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Old 05-13-2022, 11:28 AM   #46
ZodWallop
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I've always seen "science fiction", "sci-fi", and "SF" as synonyms. Is it usual to see "sci-fi" as a different subgenre than "SF" in English?
No, but they tend to be used differently. Sci-fi is general public shorthand to mean 'a story with lasers or spaceships in it' and covers everything from 2001 to the Marvel movies and even things that wouldn't be considered science fiction in any way. There's a reason that everything from the Battlestar Galactica reboot to Dinocroc vs. Supergator are shown on the Sci-Fi channel (now the SyFy channel).

SF tends to be used more by people that grew up with Asimov/Clark/Heinlein paperbacks and attend science fiction conventions.

And speculative fiction mostly seems like a relic of new wave science fiction from the late sixties/seventies.

At least that is how it used to be. Usage has likely drifted.

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I don't see scientific background as important in SF, though it's probably important in the subgenre called "hard SF" when I was a teenager. (Not sure if that term is much used now.)
You don't see why scientific background is important to a genre called science fiction?
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Old 05-13-2022, 04:41 PM   #47
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Thanks for the info on SF vs sci-fi vs science fiction!

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You don't see why scientific background is important to a genre called science fiction?
Thinking about my favourite SF authors and books, scientific background doesn't seem all that important. Some examples: Martha Wells' Murderbot series, Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice triology, Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, Elisabeth Moon's Familias Regnant universe, Lee and Miller's Liaden books. I don't actually know these authors' background, for all I know most of them have some background in science, but the science isn't all that prominent in the books.

I found a long list of different attempts at defining the genre on Wikipedia. I like Frederik Pohl's: "Someone once said that a good science-fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam. We agree." For instance, I like Moon's thoughts on how longevity technology could change a society, and implications of the invention of an artificial uterus in Bujold's universe.
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Old 05-13-2022, 11:44 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by hildea View Post
Thinking about my favourite SF authors and books, scientific background doesn't seem all that important. Some examples: Martha Wells' Murderbot series, Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice triology, Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, Elisabeth Moon's Familias Regnant universe, Lee and Miller's Liaden books. I don't actually know these authors' background, for all I know most of them have some background in science, but the science isn't all that prominent in the books.

...For instance, I like Moon's thoughts on how longevity technology could change a society, and implications of the invention of an artificial uterus in Bujold's universe.
I'm likely doing a poor job of communicating. When I read what I think of as science fiction, I like books that provoke thought on what impact the book's changes might make on society.

So for instance, Poul Anderson's Brain Wave isn't hard SF (the Earth passes out of a magnetic field it has been in for eons making everything on Earth much smarter than it had been). Or David Brin's Kiln People had people making temporary duplicates of themselves out of clay. No, I don't think that is coming in the future. But it makes an interesting read thinking about what would happen if you could be in multiple places at the same time.

What I don't like in science fiction is taking an action story, dressing it up in 'the future' and calling it sci-fi (countless Will Smith and Bruce Willis movies and their book equivalents). That was what I thought of when I read "I don't see scientific background as important in SF..."

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I found a long list of different attempts at defining the genre on Wikipedia. I like Frederik Pohl's: "Someone once said that a good science-fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam."
I like the John W. Campbell one: "To be science fiction, not fantasy, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made."

Campbell did a lot for science fiction. Of course, he also fell for a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense and L. Ron Hubbard's hokum. But his early instincts were important. He created and helped shape what many now think of as science fiction.

I remember reading an author interview somewhere (I wish I could find the interview) where they said science fiction should mostly be plausable with believable extensions on existing technology with one thing that is a stretch, which becomes the basis of the story.

But when you insert too many made up technologies in there: ESP, warp drive, the Force, teleporters, artificial gravity, time travel, laser swords you have moved into the realm of fantasy.

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Old 05-14-2022, 12:14 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by hildea View Post
Thinking about my favourite SF authors and books, scientific background doesn't seem all that important. Some examples...
Another example where science doesn't seem all that important is "Alien Earth" by Edmond Hamilton. It's a short story about time perception in a rain forest. The effected human moves extraordinary slow from the viewpoint of other humans. But from the slow humans viewpoint, trees and other plants are moving quickly - reaching for things with their vines and roots, slapping at things with their branches. The growth of plants over time is sentient, although too slow for a normal human to perceive. The only science in this that I can remember is that the human must take a drug to reach this ultra slow motion state (called "hunati" in the story). I guess drugs are the scientific part that makes it science fiction. Although it's not a lab developed drug, it's an ancient native drug IIRC. I always though the plot was such a neat concept. I remember it from my youth (which was a long time ago!)

This short story appears in Isaac Asimov's "The Golden Years of Science Fiction, Sixth Series" and also in a few other collections.
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Old 05-14-2022, 06:14 AM   #50
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Good, bad, or indifferent... I don't think online bookstores have any real incentive in making it easy for customers to find things they want to buy. Seems they're more interested in getting customers to buy the things they want them to buy. I'm not crazy about it myself, but neither do I get too worked up over it. It's not like I'm in danger of not being able to find lots of titles I want to read (and have a pretty high expectation of enjoying).

Believe me: if it was monetarily in their best interest to have interfaces that allowed customers to quickly and easily find the type of books they're looking for, I'm pretty sure they'd have invested in them by now. *shrug*
I agree. Thinking about it, it's actually better for bookshops if people buy some duds -- if I buy a book that's so bad that I abandon it, I'll need a new book faster.

I almost never use book stores to find new books to read, I find them elsewhere (reviews, blog posts about weird genres , book discussion sites (like here, and parts of Twitter), and recently Storygraph).
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Old 05-14-2022, 07:22 AM   #51
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When I read what I think of as science fiction, I like books that provoke thought on what impact the book's changes might make on society.
The most important part of a book to me is the characters. I need to like the protagonists, or I won't like the book. But after that, I like to see the impact of new science -- or magic -- on society. I like both SF and fantasy, and a lot of that is because I like to see new societies imagined and explored.

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So for instance, Poul Anderson's Brain Wave isn't hard SF
I agree that it doesn't sound like hard SF, but it does sound like SF. And hard SF is, to me, the least interesting subset of SF.

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What I don't like in science fiction is taking an action story, dressing it up in 'the future' and calling it sci-fi (countless Will Smith and Bruce Willis movies and their book equivalents). That was what I thought of when I read "I don't see scientific background as important in SF..."
Well, I like that kind of stories too. Maybe not pure action stories, but stories where the plot (ie. the events, who is doing what and why) is important. Martha Wells' Murderbot diaries are good examples of action oriented stories which I feel are solidly in the middle of the science fiction genre.

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I like the John W. Campbell one: "To be science fiction, not fantasy, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made."

Campbell did a lot for science fiction. Of course, he also fell for a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense and L. Ron Hubbard's hokum. But his early instincts were important. He created and helped shape what many now think of as science fiction.
He did good things for the genre, yes. He was also racist and sexist, and that also had an impact on early science fiction. (This is an interesting and IMO fairly balanced comment on his legacy.)

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But when you insert too many made up technologies in there: ESP, warp drive, the Force, teleporters, artificial gravity, time travel, laser swords you have moved into the realm of fantasy.
For both SF and fantasy, the best works usually have some economy of invention. If the author dumps too much different stuff (technological or magical) into the cauldron, there's a high risk of it becoming a confusing muddle. But there are, of course, exceptions: Terry Pratchett has probably used every fantasy trope somewhere in his stories (and invented a lot of new ones), and his best works are incredibly good.
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Old 05-14-2022, 08:55 AM   #52
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I almost never use book stores to find new books to read, I find them elsewhere (reviews, blog posts about weird genres , book discussion sites (like here, and parts of Twitter), and recently Storygraph).
Same here. I use book stores for buying. I rarely peruse while I'm there.
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Old 05-14-2022, 10:08 AM   #53
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Well, I like that kind of stories too. Maybe not pure action stories, but stories where the plot (ie. the events, who is doing what and why) is important. Martha Wells' Murderbot diaries are good examples of action oriented stories which I feel are solidly in the middle of the science fiction genre.
I loved Murderbot. I made myself an omnibus edition of the whole series and read it straight through.

Personally, I don't have to like the characters in the conventional sense. If they're too nice, I'll grow bored. Note this only goes for fiction, not real life. In real life I'd probably avoid most fictional characters like the plague. But to be able to finish a book, I must be interested in its characters, not merely like them. If I'm bored with the characters, then either the story and the world must be incredibly good instead or I'll just yawn and toss the book in question.
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Old 05-14-2022, 12:26 PM   #54
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I agree that it doesn't sound like hard SF, but it does sound like SF.
My point in bringing up Poul Anderson's Brain Wave was to sort of agree with you. SF doesn't have to be hard SF to be good But it should be at least plausible. Brain Wave is plausible.

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He did good things for the genre, yes. He was also racist and sexist, and that also had an impact on early science fiction. (This is an interesting and IMO fairly balanced comment on his legacy.)
Sure. Any slagging on Campbell is likely fair and accurate. If they want to change the name of the award or whatever, that is fine with me.

I only bring him up to say that the changes in science fiction under his editorship and the fruits of it are what I think of as science fiction. Sure, there was Verne and Wells and stories here and there. But it was Campbell's editorship of Astounding that gave science fiction a foundation (and Foundation).
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Old 05-14-2022, 01:25 PM   #55
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Doesn't usually worry me much because so much science fiction is really fantasy anyway - according to my tastes. (Edited to add: It always seemed to me that a light-sabre was just another name for "magic sword". I'm fine with that, just don't try to glorify it as "science". And warp speed is just a magical way of getting somewhere quickly. And in one episode of Dr Who, Dr Who himself admits: "I didn't want to say magic door.")
Same here. I like both genres and they sometimes overlap like with Star Wars.
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Old 05-15-2022, 11:47 AM   #56
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So for instance, Poul Anderson's Brain Wave isn't hard SF (the Earth passes out of a magnetic field it has been in for eons making everything on Earth much smarter than it had been).
Excellent book
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