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Old 11-22-2008, 10:34 AM   #46
mtravellerh
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Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
"Science Fiction is what you find in the library marked 'Science Fiction'."

"Science Fiction is just technological Fantasy."


Don
While I second the first definition, the second is just hogwash, to put it mildly.. SF can very well exist without the "technical" part (cf MZB's Dragonrider books) and thrives without the second part (cf 1984 f. ex)

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Old 11-22-2008, 04:04 PM   #47
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Charles Sheffield's The McAndrew Chronicles

The best hard science fiction book I have read ever is "The McAndrew Chronicles" by Charles Sheffield.

You will love it!

Regards.
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:40 PM   #48
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I just recently caught the classic cold war film Ice Station Zebra on TV. Although it would be labeled "cold war drama" or "spy thriller" in most catalogs, the story revolves around a super-sophisticated camera and highly detailed film, capable of reading "the text on a pack of cigarettes from 300 miles up" (quoted from the film). If that doesn't qualify as science fiction, even today, I don't know what does.

The label "science fiction" is frustrating because it actually says so little about the content... imagine defining Hamlet, A Tale of Two Cities and The Three Musketeers as "historic fiction." Would you therefore imagine each story is essentially like the others?

Unfortunately, the SF label has become so commonplace, and as authors and readers are forced to use it, stories get unwittingly pigeonholed by it. But it says so little about the content. All of my books, save one, are SF... but are they all the same kind of story? Hardly.

I'd much rather define books as adventure, drama, romance, comedy, mystery, etc... then add a tag like "science," "futuristic," "technological," etc, to it... so Jurassic Park becomes "science adventure," for instance, Star Trek becomes "futuristic adventure," and Solaris becomes "science drama."

Tags like that would be much more useful and descriptive than the catch-all "science fiction."
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Old 11-22-2008, 05:10 PM   #49
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The simplest approach is to work through the Free Library at Baen.

However, taking a quick look at my wall of books

C J Cherryh - Heavy Time and related books, Chanur's Venture series, Foreigner series
Much of her writing is slow going but I think she is one of the best writers for portaying alien mindsets. Haven't look to see if any are available in ebook form

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller - Agent of Chaos and related books
Lighter reading - available from Baen in most formats

L E Modessit - He has a number of fairly hard SF books as well as various fantasy series.
Try Flash, Adiamante and the Ecolitan series

James Schmitz - see what you can find at Baen. It is somewhat dated but nevertheless well written and worth reading.
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Old 11-22-2008, 05:46 PM   #50
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Personally I don't agree with that definition of "hard" SF. "Hard," as opposed to "soft," SF, is simply SF in which the technology is well-researched, based on current knowledge and accepted theory, and presented in a realistic fashion consistent with that knowledge and theory. For instance, hard SF would generally NOT include faster-than-light drives (Star Trek), since that is still considered effectively impossible given our knowledge of current and possible science and technology. It could include clones (Jurassic Park), but would not include superheroes.

Another good hard SF series would be Nancy Kress' Beggars trilogy: Beggars in Spain; Beggars and Choosers; and Beggars Ride.
I would disagree that it HAS to fit within our current knowledge. Just that it has to be well thought out and an integral part of the story.

Certainly some people feel that it should be that way, but not all.
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Old 11-22-2008, 06:03 PM   #51
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Surprisingly, no mention of Arthur C Clarke?
I'm only recommending books that I have read, that are Hard SF, and that are available as eBooks.

There are also good short stories collected in Year's Best SF. Many Hard SF.
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Old 11-22-2008, 09:09 PM   #52
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Edward Lerner writes hard SF, and has stuff available at both Baen and Fictionwise.
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Old 11-22-2008, 10:54 PM   #53
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I realized I had forgotten about Sherry S. Tepper - "A Plague of Angels" - but the only digital book of hers I can find is "Margaret".
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Old 11-23-2008, 01:12 PM   #54
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Try as I might, I just can't figure out whether any of Ian McDonald's books are available in e-editions. I do think his work would qualify as "hard" SF, but the atmosphere gets so dreamy, it does read more like fantasy sometimes.

Looking it up, I see they'll be re-issuing my favorite, Desolation Road, at the end of July 2009 in paper, for what it's worth.

Also, HardSF-wise, I'd recommend just about anything by Bruce Sterling (e.g., A Good Old-Fashioned Future), including The Difference Engine, which is probably disqualified on technical grounds.
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Old 11-23-2008, 01:37 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Fiacha View Post
C J Cherryh - Heavy Time and related books, Chanur's Venture series, Foreigner series
Much of her writing is slow going but I think she is one of the best writers for portaying alien mindsets. Haven't look to see if any are available in ebook form
Just checked, and FictionWise have 25 of her books. Pretty good prices, too.

<sigh> More expense...

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Old 11-23-2008, 02:10 PM   #56
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Just checked, and FictionWise have 25 of her books. Pretty good prices, too.

<sigh> More expense...

Singing "It's a material world"
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Old 11-23-2008, 05:30 PM   #57
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Continuing my earlier post,

Thinking about it some more, these are my definitions.

Hard SF is stories where you you buy into the authors extrapolation/explanations.
Soft SF is where you the science is relevant but not crtitcal.
Fantasy is where you can't buy into it.

The last point turns a lot of what some people call hard sf into bad fantasy, as far as I am concerned. A good(?) example would be Von Neumans War. My problem being the speed of growth of the machines and the energy source needed to drive the machines. Note that I feel that this is a symptom of all fiction involving nanotechnology.

Anyway, using these definitions pushes most of my recommendations to the border between hard and soft with the Liaden universe (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) very much on the soft side. And I would put Heinlein on the soft side too, so this is not a condemnation.
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Old 11-24-2008, 07:40 AM   #58
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Continuing my earlier post,

Thinking about it some more, these are my definitions.

Hard SF is stories where you you buy into the authors extrapolation/explanations.
Soft SF is where you the science is relevant but not crtitcal.
Fantasy is where you can't buy into it.

The last point turns a lot of what some people call hard sf into bad fantasy, as far as I am concerned. A good(?) example would be Von Neumans War. My problem being the speed of growth of the machines and the energy source needed to drive the machines. Note that I feel that this is a symptom of all fiction involving nanotechnology.

Anyway, using these definitions pushes most of my recommendations to the border between hard and soft with the Liaden universe (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) very much on the soft side. And I would put Heinlein on the soft side too, so this is not a condemnation.
I think it is less important in whether we buy into it than whether the science allows for it. General Relativity and Quantum mechanics both allow for some pretty non-sensical events happening, such that many people have a hard time accepting it, but that doesn't make SF stories built around it any less convincing.

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Old 11-24-2008, 07:00 PM   #59
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Interesting diversion into the meaning of "hard" here. Like art, 'I know it when I read it.' But I think it the author has to either not violate known science (at the time of the writing) or otherwise give a cogent explanation of why and how the known science gets violated.

I agree that if you could take a particular SF story and transpose it into fantasy, historical, or other genres then it didn't pass the test. To me the "hardness" of SF is integral to the plot. My most recent favorite example author? Richard K. Morgan (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, Woken Furies, Thirteen... haven't read Market Forces yet). Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of hard SF, right?
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Old 11-25-2008, 09:09 AM   #60
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Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of hard SF, right?
Not necessarily. Cyberpunk is based on a particular set of dystopic SF settings combined with highly-advanced technology--a fairly fantastic scenario, when you think about it--and as much of it is based on so-far-unproven medical concepts (brain-computer interfaces and implants, cloning, genetic manipulation, cybernetic body parts, etc), it is really no more "hard" than any other form of SF.
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