

I'll defend these two as hard science fiction. In spite of the Charonian's advanced technology and the Adversary's simply bizarre nature, the way the books address the mechanics of gravitational technology, even the applications the Charonians and the Adversary use, don't stray into the fantastical. No real major laws of real world physics were abused in the books. The method of opening the wormholes between artificial and natural singularities was about the furthest reach.

The Charonians and the Adversary play by the rules of Einsteinian physics. The Lone World communicates with its subject Charonians in a very conventional manner, essentially the gravitational equivalent of ultralow frequency modulated signals, which can transmit very clearly over extremely long distances without degradation (I believe 22 and 44 meter wavelengths were mentioned in Shattered Sphere). There are elements of "black box" technology, which the characters in the books themselves acknowledge, but its little more than understood physical processes accomplished on a massive scale. Even Wally's simulation of how the sphere's might be built addresses the significant issues a Dyson sphere would face during construction.

The Adversary is a pretty wild leap, but even so, the mechanics of its existance are consistent with Einsteinian physics with regards to how it behaves in its environment.

There are elements of the two that aren't hardcore real world as we know it possible, but it is science fiction, not a NASA documentary.

Doodler
2008-Dec-16, 02:09 PM
That's the movie.
In the book it isn't Earth at all, and he has to learn their language before he can communicate in a meaningful way.

Spoiler:
In the end he does return to Earth to find that it's now taken over by apes as well.

And as a frame around it all, the story is actually his diary, found in space by people who think the story is too fanciful.
After all who has ever heard about intelligence in humans?
Everyone knows that only apes are intelligent.

Great caesar salad...you mean Marky Mark's movie hit closer to the mark than Heston's?!

SeanF
2008-Dec-16, 02:49 PM
Great caesar salad...you mean Marky Mark's movie hit closer to the mark than Heston's?!
The ending did. But so much of the rest of the movie was different that the ending didn't make any sense.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-16, 02:55 PM
The book that I read decades ago that pretty much invented "hard" science fiction is Poul Anderson's Tau Zero. I think that it's science is still feasible except that at the end of the book it has a cyclical universe. I found the idea of a ship with so much relativistic mass that it could rip through the center of entire galaxies, converting all of the mass it consumes (gas, stars, planets) to greater increase it's rate of travel to be a unique one.

I don't recall if Phil put death by a relativistic Bussard Ramjet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard_ramjet) eating one's local star in "Death From The Skies." You'd never see that one coming.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tau_Zero
http://www.dpsinfo.com/jblog/2005/12/tau-zero-by-poul-anderson.html

Doodler
2008-Dec-16, 03:37 PM
The ending did. But so much of the rest of the movie was different that the ending didn't make any sense.

I'd hate to turn this into a spoiler thread, but there's one way to explain that it did, but we can leave that for another time and thread. :)

Wolf1066
2008-Dec-16, 10:11 PM
The ending did. But so much of the rest of the movie was different that the ending didn't make any sense.
Having read Pierre Boulle's Planete des Singes, I found Heston's movie a major disappointment.

Marky-Mark's movie - although (necessarily) modified to make it more cinematic was significantly more faithful to the original work with regard to the ending so, on the whole, I enjoyed it more.

I doubt that the book as written would have a lot of cinematic effect - it could be dramatic if done right, but wouldn't as "big budget" and "high action" as the ending of the more recent movie.