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Old 07-13-2010, 11:36 AM   #16
Jellby
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We may recall Isaac Asimov's "The Ancient and the Ultimate", although it was published in 1973. Here he describes the ultimate device for communication: autonomous, mobile, with no energy consumption, personal, will-driven... actually: a book.
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:28 PM   #17
Worldwalker
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Originally Posted by HamsterRage View Post
It's fun to go back and read hard SciFi from the 30s to the 50s just to see how much they missed.
By definition, there is no such thing as "hard SciFi" -- if it's hard, it's SF or Science Fiction, not SciFi.

On the other hand, what Doc Smith wrote was arguably SciFi -- pure space opera -- and nothing even close to hard SF. His books are about as hard as the fluffier Star Trek variants.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:25 PM   #18
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By definition, there is no such thing as "hard SciFi" -- if it's hard, it's SF or Science Fiction, not SciFi.

On the other hand, what Doc Smith wrote was arguably SciFi -- pure space opera -- and nothing even close to hard SF. His books are about as hard as the fluffier Star Trek variants.
What? Is there some kind of definition I've never heard of in 30 years of being an avid science fiction fan? How did I miss that? I always just took "SF", "SciFi" and "Science Fiction" as different spellings of the same thing.

Personally, I've always taken "Hard" Science Fiction to be anything that concentrates on the nuts and bolts of technology. I can't think of many books that do that more than Smith's "Skylark" books, even if it is all silliness.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:48 PM   #19
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What? Is there some kind of definition I've never heard of in 30 years of being an avid science fiction fan? How did I miss that? I always just took "SF", "SciFi" and "Science Fiction" as different spellings of the same thing.

Personally, I've always taken "Hard" Science Fiction to be anything that concentrates on the nuts and bolts of technology. I can't think of many books that do that more than Smith's "Skylark" books, even if it is all silliness.
Some readers of science fiction find the term "scifi" belittling and derogatory.

Personally as long is it is well written and interesting I don't care what somebody calls it.


Just not "SyFy"... Ugh!
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Donnageddon View Post
Some readers of science fiction find the term "scifi" belittling and derogatory.

Personally as long is it is well written and interesting I don't care what somebody calls it.


Just not "SyFy"... Ugh!

Sounds like "some readers" are pretentious snobs ;-)

and I totally agree about "SyFy". They have modern medicine for that now I believe :-D
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:10 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Donnageddon View Post
Some readers of science fiction find the term "scifi" belittling and derogatory.
In an early issue of "Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine" the good Dr. himself railed against the term "SciFi"
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:07 PM   #22
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It has nothing to do with being a pretentious snob. "SciFi" was the term used by outsiders for years to belittle the literature we enjoyed. "SciFi" means "that Buck Rogers stuff", space opera, corny 50's monster movies, and anything else where there's not even a nod to science, and little more than that to fiction. It's the "N-word" of science fiction. It is a word that has been used as an insult to science fiction readers for decades, and even though a lousy, clueless cable TV channel chose to apply the word to itself, it is not, and never will be, free of its pejorative meaning.

"Hard SF" is SF which is extremely rigorous in its science, extrapolating from what is known and what is possible. Most hard SF stories focus on the consequences of their particular scientific background. That's not to say that they can't be thoroughly human, character-driven stories, but those stories could only happen in that particular setting, and happen because of that setting. For example, Hal Clement's "Mission of Gravity" could not have occurred anywhere but the world of Mesklin. A story can be thoroughly obsessed with its nuts and bolts, but if the author pulled those nuts and bolts out of his own nether end, it's not hard SF.

There's no real consensus as to what the opposite of hard SF should be called. Depending on one's level of partiality to hard SF, that term could be soft SF, space opera, or trash. I usually just go with "non-hard SF", or sometimes "firm", "squishy", etc., with the extreme of course being "pulpy" (double meaning intended). Space opera fits in there.

"Space opera" is a specific sub-genre that focuses on adventure, super-science that has minimal connection with real science, and galaxy-spanning action. This is the SF of the pulp era. Doc Smith's "Skylark" and "Lensman" series are perfect examples. "Star Wars" is very emphatically (and intentionally) space opera. Science and technology, usually with a lot of hand-waving, are there solely to get the heroes where they need to go, or provide them with superhumanly powerful enemies and more powerful ray guns. It's all about the action, the heroics, and the big explosions.

My preferences tend to vary. I've noticed that when I'm under stress I gravitate more towards space opera and its equivalent in other genres -- action movies, for instance. I don't care how implausible the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies are; they're fun, and there are times that's all I want. My MP3 player fills up with heavy metal and Wagner. When I'm less stressed and more introspective, I swing towards hard SF, less expansive movies, etc. Gregorian chants and classical symphonies displace the metal. I sometimes wonder if managing stress would work better if I reversed those preferences.

We live in the future. Lasers were once the stuff of space opera; now we use them to entertain our cats.

By the way, if you've never read "The Machine Stops", you should.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:12 PM   #23
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Yeah, I try to read all of Heinlein's "boys adventure" novels every year or so. It's interesting to see how technology is varied from that in his novels...
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:04 AM   #24
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The term "Sci-Fi" was coined by Forry Ackerman, the publisher of Famous Monster of Filmland, who never meant it in a a degoratory way. It was a play on "Hi-Fi". He was one of Science Fiction's biggest fans.

The use of SF is just an attempt at rebranding like Kentucky Fried Chicken changing it's name to KFC or the YMCA changing to "the Y".

Last edited by BenG; 07-14-2010 at 12:18 AM.
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Old 07-14-2010, 01:21 AM   #25
Worldwalker
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4E Ackerman was a wonderful man (though he was a little afraid of me because at one Worldcon, we physically collided at a particular blind corner in the convention center several times in the same day ... I think he considered me some sort of unguided fannish missile, and I wasn't so well padded then). Most of his other clever wordplay did not get picked up anywhere else, for which Robert Agberg, er Silverberg, was no doubt grateful. If "scifi" had stayed within the SF community, it would be merely corny. But it was picked up by those outside the community and used to deride its members, our literature, and our enthusiasm. Ackerman's corny term was turned against us as an insult.

True, just about anything was better than "scientifiction" (wasn't that Hugo Gernsbeck's fault?) but when there are perfectly good alternatives without the negative connotations, namely "SF" or "science fiction", why use something that offends people? Do we have to let those who sneer at us win, and accept the contempuous label of their choice for our literature and ourselves?

We've lost so much of First Fandom ... so many of the legends ... I can't go to cons anymore because I see too many ghosts. Too many ghosts, and too many people who think science fiction is what's on "SyFy" and don't know, or care, about anything or anyone else. Maybe it's foolish of me, not to be willing to accept an insult as the proper term, not to be willing to let go of the past and accept that the future is all about Twilight and Transformers. Maybe I'm a fossil. So be it. There are worse things I could be.

Gods, I get maudlin on nights like this.

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Old 07-14-2010, 01:22 AM   #26
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The same site says that your memory is accurate: Pocket Computer originated with The Mote in God's Eye
Isaac Asimov mentioned pocket computers a bit earlier than that, in his 1957 short story, The Feeling of Power. "The congressman took out his pocket computer, nudged the milled edges twice, looked at its face as it lay there in the palm of his hand, and put it back." Of course, he was a little off on how long it would take to develop them. One of the characters says, "For that matter, compare your pocket computer with the massive jobs of a thousand years ago." The pocket computer here is pretty much just a calculator, but it's the earliest use of the term that I remember.
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Old 07-14-2010, 01:34 AM   #27
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It's been waaaay too long since I read it, but in Space Cadet, didn't Robert Heinlein have the new students required to turn in their personal communications devices, which were effectively cell phones? Now there's a bit of very accurate prediction!
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:04 AM   #28
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I think I can understand how you feel regarding ghosts, WW - must be hard to walk around seeing the spaces.

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Ackerman's corny term was turned against us as an insult...
... Do we have to let those who sneer at us win, and accept the contempuous label of their choice for our literature and ourselves?
Do we have to let those who sneer steal a term from one of our own and use it as an insult? Bugger that!!
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:20 AM   #29
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They've been using it as an insult for 40 years or more; it's a done deal.
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:32 AM   #30
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I think folks should call the genre whatever they feel comfortable with. I've been reading SF for decades and didn't realise there was a difference between SF, SciFi, Sci-Fi, and science fiction until now - so I now stand educated but my rebellious streak will mean I'll continue to mingle the terms.

Where does all this terminology put something like Battlestar Galactica (TV series)? It uses space jumps that aren't based on any known physics but all the the other hardware looks very achievable and then they often go all retro and have stuff like coiled wires on the telephones - I presume this would fall into the soft/hard/retro/opera SF category. I guess it's difficult enough categorising the present without trying to do the same for all possible futures.
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