Hard science fiction
Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.
Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.
Hugo Gernsback believed from the beginning of his involvement with science fiction in the 1920s that the stories should be instructive, although it was not long before he found it necessary to print fantastical and unscientific fiction in Amazing Stories to attract readers. During Gernsback's long absence from SF publishing, from 1936 to 1953, the field evolved away from his focus on facts and education. The Golden Age of Science Fiction is generally considered to have started in the late 1930s and lasted until the mid-1940s, bringing with it "a quantum jump in quality, perhaps the greatest in the history of the genre", according to science fiction historians Peter Nicholls and Mike Ashley. However, Gernsback's views were unchanged. In his editorial in the first issue of Science-Fiction Plus, he gave his view of the modern sf story: "the fairy tale brand, the weird or fantastic type of what mistakenly masquerades under the name of Science-Fiction today!" and he stated his preference for "truly scientific, prophetic Science-Fiction with the full accent on SCIENCE". In the same editorial, Gernsback called for patent reform to give science fiction authors the right to create patents for ideas without having patent models because many of their ideas predated the technical progress needed to develop specifications for their ideas. The introduction referenced the numerous prescient technologies described throughout Ralph 124C 41+.
The heart of the "hard SF" designation is the relationship of the science content and attitude to the rest of the narrative, and (for some readers, at least) the "hardness" or rigor of the science itself. One requirement for hard SF is procedural or intentional: a story should try to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically and/or theoretically possible. For example, the development of concrete proposals for spaceships, space stations, space missions, and a US space program in the 1950s and 1960s influenced a widespread proliferation of "hard" space stories. Later discoveries do not necessarily invalidate the label of hard SF, as evidenced by P. Schuyler Miller, who called Arthur C. Clarke's 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust hard SF, and the designation remains valid even though a crucial plot element, the existence of deep pockets of "moondust" in lunar craters, is now known to be incorrect.
There is a degree of flexibility in how far from "real science" a story can stray before it leaves the realm of hard SF. HSF authors scrupulously avoid such technology as faster-than-light travel (of which there are alternatives endorsed by nasa), while authors writing softer SF accept such notions (sometimes referred to as "enabling devices", since they allow the story to take place)
Readers of "hard SF" often try to find inaccuracies in stories. For example, a group at MIT concluded that the planet Mesklin in Hal Clement's 1953 novel Mission of Gravity would have had a sharp edge at the equator, and a Florida high-school class calculated that in Larry Niven's 1970 novel Ringworld the topsoil would have slid into the seas in a few thousand years. The same book featured another inaccuracy: the eponymous Ringworld is not in a stable orbit and would crash into the sun without active stabilization. Niven fixed these errors in his sequel The Ringworld Engineers, and noted them in the foreword.
- How the film accounts for weightlessness in space.
- How the film depicts sound despite the vacuum of space.
- Whether telecommunications are instant or are limited by the speed of light.
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Arranged chronologically by publication year.
- Hal Clement, "Uncommon Sense" (1945)
- James Blish, "Surface Tension" (1952), (Book 3 of The Seedling Stars (1957)[NB 1]
- Tom Godwin, "The Cold Equations" (1954)
- Isaac Asimov, "Evidence" (1946)
- Poul Anderson, "Kyrie" (1968)
- Frederik Pohl, "Day Million" (1971)
- Larry Niven, "Inconstant Moon" (1971) and "The Hole Man" (1974) and "Neutron Star" (1966)
- Greg Bear, "Tangents" (1986)
- Geoffrey A. Landis, "A Walk in the Sun" (1991)
- Vernor Vinge, "Fast Times at Fairmont High" (2001)
- Robert A. Heinlein, The Rolling Stones (1952)
- Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity (1953)
- Harry Martinson, Aniara (1953)
- John Wyndham, The Outward Urge (1959)
- Stanisław Lem, Solaris (1961)
- Arthur C. Clarke, A Fall of Moondust (1961), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Rendezvous with Rama (1972)
- Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain (1969)
- Poul Anderson, Tau Zero (1970)
- Joe Haldeman, The Forever War (1974)
- James P. Hogan, The Two Faces of Tomorrow (1979)
- Robert L. Forward, Dragon's Egg (1980)
- Charles Sheffield, Between the Strokes of Night (1985)
- Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park (1990)
- Robert Silverberg (editor), Murasaki (1992)
- Kim Stanley Robinson, The Mars trilogy (Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1993), Blue Mars (1996)), Aurora (2015)
- Ben Bova, Grand Tour series (1992–2009)
- Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain (1993)
- Catherine Asaro, Primary Inversion (1995, 2012)
- Linda Nagata, The Nanotech Succession (1995–1998)
- Stephen Baxter, Ring (1996)
- Greg Egan, Schild's Ladder (2002)
- Alastair Reynolds, Pushing Ice (2005)
- Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem (2006)
- Paul J. McAuley, The Quiet War (2008)
- Neal Stephenson, Seveneves (2015)
- Frau im Mond (1929)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- Marooned (1969)
- The Andromeda Strain (1971)
- Silent Running (1972)
- Solaris (1972)
- Dark Star (1974)
- Blade Runner (1982)
- 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) – sequel to 2001
- Contact (1997)
- Gattaca (1997)
- The Man from Earth (2007)
- Moon (2009)
- Robot & Frank (2012)
- Europa Report (2013)
- Autómata (2014)
Anime / Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
- 2001 Nights (1984, 1986)
- They Were Eleven (1986)
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987)
- Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993)
- Planetes (1999, 2004)
- Flag (2006)
- Pale Cocoon (2006)
- Dennō Coil (2007)
- Moonlight Mile (2007)
- Rocket Girls (2007)
- Space Brothers (2007–present)
- Eden of the East (2009)
- Hard fantasy
- Hard and soft science
- Hypothetical technology
- Interstellar travel in fiction
- Mundane science fiction
- Soft science fiction
- Nicholls, Peter (1995). Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter, eds. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-13486-0.
- Wolfe, Gary K. (1986). Critical terms for science fiction and fantasy: a glossary and guide to scholarship. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-22981-7.
- "hard science fiction n." Science fiction citations. Jesse's word. 2005-07-25. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
Earliest cite: P. Schuyler Miller in Astounding Science Fiction ... he called A Fall of Moondust "hard" science fiction
- Hartwell, David G.; Cramer, Kathryn (2003). "Introduction: New People, New Places, New Politics". The Hard SF Renaissance: An Anthology. Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 978-1-4299-7517-9.
- Westfahl, Gary (1996). "Introduction". Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction. Greenwood Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-313-29727-4.
hard science fiction ... the term was first used by P. Schuyler Miller in 1957
- "soft science fiction n." Science fiction citations. Jesse's word. 2005-07-25. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
Soft science fiction, probably a back-formation from Hard Science Fiction)
- Westfahl, Gary (June 9, 2008). "Hard Science Fiction". In Seed, David. A Companion to Science Fiction. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 195–8. ISBN 978-0-470-79701-3.
- Ashley (2005), p. 381.
- Ashley (2000), p. 50.
- Ashley (2000), p. 54.
- Ashley (2004), p. 252.
- Lawler (1985), pp. 541–545.
- Nicholls, Peter; Ashley, Mike (April 9, 2015). "Golden Age of SF". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Gollancz. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Science Fiction Plus v01n01".
- Samuelson, David N. (July 1993). "Modes of Extrapolation: The Formulas of Hard Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies. 20. part 2 (60). Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Westfahl, Gary (July 1993). "The Closely Reasoned Technological Story: The Critical History of Hard Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies. 20 (2): 141–142.
- Westfahl, G. (July 1993). "'The Closely Reasoned Technological Story': The Critical History of Hard Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies. SF-TH Inc. 20 (2): 157–175. JSTOR 4240246.
- "Methods of Interstellar Propulsion". Retrieved 2018-07-10.
- Chiang, T. (April 15, 2009). "Time travel is one of the trickiest SF/F tropes to use well". Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- Hartwell, David G.; Cramer, Kathryn, eds. (1994). The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. New York: Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. ISBN 978-0-312-85509-3. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09.
- Hartwell, David G.; Cramer, Kathryn (2002). The Hard SF Renaissance. New York: Tor. ISBN 0-312-87635-1.
- Aylott, Chris. "The Humans Were Flat but the Cheela Were Charming in 'Dragon's Egg'". Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2009-01-27. Some editions also include a preface by Larry Niven, admitting that "I couldn't have written it; it required too much real physics"
- Alyott, Chris (2000-06-20). "The Vanishing Martian". SPACE.com. Archived from the original on 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- Horton, Richard R. (1997-02-21). "Blue Mars review". Archived from the original on 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- "Schild's Ladder".
- "Contemplate Your Place in the Universe with Hard Sci-Fi Film Classics!". 17 November 2014.
- "23 Best Hard Science Fiction Books – The Best Science Fiction Books". 28 February 2015.
- On Hard Science Fiction: A Bibliography, originally published in Science Fiction Studies #60 (July 1993).
- David G. Hartwell, "Hard Science Fiction,", Introduction to The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard Science Fiction, 1994, ISBN 0-312-85509-5
- Kathryn Cramer's chapter on hard science fiction in The Cambridge Companion to SF, ed. Farah Mendlesohn & Edward James.
- Westfahl, Gary (1996-02-28). Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction (Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy). Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-29727-4.
- A Political History of SF by Eric Raymond
- The Science in Science Fiction by Brian Stableford, David Langford, & Peter Nicholls (1982)
- David N. Samuelson, "Hard SF", pp. 194–200, The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, 2009.
- Hard Science Fiction Exclusive Interviews
- Kheper Realism scale
- Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics: A Topical Index
- The Ascent of Wonder by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer. Story notes and introductions.
- The Ten Best Hard Science Fiction Books of all Time, selected by the editors of MIT's Technology Review, 2011
- "Low-Level Science fiction: Sci-fi with hard science and a literary slant"